How to Handle a Bad Boss with More Success and Less Struggle

It has been said that people don’t quit a company. They quit a boss.  

A quick google search will return a variety of statistics about the impact a manager has on employee retention. For example, a 2019 study by DDI Research found that 57% of respondents had left at least one job because of their manager, while another 32% had considered quitting.

If a person stays, the level of engagement at work severely declines. In addition, the amount of stress felt from poor management has a significant impact.

So, if you have a terrible boss, should you stay or should you go?

The chances are high that you will have a “bad” boss at some point in your career.  It’s not a question of “if” rather “when.”  

When looking at your career growth, your boss plays a critical role.  In most corporate settings, your boss is the primary person providing input on your performance and career potential.

Given the significance of the role your manager plays and the likelihood that you will encounter a manager that’s not the best, let’s look at how you can deal.

The different kinds of “bad” bosses

Managers are human beings.  They have their personalities and quirks, just like you and me.  

As introverts, this is something we can relate to at some level.  After all, introverts are often misunderstood!

In my own experience as a manager, I know there have been employees that I have more naturally gotten along with at work.  This alignment has sometimes come through shared work ethic or ideals, and other times through a partnership of opposites that balance each other out.  With other employees, it is working to find the middle ground.

Besides personality mismatches, here are the top five complaints about “bad” bosses from my clients:

  1. Absentee:  You may have an absentee boss if you don’t receive guidance or oversight, and you don’t spend a lot of time communicating or meeting with the boss.  
  2. Micromanager: This boss provides more oversight and input than necessary and has a hard time releasing work control to employees.  
  3. Lacks leadership skills:  This boss may be new to leadership and just hasn’t learned the skills yet.  This boss could have been promoted because they are a knowledge expert but have not transitioned to the leader. On the other hand, this boss could be trying to figure it out independently and just not getting any feedback or direction to adjust their style and approach.   
  4. Not good at relationships: This boss should come with a label that says “does not play nice with others.”  They rock the boat wherever they go and possibly make people mad that you have to work with on a day-to-day basis.  They also have a hard time establishing relationships with employees because of their style.
  5. Narcissist: This boss is concerned with themselves and their achievements.  

The good news is that you can create a strategy to deal with a bad boss.

And these experiences can be valuable learning opportunities that will help shape your career.

How to deal with a bad boss

The worst thing you can do if you think you have a bad boss?  Complain, complain, complain.  

No positive progress will come from staying stuck on the negative aspects of the relationship.

Instead, take an active role in the relationship and work to shape it into something manageable.  Try one or more items from the following list to meet your boss where they are at and find a successful middle ground.

  • Learn your boss’s motivations – what goals and challenges do they have?
  • Don’t ignore them – instead, purposefully interact and listen for clues on their mindset and approach to work. Then, mirror these back to them in your conversations.
  • Identify ways that you can support your boss by being helpful
  • Fill in gaps in your boss’s experience or skills
  • Bring solutions to the table, don’t focus on the problems.

Maintaining your Sanity

Through effort, it is possible to work with a “bad” boss.

But that doesn’t mean it will be easy. Your boss will probably still drive you crazy at times.  And, the effort required on your part might get you down, especially if the activities drain your energy stores.   

To stay balanced, try these five tips:

  • Keep your goals in mind and remember why you choose to make the effort
  • Acknowledge your ability to influence the relationship
  • Manage your expectations – your boss is human
  • Set boundaries – you get to choose what you deal with, and when
  • Give yourself a scorecard on what you are learning from this experience, and look at it weekly

In the end, when dealing with a bad boss, the best advice is to follow your intuition.  Only you can truly know when it is time to leave a bad situation.  

I want you to feel empowered to choose your path and know that you can manage complicated relationships that may come up along your journey.

Want more help creating a successful relationship with your Boss?

Check out our course How to Talk to Your Boss to learn my simple #1 strategy for bridging the gap.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

My story

Bunya nuts black-eyed pea prairie turnip leek lentil turnip greens parsnip. Nori grape silver beet broccoli kombu beet greens fava bean potato quandong.

I'm Janise Baker.

learn more

Improve your health with just 5 minutes a day

hi friend,