Bad Bosses: 4 Steps to Dealing With Them

We’ve all had bad bosses or supervisors who drove us absolutely crazy until we found a way to deal with them.

Or, they left the situation/job/career/company. Or we did. That’s a last resort, but you may get there unless the situation improves.

The first step in dealing with bad bosses is to make a personal determination. How bad is this? Can I live with it? Is it likely to change in the short term?

If your evaluation shows that the situation is having a strong or severe negative impact on you, you need to do something. If you simply can’t put up with the boss’s behaviour and you don’t think it will change anytime soon, you need to act.

You may have learned this lesson already, but in case you haven’t, a bad situation never gets better on its own – especially at work. It only gets worse.

So if you’ve had it with your collective bad bosses, here are four ways you can deal with them.

1. Speak Up

It’s amazing how many people just sit and tolerate bad and even offensive behaviour.

The very first thing that you have to do, with bullies or bad bosses (or both), is to speak up. Tell them in no uncertain terms what behaviour you find hurtful, degrading or just plain awful.

Speak up and tell them that you do not like this behaviour and, in as respectful a manner as you can muster, ask them to stop and to treat you with respect.

Then wait for their response.

Not just their oral response, but whether they actually change their behaviour. That’s assuming that their first response is not to scream at you, or even worse to threaten to fire you.

If that’s the case, then at least you know where you stand. But don’t be surprised if they go away, think about what you have said, and actually improve their behaviour a little. If not, proceed to step 2.

2. Reclaim Your Boundaries

Even in this difficult job market you still have rights, no matter how many times bad bosses or supervisors try to tell you otherwise.

You have the legal right to work in a safe and healthy workplace, and if it’s not then you have a right to complain and ask that it be improved.

You have the legal right not be sexually harassed or interfered with any way at your place of work, and even if your company doesn’t have a policy on this (but they probably do), there are laws that will protect you.

Even more than your legal rights, you have the right to be treated with respect and dignity, and if you’re not then you need to reclaim your boundaries.

No one has the right to treat you disrespectfully, but sometimes we let people, especially our bosses, act differently towards us than we should allow.

Part of the onus is on you. Re-create your safety zone if someone has violated it, and don’t let anybody cross over your personal red lines. If they are, then move to Step 3.

3. Ask for Help

Sometimes we think that we have to solve problems, particularly workplace problems, all on our own. And that’s true sometimes.

Then there are times when we’ve tried all that we know and the situation just doesn’t get any better. That’s when we have to remind ourselves again that it’s okay to ask for help.

Help in dealing with bad bosses can come from a variety of sources, including moral support from our friends and co-workers. A problem shared is a problem halved.

But sharing isn’t enough to change the situation. For that you probably need to go over or around your boss. It could be possible to ask for help from your human resources department, who sometimes can offer to mediate.

More than likely it means going to your boss’s own supervisor. That can be a difficult thing to do, and it should only be attempted when you’ve tried and exhausted all other avenues.

That person is likely aware of the bad boss situation already and may have some advice or suggestions to offer. If that route doesn’t work then you may have to go to Step 4.

4. Think About Leaving

This doesn’t mean threatening to quit, which you should never do unless you intend to carry that threat out.

But if you can’t make the situation at work better, then you need to take some time andthink about leaving your current work arrangement. Even if it’s your dream job in your dream company, bad bosses have a way of ruining a good thing.

Weigh the pros and cons of leaving and talk it over with your family and close friends. Then if you decide that the situation is intolerable for you, make a plan to leave your current job at some fixed point in the future.

That could be six months or a year, but just by setting a date you will take the pressure off. Don’t tell anybody at work about your plan, but work towards it, including finding a safe landing place for you and your career.

You can always change your mind if things get better, but if they don’t you need to look after yourself.