How to deal with a bad boss

by | 13.07.23

In an ideal world we would all have fantastic Managers, bosses who help us to succeed, who make us feel valued and are just great people to be around. Unfortunately that is not always the case. But whether the person you work for is a micromanager, has anger management problems, shows favouritism towards one person, is a flat-out workplace bully or just isn’t very competent, you still have to make the best of the situation and get your job done. Here are some tips on how to cope:

Identify the problems

If you’re dealing with a bad Manager one of the first steps is to identify exactly which of your boss’s behaviours trigger you. It is common to feel emotional responses like stress and anger at work but to not be able to pinpoint the cause. Often a bad boss will have a pattern or behaviours that negatively impact on you long term. Perhaps they ask you for excess work updates, expect you to be available 24/7 or give you destructive criticism. Whatever the triggers, it’s important that you identify them so you can deal with them better.


It is common to criticise the faults in others while overlooking those in ourselves, but if you’re dealing with a bad boss, it’s important to practice some self-reflection in order to determine if there is anything that you are doing that may be contributing to the issue. For example if you frequently miss deadlines and you aren’t as productive as your boss expects, ask yourself if you could work on increasing your productivity.

Don’t let it affect your work

As hard as it may be try not to let a bad boss negatively impact on the quality of your work. Afterall this will most likely only exacerbate the issues and hurt your career at the same time. So try to not consciously or unconsciously seek retaliation against your boss by letting your performance slide. Even if your boss doesn’t recognise your value, continue to deliver a high standard of work for yourself.

Talk to your boss

Before throwing in the towel and looking for another job its important to talk to your boss in order to try to improve the situation. After all, they may not be aware of how their behaviour is negatively impacting on you. When speaking with your boss make sure your body language isn’t defensive and try to use ‘I’ statements. For example instead of saying ‘you micromanage’ it’s better to day
“I work best if left alone to get on with it”. That way your boss is less likely to feel personally criticised.

Consider their perspective

Perspective involves trying to understand the feelings, viewpoint and situation of another person. It can be highly beneficial in relationship building and for resolving conflict particularly in the workplace. Try to consider what pressures your boss faces. Do they have their own demanding boss? Are they overworked? While certain circumstances may not excuse their behaviour, they may provide an explanation and help you to develop an understanding and compassion for them.

Adapt your behaviour

Sometimes at work we have to be flexible and adapt our behaviour and way of working to our boss’s management style. We don’t have control over the behaviour of others, at times we may have to change our own behaviour in order to work with bosses more effectively and harmoniously. For example if you do something one way and your boss prefers to do it another way try to adapt to the way they want it done. Although you shouldn’t completely change the way you work best, recognise that you may have to make some compromises.

Help your boss to succeed

If you are dealing with a horrible boss it’s going to be easier for you if you stay on their good side.  Helping your boss to succeed is a way to do just that. Since bosses are responsible for their subordinates work, producing excellent work will help your boss to succeed. However you could take this further by finding other ways to make their job easier. For example if you have time try volunteering to take on jobs that are not normally in the scope of your role.

Adjust your expectations

Unfortunately the workplace does not always function how it ideally should. There are many people in leadership positions who are unqualified for their roles. If you have had incredible bosses in the past then it can be natural to compare them to your current boss. However this will just set you up for disappointment. By accepting the reality of your situation as opposed to what it ideally should be you will be better equipped to tolerate having a bad boss.

Speak to HR

Making a complaint to the Human Resources Department about your boss should never be the first line of action. However if attempts to resolve the issues by speaking to your boss have not worked, or your boss has abusive behaviour then it may be necessary. When speaking to HR make sure you remain calm, professional and non-accusable. It’s also a good idea to go prepared with specific examples and evidence.

Find another job

If your boss’s bad management is creating a toxic work environment and negatively impacts on your mental health then you may need to start looking for a new job. But while it may be tempting to leave your current job, you should be careful and not jump from the frying pan into the fire. Make sure you vet your next boss so you don’t end up in a similar – or worse – situation. Look for red fags during the interview and don’t be afraid to ask the person who interviews you about their management style and philosophy.

So there you go, horrible and difficult bosses are not common, in fact they are very rare, but if you come across one it can be an awful situation to deal with. No-one should be unhappy at work and no-one in this world should make you feel unhappy. Try your best to resolve the situation in order to make going to work a pleasant experience, if you really, really can’t having tried every thing you can -leave – you deserve better.

Good Luck

Angela Burton