How to Deal with a Bad Boss |

How to Deal with a Bad Boss


Bad Bosses. They’re unavoidable. But knowing how to identify and deal with them will make your life a little bit easier. There are different types of bad bosses. They usually fall into one of the following categories;


They lead by fear. These bosses yell. They verbally abuse their employees and belittle them in front of their coworkers. Bully bosses can even go so far as trying to sabotage workers. They can hold back information necessary to do a job. They don’t communicate. And they create such a miserable work environment that many employees have no other choice than to pack up and leave.

 You can always spot a micromanager by their lack of ability to delegate tasks

But how do you identify between a bully boss and a tough boss?

Jennifer V. Miller, a former HR generalist and training manager addresses this very topic on her blog, and says “A tough boss has employees’ best interests in mind. The tough boss challenges employees to think beyond their current capabilities, to go beyond what they thought they could do. Tough bosses have difficult conversations. They don’t shy away from poor performance; they address it immediately. The tough boss might not be “warm and fuzzy” but they are compassionate. The one thing a tough boss will never do is belittle their employees in any way.”


As difficult as it is, try to maintain a positive attitude and don’t take the boss’s comments personally. Prepare yourself by anticipating your boss’s negative remarks or comments. Come up with, and practice delivering constructive replies, such as “when you do that, it isn’t very motivating.”

Start documenting the bullying. If not to review in a formal meeting with HR, than at least to identify patterns. Being able to identify the triggers of the bullying may help you avoid it.

Don’t sink to the bully boss’s level. Always maintain your professionalism and a calm demeanor. Getting in a shouting match with your boss, or sulking at your desk all day will only reflect poorly on you.

Bully bosses can seriously affect your mental and physical well-being. With increased stress levels, people tend to make poor choices in food, over-consumption of alcohol and lack of exercise. If you find your bully boss is affecting your life outside the office, it might just be time to cut your losses and find a new job.

Is your boss a bully? Take the test.


Micromanagers feel the need to maintain control at all times – of projects, work distribution, even your daily schedule. They don’t have faith that their employees are at a level where they can be trusted to work autonomously.  You can always spot a micromanager by their lack of ability to delegate tasks. And their “If I want something done right I need to do it myself” attitude.

It takes time to build trust – and that’s exactly what you need to do with your micromanager through constant communication.

Good bosses empower their employees to take chances by providing opportunities to excel. Bad bosses, micromanagers, will hoard these opportunities.

Micromanagers will often be looking over your shoulder, checking your work, and questioning your decisions or progress. This sort of behavior can make you start to second-guess your own abilities. And it can destroy your self-confidence.


It takes time to build trust – and that’s exactly what you need to do with your micromanager through constant communication.

Volunteer to take on projects you know you’re good at. Tell your micromanager how you’ll execute the project. Keep him or her informed on the progress through daily or weekly status updates, either in-person or by email. Whichever makes your micromanager feel more confident in your work. If anything goes off track, inform your micromanager right away. Don’t sit on problems and give your boss more reasons to distrust you.


On the opposite end of the spectrum as the micromanager, you’ll find the neglector. The missing-in-action boss who provides no direction for his or her employees. You resort to guessing what your boss wants, because they never tell you – or they’re never around to tell you. I had the pleasure of working for one of these bosses firsthand.

My boss would never come around to see what I was up to, so I assumed he was busy. And I also assumed he was confident in my work because the clients were happy and we were making money. I didn’t realize that he was a neglector boss. That he expected me to come to him and check in on a regular basis.

I also didn’t “play the game” as I called it. I didn’t go out of my way to inform my boss of all the great things I had accomplished that day or that week. I saw it as sucking up and that was my mistake.


The first thing I should have done was boost my visibility. I should have checked-in with him more often and shared the successes that I achieved during the week. How else was he going to find out?

Bad bosses not only make great examples of how not to lead, they really make you appreciate the good ones if you can find them.

I could have provided email updates, or even just stuck my head into his office at the end of day for a quick ‘hello’. Maybe to see if there was anything I could help him with.

I also now recognize that I should have made an effort to understand my role, my objectives, and deliverables according to my boss. Without those I was bound to fail.


At some point, everyone has a bad boss. I’ve had my share – and as difficult as they were, I was able to learn something from each one of them. (Usually in retrospect.) Bad bosses not only make great examples of how not to lead, they really make you appreciate the good ones if you can find them.

“The best leader is the one who has sense enough to pick good men [or women] to do what he [or she] wants done, and self-restraint enough to keep from meddling with them while they do it.” – Theodore Roosevelt

  • Pam Paquet CSP, CCC, MEd

    There is no shortage of bad bosses out there – the damage they cause in workplaces amazes me. Even worse, some of them don’t even realize it or do realize and think it is acceptable. Your three types of bad bosses correlate with three behaviour styles along the passive/aggressive continuum. I just wrote about the problem with passive bosses and ways they can become more assertive. The article is in the Canadian HR Reporter on Feb 11th – give it a read. Hopefully bad bosses will be aware, strive to be in the middle of the assertiveness continuum and become effective leaders.