Aug 06

How Do You Deal with a Bad Boss?

bas boss

How do you survive a bad boss? – Photo courtesy of bigwordsblog.com

“Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” – Lord Acton

I was talking to a friend yesterday who wasn’t able to report to work last week.  He said she was really stressed out and sick and had to take some time off to rest.  His responsibilities were piling up and he was getting overwhelmed having to handle multiple tasks left and right and as if these were not enough, he had a difficult boss to deal with.

Apparently, they had an argument over a report but his boss had to raise his voice loud enough for everyone to hear that he calls the shots and that it’s his way or the highway.

My friend got embarrassed of course, because the matter would have been best discussed behind closed doors instead of being broadcasted across the room for everyone to hear.

We all have our stories about horrible bosses.  It may have happened to you, to a friend, or a friend’s friend for that matter.  Bosses who shout at their direct reports, supervisors who insult their staff, managers who chew out people in front of everyone.  We’ve all heard of these before but the real question is, how do you actually deal with them?  Do you stay in one corner and lick your wounds or do you stand up to the bully?

Consider these 5 suggestions:


Keep your emotion in check

A mean boss can get under your skin as soon as he opens his mouth to tell you the nastiest insults he can throw at you and it is very important for you to be calm and composed in a time like this.  Tread the waters carefully because one wrong move can cost you your job and way of living.

I don’t want to be a hypocrite and say that I was always able to do this because I have, in the past, went toe-to-toe with a boss who wasn’t technically my boss yet when this confrontation happened.

This happened back when I was still a college professor and our incoming boss, take note of the word INCOMING, wanted me to come out with an evaluation of each student (first year to fourth year) IN TWO DAYS!  Imagine how realistic that request was.

I told her beforehand that I needed more time because I was teaching five subjects in a day that I had to make preparations for as well but as if it was a sign of things to come, she said no and that she needs the evaluations on the day she said she wanted it.  She even gave me an assistant who also found the request impossible.

When her deadline came and I told her we didn’t finish everything, she chewed me out first in front of my students and then continued in the faculty room in front of all my co-teachers.  My patience ran out and I wasn’t able to contain myself anymore so I answered back and told her, “Even you cannot do this in two days so don’t let me do the impossible.”

She was stunned and was not able to say a word after.  Was I proud of what I did?  Not really but I felt I had to say something because she was humiliating me.

Will I do it again given the same scenario?  Yes, but not in the way I did.  I think I could have handled the situation more professionally by telling her what I said in a milder tone.

In situations like these, you need to bear in mind that it’s not bad to reason out but do it a way that you still respect the person’s authority.


Be assertive but maintain respect

Bullies impose their will on weaklings and if your boss is of that type and you just let him or her say or do as they please, this will become a cycle that would become difficult to break in the long run.  This is one of the major mistakes I’ve made when I was just starting out.  My understanding was that a direct report should never, under any circumstances, answer back to his or her boss.


Each and every one of us have every right to reason out and to establish boundaries especially if our boss is crossing the line between professional and personal.  No one, even a boss or a CEO, has the right to humiliate another person in front of people.  You need to make your boss know of your boundary but tell him in a polite and professional manner.

Another friend of mine who works as a manager was one time reprimanded by his manager in front of his direct reports.  He was yelled at and was made to look and feel stupid.  After that episode, he talked to his boss and in a very relaxed but firm approach told his manager:

“Sir, with all due respect, you didn’t need to raise your voice and make me look stupid in front of everyone.  I didn’t deserve that and I would appreciate it if you talk to me in private next time.”

His manager never tried to embarrass him again after saying those words.


Pick your battles wisely

If you decide to go one-on-one all the way with your boss, chances are you’re going to lose but if you’re smart enough, you will plan your next move strategically before you step in the ring.

What do I mean?

Think like a soldier would before going to battle.  You have to be ready and armed.  You need to have everything documented and if possible, have a witness that will affirm your statements.  You must have everything covered before trying to prove your point or risk getting embarrassed again due to lack of evidence.  Let’s face it.  If you’re going to play the your-word-against-mine game, your boss will always have the home court advantage.

There was a case before in the call center I worked for where a team leader who was growing impatient with one of his directs asked the direct report mentioned to resign from his post and that he will sign it immediately.  The guy obliged but came back the next day with his uncle attorney uncle, went straight to HR and filed a complaint against the said team leader.  The team leader got fired for what he did.


Continue to support your boss

One of the leading influencers of the online world and leadership expert Michael Hyatt, mentioned in one of his podcast how we should avoid talking ill of our boss no matter how mean he was to us and he’s absolutely right.

It can really be tempting to gossip about how bad our boss is or vent out our frustrations to our colleagues but doing so will only make the problem worse.  It will not accomplish anything positive and may even cost us our jobs.

Take the higher ground and have an open mind.  Give them the benefit of the doubt.

Maybe you were at the wrong place at the wrong time when you got on the receiving end of his anger.  Maybe he’s also in a lot of pressure from upper management.  We won’t really know.


Evaluate your options

My wife’s niece works for a large company and she’s been having issues with her team leader.  The last time we talked, she told me that her team lead was selectively mean to her like if she arrived five minutes late and another colleague does too, she’s the only one that gets the tongue-lashing while the other guy walks away unharmed.

The first thing I asked her was if she can still take that kind of treatment to which she answered “not anymore” so I told her to leave as soon as possible.  The last thing we need is to feel trapped in our very own jobs.

Of course there’s always human resources to help you out if you need help with technicalities and things relating to policies.  You can also seek for openings on other teams or departments within the same company.

Having to deal with a bad boss is difficult.  It takes a lot of guts and courage to get them to understand that no one deserves to be humiliated and embarrassed but there is actually a take away in such experiences because it is through bad bosses that we learn a lot from.  We learn how to be professional and how to cope with the pressure without losing our values and self-esteem.

Have you experienced having a bad boss?  How did you cope with them?

I would love to hear from you and I would appreciate it if you leave your comments or feedbacks below.


You can also share this content via twitter


Noel Rosos

About Noel Rosos

Noel is a husband, father, author, performance coach and self-proclaimed FAILUROLOGIST who helps business owners and struggling individuals convert their failures into opportunities through inspiring blog posts, life-changing books and exceptional one-on-one coaching sessions

Leave a Comment and Let's Talk!