Bad bosses: We’ve all had one. Whether they’re missing from the office, making crazy demands, or micromanaging, they have the ability to make work feel like purgatory.
In a perfect world, you should have been able to spot the warning signs of a bad boss before you even signed a contract – but some of us aren’t so lucky.
Regardless of how you ended up in your working environment, here’s a guide on how to deal with a bad boss or manager.
First, Determine That You’re Dealing With a “Bad Boss”
Before actually trying to do anything about your situation, be sure that the person in charge is actually bad to work for.
There are different factors that can lead you to think that your boss is not providing you with an overall positive work environment. To get started, try asking yourself these questions:
Is My Boss Failing to Communicate Effectively?
If there’s a lack of communication between managers and your team, this can create uncertainty and make it more difficult to understand what’s expected of you.
Am I Being Micromanaged?
A boss who micromanages their employees is a huge red flag. This has the potential to demoralize team members and make them feel like they’re not trusted to do their jobs.
Do I Feel Supported?
If you don’t feel like your boss is looking out for your best interests (both personally and professionally), it can make you feel like you don’t belong in your team. Ask yourself::
- Do they encourage your personal and professional development?
- Do they present opportunities for advancement?
- Do they provide mentorship and training?
- Can I go to my boss with issues?
- Are my complaints listened to and addressed?
Is My Boss Treating Employees Unfairly?
A colleague got approval for a mini fridge, but you can’t get the standing desk you worked hard for. Playing favorites is a major sign of poor management, and favoritism creates a toxic working environment.
Am I Getting Recognition for My Efforts?
A good boss should recognize – and even reward you – for your hard work and achievements. You should know that your efforts are contributing to the success of the organization.
How to Deal With a Bad Boss Who Is Unaware
Most bad bosses are unaware of their poor leadership and questionable behavior. If you or your team’s performance are being negatively affected, you may need to take a stand and break it to them.
1. Understand Their Motives
Even with the best work from home laptop and accessories, you’ll be feeling lost with zero direction or guidance. А hands-off manager might not realize that their lack of feedback is making it difficult for you to progress in your deliverables.
On the other end of the spectrum, a boss who provides too much direction could be feeling pressure from executive management. This might lead them take over tasks that should be delegated to you. They might be unaware that their feedback or micromanagement may cause you to doubt your competence or feel unmotivated to work.
2. Start a Conversation
Author note: I’m not recommending to tell your boss that he or she is bad at their job. This will sound like an attack and will have negative consequences.
While it might seem easier to suffer in silence, voicing your concerns might help improve your situation and/or lead your boss to offer a solution.
You can start by casually inviting them to coffee, lunch, or something out of work hours (be sure that it’s appropriate for company policy). You can also schedule a one-on-one session with them.
Whether you want to try to communicate effectively by email, chat, or call, remember that it’s not about condemning or attacking your boss: It’s about focusing on behaviors that will improve your working relationship. Focus on specific behaviors, their impact, and offer suggestions to make improvements.
For example, you might let them know how often – or how much feedback – you require to be properly guided. You could explain how working from home with the right tools not only boosts your productivity but also allows you to achieve your goal of work-life balance more easily.
How to Have a Constructive Conversation
To start a productive conversation with your boss, try the following:
- Remain respectful – Your conversation should be objective, goal-oriented, and undictated by emotions. Also, make sure that you’re speaking their language.
- Provide examples – To back up your statements, keep note of certain times you felt like their behavior caused issues with you or your team.
- Confirm if you understood correctly – When it’s appropriate, ask whether you grasped your boss’ intent. This allows the conversation to be as clear as possible.
- Give them space – It’s never easy to be criticized, even if it’s constructive. Be sure to give your manager or boss enough space to speak their piece.
3. Try to Find a Common Ground
Maybe you’re judging too quickly. Perhaps your boss’ management style doesn’t fit with your working style yet. Try to look for areas where you can work together and reach an agreement. This way, you can build a rapport you haven’t had with them.
Staying professional and finding ways to work together could also help you:
- build a stronger work relationship with your boss
- see them in a better light than before
- create an avenue for more open communication
4. Seek Support
If talking to your boss doesn’t yield positive results, consider reaching out to a mentor or a colleague with similar experience. They may also have strategies they used to smartly deal with the situation.
If you feel like the impact of the issue is affecting your work, you can also approach people from your HR department to escalate your concerns. However, taking your issues “up the line” should be used as a last resort.
When to Speak to HR
If you’re suffering from drastic workplace issues such as sexual harassment, discrimination (e.g., gender, religion, race), threats, workplace violence, or any other violation, you should speak to an HR representative. Notify this professional about the situation so they can take prompt actions to provide immediate assistance.
