Bad boss? Here's what to do

Last updated: June 16, 2024
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Mandy Evers
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Are you overwhelmed or frustrated at work because of your bad boss? Here are tips that can help you handle a difficult manager.

Let’s face it: NO one likes a difficult manager. They can leave you feeling defeated, frustrated, and unhappy. So what do you do when you find yourself struggling with your boss while you’re at work? Let’s explore what it means to be a “bad boss” and how you can deal with one.

What is a “bad boss”?

First, it’s important to distinguish between a boss you may not like and a boss who has problematic behavior. Let’s look at some examples of what can be considered a difficult manager or boss.

1. Badmouthing your colleagues

Let’s say you’re quietly eating your lunch in the break room when your boss suddenly sits next to you. They sigh loudly and start complaining that your colleague just doesn’t seem to “get it.” Even though you’re uncomfortable, your boss keeps complaining about your colleague in front of you.

There’s a time and place for constructive criticism. However, your manager should never be badmouthing their team members to other employees. You should see this as a red flag.

If your boss has a problem with someone on your team, they need to address it with that person or with upper management.

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2. Unresponsiveness

Do you have to chase your manager around whenever you need their input or their approval for something?

It can be incredibly difficult to work under an unresponsive boss. For example, imagine you’re planning to take your vacation days to go out of town to take care of a sick family member. After you’ve asked for your vacation time, your boss doesn’t give you a response for an entire week. As a result, you have to “pester” them again to remind them you’re still waiting for a response.

It’s okay for a manager to need time to process your requests. But you shouldn’t have to be the one running after them.

3. Taking credit and not appreciating your work

A good leader understands that good work is the result of their team coming together to combine their effort and skills. Poor managers will take credit for their team’s work without recognizing the hard work you’ve put in.

For example, let’s say you came up with an interesting idea to help increase sales at your job. Your manager approves and asks you and your team to implement it. When the great results start flowing in, your manager tells their superior — a store owner or maybe a supervisor — that the idea was all theirs. They accept all the praise from their own boss without taking the time to congratulate the entire team for pulling their weight.

You can’t always expect to be thanked for every task you accomplish, but a good boss will recognize and appreciate your work. Refusing to acknowledge the work of their team is “bad boss” behavior and can be demotivating.

4. Micromanaging or undermanaging

It’s difficult to balance your management style. As a result, many bosses will micromanage their team or go in the opposite direction and offer too little direction.

Here’s an example of micromanaging. Imagine your boss constantly looking at what you’re doing and correcting you — not because you’re doing it wrong, but because you’re not doing it their way.

At the opposite end, there’s undermanaging. In this case, your boss may leave you to perform your tasks without specifying what success looks like or how to perform the task correctly.

Both can lead to frustration for employees and bad results for the tasks you do.

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5. Disrespectful

It’s okay to be strict and firm as a boss. But if your boss disrespects you, that crosses the line into abusive behavior.

For example, let’s say your boss gets emotionally volatile and calls you names while screaming when you make a mistake. There’s no reason a manager should belittle someone on their team. That’s a sign of poor behavior on their part and can lead to a toxic workplace for everyone.

What to do if you have a bad boss

Now you know what behaviors to look out for in a difficult manager. Here’s how to deal with a bad boss, so that you can improve your work environment.

1. Share your thoughts

Chances are, your boss has NO clue that what they are saying or doing is overwhelming you. How would they know if you never tell them? Perhaps they are not providing you with enough direction or doing the opposite and micromanaging you 24/7.

Consider scheduling some time to speak one on one with your boss to let them know in a positive way how you feel. A good manager will always care about how you feel and how you’re growing within the company. Consider using “I” statements, such as:

“I feel nervous when you…”

“I feel my work isn’t getting recognized…”

“I’m uncomfortable when I hear you talking negatively about our coworkers…”

2. Ask for feedback

If your boss seems unhappy with you, chances are you are unhappy as well. But there is no reason for this vicious cycle to continue.

For example, let’s say your boss is constantly criticizing you or your work. Consider asking them what you can do to improve. It’s important when asking to frame the request around the fact that it will benefit the company. For example, you could say the following:

“I noticed that you believe I could do this more effectively. If you tell me how to achieve this, I could speed up my productivity.”

They may provide some great insight to help you both coexist, but they may also help you advance your career in the long run.

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3. Reach out to HR

If things seem to be out of your control, reach out to your company’s human resources department.

Let them know about the struggles you have to deal with and what steps you have taken to overcome them. They may have helped others with the same problems and could offer some tips you may not have thought of.

4. Engage with your support network

A strong support system is necessary when dealing with an emotionally difficult situation.

Ask those around you to help support you and provide advice. There’s a good chance someone you know has dealt with the same issue as you in the past.

Not sure who to ask? Reach out and write a post in the Jobcase community!

Remember that having outlets outside of work to help relieve stress is important to keep your mind clear, especially if you’re having difficulty dealing with a toxic person. If things begin to feel too overwhelming, consider speaking to a licensed therapist. You can find one on Doctor on Demand.

5. Consider a new role

If things become too overwhelming and you don’t see any change or progress from your boss, consider asking to be transferred to a new department if that’s a feasible option. Alternatively, you can begin to search for other options and make a career change.

No one likes to wake up every day and go to work for a boss that makes them unhappy. Update your resume and search for new opportunities while you are still employed. Just be sure to never speak negatively about your current or past bosses.

Deal with toxic bosses to improve your work experience

Having a bad boss can severely impact your productivity at work and hurt your personal life and mental health. Take some of these steps to improve your situation, or start talking to people in your network to see what other opportunities are available.

Need help growing your professional network and finding job opportunities? Sign up to Jobcase to join a community of like-minded workers with whom you can connect, exchange ideas, and find better places to work.

Have you ever experienced a bad boss? What did you do?



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