Five ways to deal with a Bad Boss in Your Career

Part 1 of 3

Have you ever had a boss that just made you dread coming in to work and had you counting the minutes before you left each day? A boss so bad, that they were the subject of many hallway conversations and long lunches among you and your co-workers?

According to many sources, a bad boss is the number one reason why employees, usually good employees, leave the organization.

Sometime or another in your career, you will encounter the bad boss.  How do you survive and manage this experience effectively?

If you currently have one of these leaders, here are a few things to remember:

Bad bosses have the power you give them – take the time to really consider what it is about this person that is so challenging. Do they affect you in a different way? Are they abrasive and this is deeply troubling to you? Is it a mismatch of your values or is it something else? Get curious about the effect on you.  Come to an understanding of why your bad boss affects you the way they do.

They can affect your career by affecting your confidence and sometimes overall wellbeing – unless you boost your super-powers around them, it can be hard to feel good about what you’re doing.

Bad bosses are always temporary – don’t take them to heart and think it’s just about you. If you take responsibility for your career, it’s natural to doubt yourself in a bad boss environment.  It isn’t you!  Gift yourself by reframing your perspective and truly seeing that the situation is affecting you negatively and causing you to doubt yourself.

They remind you that your power is essential in this environment – there are techniques to do this!  You are always at power. Just remember that.

The bad boss may be the boss, but you need to remember that you aren’t paid to deal with excessive stress or abuse from them.  You have a career and life ahead of you, rich with possibility.  The stress from a bad boss can last, even after you are no longer reporting to them.

And, the good news is that there are always options.  No matter the situation! A few options include:

  1. Stand up for yourself and take action. Consider all of the actions available to you but also, think about your own psychological being and safety as you consider staying.

I had a manager who at one point decided to give me a lower rating.  This manager was not well respected in the organization, but because of another project that had extensive cost overruns and was highly visible, this manager (not involved in that project), stayed on under the radar. I  did something I had never done before.  I went to Human Resources to file a complaint.  After HR evaluated the entire circumstance, this boss was forced to give me a higher rating. However, he was most unhappy with me, and continued to make my career miserable until he was ultimately transferred to another division. Standing up for yourself can work, but sometimes is a temporary fix.

  1. Leave the company or department. One power that you always have is the choice to leave. Although there may be many complications in leaving, and I am well aware of that, you deserve to be treated with respect in any job situation.  Consider if you are there for loyalty, fear of the unknown, or lethargy?

I was once in a situation, early in my career, where a boss promised me as a project manager, a bonus. The project I was leading was very visible and mission critical. There were two other managers who were also promised. The three of us were told that we would be compensated via bonus for all of the overtime hours we put in as salaried employees.  I missed summer vacation and the holidays that year, because of this project, and even worked New Year’s Eve and Day, in pursuit of the completion and my bonus.

We then found out, once the project was implemented, that the bonus was considered illegal by HR standards, and we ended up with nothing.

To assuage my upset, my boss took me out to a nice place for lunch.  It was my first time in his car, a brand-new Audi, fully loaded, with that new car smell. Over lunch, he proceeded to pour salt in my wounds by telling me proudly, that he bought the car based on his director bonus for the Conversion project (that I had just led). I left the company shortly after that.

When you realize that there is no pot of gold (or bonus) at the end of the rainbow, it may be time to leave!  Especially if staying is untenable, as it was for me.

Some clients tell me their fears of leaving, as though it were considered job hopping by prospective employers. I can tell you that I have coached clients who have had multiple jobs, sometimes within the same year, and not had an issue with this in the interview.  It really comes down to how you frame and message the many assignments that you have taken on.

What you may not have realized is that all of us have experienced the bad boss and there are options to deal with this effectively.  Stay tuned to my series for more recommendations on actions you can take.


This blog presented two actions you can take with a bad boss:  Stand up for your rights and take action and leave the company.  If you’re dealing with a bad boss right now, do either of these options make sense?  What would help you move toward action?

Lupe Wood