How Do You Deal With The Big Bad Boss?

I have heard many stories through the grapevine of managers who make employees nervous by always looking over their shoulder, managers who do not make any effort to listen or empathise with employees over workplace issues or concerns, to managers who will even claim credit for their employees’ accomplishments!

But how do you deal with a bad boss and can you spot a bad boss at interview?

If you have ever taken the Myers Briggs Type Indicator you would understand that there are many different personality types in the workplace, and of course no one is expected to be ‘best friends’ with their boss. However, if effective communication does not take place between both parties, or at least a mutual understanding of one another, then the workplace can turn into a sour, unhealthy environment to work in.

So what constitutes a ‘Bad Boss’? For those of you out there looking for work, these tips from can help you spot a bad boss in the interview process, that way you can decide if this is the right choice for your career before taking the plunge:

  1. Pronoun usage. If your interviewer uses the term “you” in communicating negative information ( such as, “you will deal with a lot of ambiguity”), don’t expect the boss to be a mentor.  If the boss chooses the word “I” to describe the department’s success—that’s a red flag.  If the interviewer says “we” in regards to a particular challenge the team or company faced, it may indicate that he or she deflects responsibility and places blame.
  2. Concern with your hobbies. There is a fine line between genuine relationship building, and fishing for information, so use your discretion on this one. If you have an overall good impression of the potential boss it may be that he or she is truly interested in the fact that you are heavily involved in charity work, and is simply getting to know you. On the other hand, the interviewer may be trying to determine whether you have too many commitments outside of work.
  3. They’re distracted. If your interviewer is glancing at emails while you’re speaking, taking phone calls, or late to the interview, don’t expect a boss who will make time for you.
  4. They can’t give you a straight answer. Listen for pauses, awkwardness, or overly-generic responses when you inquire what happened to the person who held the position you are interviewing for, and/or what has created the need to hire.
  5. They’ve got a record. Ask the potential boss how long he or she has been at the company, in the role, and where he or she worked before coming to it to get a feel for his or management style, and whether it’s what you respond to.  For example, bosses making a switch from a large corporation to a small company may lead with formality. On the other hand, entrepreneurs tend to be passionately involved in business, which can be a help or a hindrance, depending on your work style.

Now for those of you that have been working in your organisation for a long time now, I am sure that one way or another one can relate to a situation or moment where you had clashed heads with the boss, and others are sadly dealing with a permanent ‘dispute’ day-in and day-out in the workplace.

But my main question to you is, how do you handle these disagreements or situations with your boss? Because believe it or not your decisions/reactions can either destroy or improve your chances of a successful career.

Kevin Kruse at Fast Company has offered this  six point plan for dealing with a bad boss:

  1. Make sure you aren’t the one with the problem. – Have you always thought your boss was an idiot no matter where you worked? Do your teammates seem to think the boss is OK?  Any chance you have unrealistic demands? Or maybe the boss slighted you years ago but you’re holding onto that grudge like a dog on a bone? Are you negative all the time, about everybody? Don’t let this possibility insult you. Take a deep breath and really think about it.
  2. Realize that your boss is human, and imperfect. – We need to realize that people become bosses and don’t always get the training or coaching they need to succeed. They, too, have demands, pressures, to-do lists, and maybe even their own bad boss. They make mistakes sometimes. (Don’t you?)
  3. Coach up. – Don’t accept that the boss has all the control, all the power, and all the responsibility. View your job, and his/her job, as a shared accountability. Ideally you can muster the professional courage to ask for a meeting to talk about “your job” and performance. In the meeting explain what parts of your job are going well and are enriching, and how you think things could go better.
  4. Focus on the positive. – If your boss just isn’t coachable, and just isn’t improving, then think about all the positive aspects of your job. Are you learning new things? Do you like your coworkers? Does it give you a flexibility you need to take care of kids or personal items? Are you paid a lot of money? Hopefully the good elements of your job outweigh the bad boss behaviors, and you can get personal daily engagement by recognizing these other blessings.
  5. Wait him/her out. – If your situation is just irreconcilable, can you just wait for your boss to move on, or for you to move to another position that reports to someone else? In large or fast-growing companies, it’s not uncommon for people to get a new boss every year or two. If this is your environment, your strategy should be to grin and bear it and realize that this too shall pass. If, however, you are in a small businesses or a company with little growth, a wait-it-out approach might not be possible.
  6. Quit. – If all else fails, you have to quit. For the sake of your mental and physical health, and for the sake of your friends and family, you have to find a new job. The truth is that if you’ve been working for a bad boss for long, you probably aren’t in a position to get a better job. I hate to be so direct, but great talent always has options, and usually doesn’t work for a bad boss. This is the key point: You have to be the CEO of your own career–you have to be mindful of your career.

If you find that even after attempting most of the steps above that you have not achieved any higher ground or at least seen any improvement in the workplace then perhaps you need to ask yourself if this is the right environment for you to be working in? There can be situations where it just doesn’t work out, and as point 6 shows above, it is better for your mental and physical health as well as your personal life to make that decision to move on.