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How to Deal with a Horrible Boss

Updated on June 1, 2014
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Have a bad boss? You are not alone. Almost two million people leave their jobs every month and according to Forbes.com, studies have shown that the majority of people do not leave their jobs because they are overworked, stressed, under too much pressure or tired of their job, they leave due to poor management. There’s an old age that says “people don’t leave their jobs, they leave their managers.” Apparently there is long history of employees dealing with horrible bosses.

Bosses can be bad for a multitude of reasons, whether incompetent, a control freak, micromanager or they are just a jerk. They can make work, and even life outside of work, miserable.

But don’t worry! Unlike the movie, Horrible Bosses, you don’t have to plan your boss’s death to get your freedom and you may not have to quit your job just yet. Here are strategies for dealing with a horrible boss.

1: Be clear on where the problem lies

Before you stir the pot, you better be pretty sure that the problem really isn’t you or a minor misunderstanding or exaggeration of a small problem. Everyone has a bad day, including you and your boss. Your boss is only human too and they are allowed to have a bad day every now and again. So make sure you are not blowing things way out of proportion.

Miscommunication is also a huge problem in the workplace. If you have a problem, go to the source. Never trust the words of your coworkers. Coworkers can lie just to create drama. I know, I work with a few ladies like that. Also, office gossip is like playing telephone, the message at the end of the line is never the same as it was in the beginning. So if you hear that a new rule is being implemented in the office that you don’t agree with, talk to your boss about it first before you freak out. It may be nothing at all except a simple exaggeration or misunderstanding from a coworker.

Gossip can be a huge problem as well. You may not have a problem with your boss at all until you start listening to all of the complaining from your coworkers. Refrain from participating in the gossip, it doesn’t do any good for anyone.

2: Understand where they are coming from

Your boss is probably under a lot of pressure from their boss. So they are probably taking all the heat and negativity pointed at them and turning it around and pushing it on you. Your boss, then, is in the same exact boat as you. So try to see things from your boss’s point and view and see if that doesn’t change, if not your opinion of your boss, then at least your prospective.

Your boss may not even be calling the shots at all, just relaying orders. That may be a sign of a bigger problem and a huge red flag warning you to just quit the company altogether. It also means don’t go about loudly criticizing plans, because you never know whose plans you are criticizing.

3: Don’t think about work outside of work

According to Lynn Taylor, workplace expert and author of “Tame your Terrible Office Tyrant, ”on average, employees spend about 19.2 hours a week worrying about ‘what a boss says or does’ including 13 hours during the workweek and 6.2 of their weekend hours. Leave work at the door on your way out. If you find yourself stressing about work at home, immediately stop yourself and start thinking about something else, something relaxing or calming. That way you can get some much needed rest on your days off and come back into work relaxed and less prone to overreacting.

4: Don’t mimic their bad behavior

All too often, your boss’s bad behavior starts to affect how you act. You start thinking ‘why do I have to work so much overtime if my boss barely puts in 40 hours a week?’ Or ‘why do I bother working so hard if no one notices or if no one else is working this hard?’ In response to your bad boss, you may start slacking off, showing up to work late, not doing your work, or losing interest in your job because who cares, right? It doesn’t matter in the end.

Stop right there. Stop thinking that. Do not let your boss change you. Don’t become bitter or become a slacker if you’ve always been a positive person and a hard worker. Maintain your standards and keep performing to the best of your ability. It doesn’t matter what your boss thinks, says, or does, you are going to work as hard as you always have. Act like the leader you wish your boss was and people will take notice (hopefully).

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5: Don’t react emotionally

The best thing you can do for dealing with a boss that you hate for whatever reason is to act professionally at all times. Never react in anger, because when we react in anger we tend to do or say things we regret later. Fighting fire with fire never works. So no matter how angry or pissed off they might make you, put on a smile and fake politeness. Be respectful and professional during your interactions. Once you have had time to think things through with a clear head, then address or chose to ignore the issue.

Don’t take what your boss says personally, either, it rarely, if ever, is personal. Maybe that’s just their personality. If you learn to not take things personally, you can be more objective during your interactions.

