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Career Advice

How to Deal With a Bad Boss

Posted by Eileen Hoenigman Meyer

Career Advice Expert

Last Updated July 21, 2021

Bad bosses come in all shapes and sizes: there’s the slacker, the control freak, the diva, and so many more. If you’re working for one of these managers, your professional life is probably more emotionally complicated than it needs to be.

Follow these 5 steps to maintain your professionalism in the short term while deciding how to deal with your bad boss in the long term.

1. Assess where you stand.

First ask yourself: What makes your boss a bad boss? Are your issues with your supervisor addressable and fixable? Do you like your job, apart from your current manager? Other than your boss, are you confident in the leadership at your company?

Your answers to these questions will help you think through the next steps.

2. Let go of what you can’t control

Recognize that you’re in a tough spot, and then commit yourself to minimizing the damage in your day-to-day. This means finding a way to emotionally stabilize yourself so that you can weather this difficult situation.

Exercise good self-care and do your best to keep your stress level low. Identify an inner circle that you look to for support, preferably comprised of people outside of work. Avoid gossiping with your coworkers. Aimless venting can feed your frustration or worse, may incriminate you.

Also recognize that your professional life doesn’t define you. Your character is composed by your skills and abilities. In this case, you’re honing your crisis management skills and you’re learning to stay calm and strategically solve a difficult problem. Give yourself credit for this instead of feeling badly that things aren’t going better at work.

3. Communication is key

Thinking through a communication plan will give you clues as to whether or not it’s worth your time and effort to salvage this job. Can you have a conversation with your boss about the issues you have with him or her, or does the dysfunction run too deep?

If the issues that render yours a bad boss are work-related, then it may be fixable rather than if it’s grown into something more toxic. For example, an issue like “I sometimes feel that work is unfairly distributed,” is something you should be able speak with your boss about. While an issue like “I think that you routinely lie to me” is a personal issue and beyond the scope of what you probably want to take on at work.

You can handle the former by making a list of your concerns and tying them to specific instances. Then set time with your manager to have an open and honest conversation expressing your concerns. Let your boss know you’re open to their feedback and want to work with them to move forward in a positive way.

4. Invite help

While your HR team is there to listen and document, it’s not their role to call a manager out on bad behavior unless that behavior is illegal. However, they can be a sounding board and a source of support, and they can give you resources and advice to help you deal with your difficult manager.

One thing you may want to consider is asking HR about a 360 review. This would give you and the other members of your unit the chance to provide feedback about your management team. These reviews are conducted anonymously are often helpful in unearthing management issues.

Going over your boss’s head and meeting with his or her manager to report the bad behavior is unadvisable. It’s an emotionally charged political move that may put your boss’s supervisor in a difficult position and could also have implications for you.

5. Move on

Working for a great boss is rewarding, and you deserve that. Perhaps your current job is giving you just the reason you need to freshen up your resume and see what your next chapter might hold.

Ready to move on? Start your job search here on Glassdoor.

Want to work for a top boss that employees love? Check out the 50 Highest Rated CEOs in America.