5. Consider Making a Move
When all else fails, it might be time to consider moving to another department. This could just be the breath of fresh air you’re hoping for. This also lets your employer know that you like the company enough to stay in it.
If your situation still doesn’t improve, it may be time to look for a position in another company.
Dealing With a Bad Boss Who Knows They’re Terrible
You might have encountered a mean manager who bullies, harasses, intimidates, cruelly criticizes, or calls you names. The worst-case scenario is that they’re aware of how bad their behavior is. They may even wear it as a badge of honor!
It’s important to remember and acknowledge that you deserve a professional working environment. Your boss should push you to make progress in your career and contribute to your confidence and self-esteem.
Here’s how to deal with a mean supervisor (or at least stay sane) until you decide to jump ship:
1. Don’t Let It Affect Your Performance
Being in a workplace with a bad superior means that you may have to put your head down and focus on ways to improve your work.
You might have to deal with a bad boss while attempting to finish your tasks. It can be extremely hard, but try to separate your professional duties from your personal feelings.
Do your job and do it well. You don’t want to give management reasons to fire you. And hey! Maybe your boss will get credit for your job well done (and get promoted away from you).
2. Keep Detailed Records
If you ever find yourself the target of inappropriate, unprofessional, or abusive behavior, keep a detailed and accurate record of the event.
If the time comes that you – or anyone else at work – needs to corroborate a complaint against your boss, your concrete and detailed recollections will increase the support for the case.
Additionally, if you ever need to submit a complaint to HR or higher-ups at the company, you’ll have reliable evidence (e.g. text messages, emails, security footage) to support the credibility of your concerns. Being organized can also help you should you need to file unemployment claims.
3. Talking to Them Is Still an Option
Whether you’re dealing with a difficult female boss or an overbearing male manager, talking to them is always an option. However, you must always carefully word your concerns, keep them objective, and ensure the conversation is goal-oriented.
Letting them know how their words and actions are impacting you – or rather, your performance – gives them an opportunity to make changes.
4. Privately Draw Attention to Their Behavior
If your situation demands escalation, reach out to higher management (or HR) in a discreet and respectful manner. This way, they will be aware of your manager’s behavior and can take the appropriate actions to improve the issue.
This could provide the bad boss time to improve their behavior while helping to prevent your colleagues from experiencing the type of mistreatment you’ve experienced.
If their conduct doesn’t change, you might need to appeal to their supervisor. Describe what your boss does and how it impacts your/your team’s performance.
5. Move On
If, despite your best efforts, your boss still doesn’t change, then it might be time to consider moving to another team or a new company.
Staying within the company might be good for maintaining your working relations or keeping your benefits. If it’s absolutely unfeasible, job searching may be the next best move.
4 Universal Tips When Dealing With a Bad Boss
Knowing how to deal with a boss who always finds fault or micromanages your every move is difficult but not uncommon. This may especially be true for organizations with strong company politics.
Here are other tips you can follow to professionally deal with a bad boss:
1. Don’t Gossip
No matter how frustrating your boss is, don’t gossip about your office issues. You don’t want to get involved in an office rumor mill.
2. Keep a Healthy Distance
A manager’s negative behaviors tend to go as far as you let them, so try to keep your distance from the negativity in your office. Focus on improving your output and accomplishing your goals.
3. Be Proactive
If you have ideas for innovation, process improvement, or ways to improve your workplace environment, consider proactively pitching them to your boss or even the higher-ups. It’s possible to initiate and lead – without undermining your boss..
4. Do Your Research Before Joining
Avoiding a mean boss may not always be possible, but before signing a contract, a little research can go a long way! Try to chat with existing employees and subtly ask for details. Be sure to avoid looking like you’re a snoop.
Handle Bad Bosses Like a Boss
In an ideal workplace, there shouldn’t be poor management. However, if you have the misfortune of having one, our advice on how to deal with a bad boss should help you avoid negative fallout.
While these methods don’t necessarily guarantee a seamless future in the working world, they’ll certainly increase your chances of turning things around – and even thriving in your profession!
If you’re looking for ways to increase your salary or find a new career, improve your creative professional skills with Domestika courses!
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Emma Collins is a tech writer for Productivity Spot. She's been writing tech tutorials & how-to guides on Windows, Android, iOS, Social Media, Data Recovery, Cybersecurity, Gaming, and more as a tech writer for over 6 years. You can find her work on many established tech websites, including Hackr.io, MakeUseOf, Help Desk Geek, Online Tech Tips, Switching To Mac, HandyRecovery, Cleverfiles, and more.