If you don’t react emotionally, and can react somewhat objectively, then you can stop focusing on your boss as the misery-maker. Focus on the problem at hand instead and then find ways to fix the problem, find solutions and see if that doesn’t help.

6: Stop working against them

You want to expose your boss for the incompetent fool or terrible, verbally abusive and manipulative monster that they really are. Trust me, I know. You want the whole world to know them for who they really are. Even if you trip them up in a meeting, or prove in front of your boss’s superiors that your boss has no clue what they are doing, it is unlikely to change anything. In the end, all it does is make you look bad.

So work with them. Support your boss. Work around their weaknesses or help them improve. Just don’t do any of this at the expense of your own career. Adapting to their preferences will go a long way to relieve tension and help build a working relationship. It can also assist you with getting what you want in the long term.

You can even schedule weekly meetings with your boss and update them on what you’ve been working on. Ask them for advice with your projects instead of blazing ahead on your own. Even if you don’t respect your boss, this will help seem like you do and will encourage a working relationship.

7: Brown nose

Criticism is futile. You will never get anywhere if you criticize your boss. So suck up to them. Now I’m not talking flattery, but honest appreciation and praise. Focus on what your boss does do right and not on everything they do wrong. Or try finding out what is important to your boss, what they care about, what they worry about and then use it as bait. Dangle that worm in front of your boss to get what you really want in the end. If they find something important, you do too. Or if they worry about something, you can find a solution for it. Then use this information to get what you want in a polite manner.

8: Make yourself indispensable

Despite how much you might hate your boss, make yourself someone your boss can rely on, someone that is important to your boss. This way they will listen to your advice and you can make changes for the better in your workplace that way.

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9: Voice your concerns/speak up

If you have a problem, don’t let the problem fester. If you do, the problem will grow and grow until you just can’t make it anymore and you find yourself miserable at your job every single day. So if you have concerns, bring them to your boss. But remember the tip above, don’t criticize and don’t accuse them of anything. Be civil and professional in addressing your concerns. Practice what you want to say in your head beforehand. Then maybe the two of you can work out some of the issues you are having.

Be aware that if your boss is truly evil, though, this may backfire in the end.

10: Anticipate problems

If you know your boss will go on a rampage if there is no coffee in the break room, stay out of the break room when your boss is there. If you know he is in a bad mood, just stay out of the warpath. On the other hand, if you know something will set your boss off, fix it before the boss notices and avoid any major problems.

11: Don’t let yourself get pushed around

If your boss is a bully, don’t let yourself get intimidated. If you do get intimidated, they’ll pick up on that and keep picking on you. So don’t react to their bullying, or ask them to stop and eventually they will and move on to someone else. Stand your ground.

12: Document their bad behavior so that you have proof

Have you ever seen the movie Horrible Bosses? Remember the dental assistant (played by Charlie Day) being sexually harassed by his boss aka Jennifer Aniston? In the end (spoiler alert) Charlie Day's character ends up videotaping his boss sexually harassing an unconscious patient as proof of her behavior in order to get what he wants. If your boss is doing something truly inappropriate like spreading gossip about employees, screaming at people, being generally verbally abusive to you or anyone else, etc, then you need to start documenting their behavior. Save memos, e-mails, or written letters. Write down incidents with the date and time they happened and everything that occurred. Keep everything, so that if you do take the following steps, you have proof to back up your statements.

13: Lodge a complaint with your boss’s superiors or HR

Once you have your proof or if you just can’t take it anymore, lodge a formal complaint with the HR department at your place of work, or go to your boss’s superiors. If HR does anything about it and takes disciplinary action, you won’t know about it. So give it some time before changes take effect.

Beware that going to HR may backfire. In the past, if has never worked for me or for anyone else I have ever known. Your boss may choose to retaliate against you if you file a complaint and can either make your life Hell or they can fire you. HR, in the meantime, will stand by and do nothing.

14: Team up with coworkers

If lodging a complaint with HR on your own does nothing, get a group of your coworkers together who are also fed up with your boss’s behavior and lodge a complaint together. Your words will hold more weight this way because in my experience, your boss’s superiors or HR will always take your boss’s words over your own and of course your boss is going to lie to save their own skin. But if everyone is truly unhappy then they may start to take notice.

