Tips for Working with a Bad Boss

Do you have a boss that drives you crazy? Maybe your personalities just don’t click. Maybe it’s an annoying habit that he or she has. Or, perhaps you work better under a different management style. Either way, you likely feel stressed, frustrated and ready to quit your job.

Finding ways to manage this work stress is important. But, what if changing how you interact with your boss could make him or her less maddening to you? Maybe, just maybe, some changes on your part can create positive changes in your boss-employee relationship.

First, you need to understand the type of boss you have. Just like everyone else, bosses come with various personalities, management styles and preferences for how they like to do things. Even more important, some bosses don’t realize that their behavior is perceived as “bad.” Regardless of your situation, it’s safer to assume positive intent by your boss – as no one really wants to be a “bad” boss. Although, when you’re feeling frustrated, I know this can be hard to believe. So, understanding your boss is the first step in finding your sanity.

What type of boss do you have?

• The Authoritarian Boss
This type of boss is very common in the workplace. This boss has a rigid style and sets the expectation that everything must be done his or her way or it is not correct. There is no room for your own creativity. These bosses will operate from the standpoint that they must give you permission for everything that you do, in some instances even to breathe.

• The Laissez-Faire Boss
“I do as little as possible.” These bosses will not only assign your work load to you, but theirs, too – because they can. This type of boss will go with the flow just to get along, but in the end the entire department will suffer because of lack of leadership. The leader must lead and set the vision to establish expectations for how things are to run.

• The Narcissistic Boss
“Me, me, me, mine!” This leader will often take credit for others’ good work and then try to hoard all of the resources. While this leader will often be effective and get things done, sharing resources and operating from a team perspective that celebrates individual and the team accomplishments can be more successful.

• The Bully Boss
These leaders will manage by scare tactics. This boss is a bully and takes great pride in tearing down others for his or her glory. This leader will make mountains out of mole hills, emphasizing small mistakes, making the employee miserable and even creating an environment that prevents the employee from ever rebounding. The employee will often feel worthless and lack self-confidence.

In addition to understanding the types of “bad” bosses, you may want to consider outside influences on your boss’s behavior. For example, right now there are four different generations of employees in the workforce. These days, bosses are faced with employees who have very different needs and expectations about management styles. This can be challenging for many managers as they’re increasingly required to be more flexible and tailor their approach to employees on an almost individual basis. Your boss may be feeling just as crazed as you are about your work environment.

So, how do you manage the differences between you?

Start by recognizing that ongoing negative situations are built on patterns or repetitive behaviors. Without realizing it, you may even be supporting some of the negative behaviors with your own reactions to your boss. Often, it’s how we respond that determines how we will be treated in the future.

Take some the time to consider ways that you can have a positive impact on your work environment. Here are a few tips:

• Be proactive. Learn not to complain but to simply perform. Great work performance will be key as you begin to manage behavior. Regardless of what type of boss you have, great performance will always stand out.

• Do not ignore the situation. Recognize that you have a difficult situation and try several different ways to bring about resolve. In my career, whenever I found myself uncomfortable or upset by something with my boss, it was helpful to set up a time to speak with him or her to discuss how I was feeling. Sometimes these conversations would take place after work. In many instances, once we both shared our feelings on the subject we were able to find solutions.

• Be assertive, not insubordinate. Insubordination in many cases will lead to termination – and that is never good. Have a discussion with your boss about the main issue at hand and be direct, don’t beat around the bush. Then, create a follow-up plan. List the actions you and/or your boss will take to resolve the problem(s). Document your plan for future follow-up discussions.

• Focus on outcomes. When approaching your boss, assume positive intent. Don’t start off listing your manager’s failings. Instead, focus on your desire to be a high performer and exceed your boss’ expectations. Describe his or her specific behaviors that are holding you back and make suggestions about the kind of work environment that you would thrive in. Bringing solutions to the table, rather than just complaining, shows your own positive intent and helps build a stronger relationship with your boss.

• Avoid confrontation, always keep it professional. A mentor once told me that it is not personal, it is business. Even when your manager or boss has a different way of handling things – and will in some instances push you to say the wrong thing – avoid confrontation at all cost. There’s nothing professional about a shouting match or a scathing e-mail that is littered with unchecked emotions. Take a few minutes or several hours to cool off and then respond in a clear, concise and professional manner. You can make yourself heard without being confrontational.

• Seek guidance from HR. If you have made an effort to discuss the situation with your boss or attempted to change behaviors without success, you may need to speak with someone in Human Resources. Your HR rep is trained to help you to reach your maximum potential and assist with managerial problems. He or she can assist you – as well your manager – to learn different behavior patterns and provide you both with the tools needed to be successful.

Working with a boss who drives you crazy can be exasperating. But, you can take control of the situation by understanding what makes your boss tick, what it is about your boss that drives you crazy and making small changes in your behavior and expectations to improve the boss-employee relationship. Good luck!


Derren is the Manager, Diversity Recruiting for Sodexo which is a leader in integrated food service and facilities management. He is responsible for managing the Sodexo Future Leaders Internship Program as well as executing diversity sourcing initiatives for both campus and targeted experienced hires. With over 14+ years of experience with Sodexo, Derren has had great success as a General Manager in the company’s Health Care Services division as well as in several positions within their Talent Acquisition Group. He’s an active corporate partner with the National Society of Minorities in Hospitality (NSMH). Derren is an AIRS Certified Diversity Recruiter (CDR) and Certified Internet Recruiter (CIR). Follow him on Twitter, friend him on Facebook, or just Network with Us.

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