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15: Transfer to another department

If you don’t want to go to HR and risk retaliation or you have gone and nothing happened, see if you can’t transfer to another department or another store at your company. Do your research beforehand, though, and talk to people in that department before you transfer. Make sure you aren’t going from one bad boss to another, or an even worse boss.

17: Leave. Quit your job and find a better one

If you really can’t take it anymore and you’re fed up with the whole company, it is time to leave. Search for a new job and once you get a new job, put in your two weeks. But again, do your research, make sure you’re not going into a worse situation.

Stress can cause a lot of damage to your health and body. It can cause migraines, loss of sleep, heart problems, ulcers and more. So if your job is damaging your health consider quitting even if you do not have a new job. No employment is worth risking your health over.

Once you leave the situation, don’t fall into the trap again and avoid having a bad boss in the future.

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    • kenneth avery profile image

      Kenneth Avery 3 years ago from Hamilton, Alabama

      Hi QuoteAmber,

      Terrific hub! Nicely-said and presented. Oh if I had been given this hub when I was able to work, man, at the heads that would have rolled. I worked for a greedy, self-serving boss who blended his personal chores into our work and to me, that was purely wrong.

      Oh, I voted up and away on this great piece.

      If I had told the owner of the company, he would have yelled at my supervisor and then the super would have made my life miserable.

      He was very vindictive.

      I have rambled too long. Keep up the great work.

      I cordially-invite you to check out a couple of my hubs and please be one of my followers.

      I will appreciate it so much.

      Kenneth Avery, Hamilton, Al.

    • Express10 profile image

      H C Palting 3 years ago from East Coast

      I had a bad boss in that he would do nothing to reprimand a bad coworker that cussed at me because he thought I did not do something that he NEVER asked me to do. He got his little brain in a tizzy and cussed at me and threw a stack of paperwork into the floor. When he realized he asked someone else and completely forgot this fact, all he could mutter was a one word, very quiet sorry and scurry off to his office. This same guy cussed out other coworkers and frequently yelled.

      Another co-worker ran away from customers, literally running to the bathroom every time a customer pulled into a parking spot and she would never come out until after I began talking to and helping that customer. This increased my workload and stress levels. I had to get out of there. When these problems were brought to the boss' attention, I was told to "talk to them." Talking does nothing but create more tension because then you are "telling someone how to do their job." It was as if the boss did not want to do his job so eventually I gave up mine.

    • QuoteAmber profile image
      Author

      Amber 3 years ago from Earth

      This hub was inspired by some bad bosses at my current job. Talking to a boss has never worked for me either. Thanks for reviewing!

    • QuoteAmber profile image
      Author

      Amber 3 years ago from Earth

      Express10, my boss told us the same thing about 'talking to the other employees' about problems in the workplace. But you are right, that only creates tension and it should be the boss's job.

    • kenneth avery profile image

      Kenneth Avery 3 years ago from Hamilton, Alabama

      Hi, Quote Amber,

      I had to look at this hub again. Turns out that these situations in the workplace are very much common-place. I know how it is too. I was twice a victim of non-job-related duties by the same boss at two different companies. Can you believe that?

      I had to get his coffee, take his suits to the cleaners and all while trying to do my job.

      I wondered if this would ever end.

      I left that company after 23 years, worked for a radio station for a year and half, and he, that boss called me and said he had me a job back at the company I left.

      I needed the money so I bit on the bait.

      I went back and he put me in another role with THREE-times the work and it was in a department fueled by office politics--no matter how trivial the mistake, I was put on report to the boss.

      So my point is: This hub should be a must-read by all people who are being used in offices.

      Kenneth

    • QuoteAmber profile image
      Author

      Amber 3 years ago from Earth

      Thanks, kenneth avery! Sorry to hear about that boss, though, he sounds awful. That is why I am trying to make it as a writer, so I can be my own boss.

    • profile image

      Kenneth Avery 3 years ago

      You are welcome. And I have faith in you and your talent. Just keep writing. And the key to being a great writer is READ a lot of articles, stories, and your vocabulary will increase.

      Me? I love the works of Dr. Hunter S Thompson who invented Gonzo Journalism and he was one literary genius.

      Keep in touch.

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