So You Have a Horrible Boss: What To Do Next

In the crazy quilt of workplace dynamics, a terrible boss is a dark thread that threatens to unravel the whole fabric. According to a study by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), 84% of employees who leave their jobs do so because of their bosses.

According to Brigette Hyacinth, CEO & Founder @Leadership EQ, “A boss sets the tone. One study found that a bad boss can take a negative toll on employees mental and physical health. Yes, a bad boss can make employees sick.”

What exactly sets them apart from the rest of the managerial pack? Let’s take a closer look:

1. The Critic-in-Chief: Imagine a boss who wields criticism like a blunt instrument, doling it out with all the finesse of a sledgehammer. Every mistake is magnified, every success overlooked, leaving you feeling like you can’t do anything right.

2. The Puppet Master: Micromanagement isn’t just a managerial style; it’s a way of life for some bosses. They’ll breathe down your neck, second-guess your every decision, and make you feel like you’re one wrong move away from disaster.

3. The Silent Treatment: Communication is the lifeblood of any successful team, but try telling that to a boss who’s as elusive as a ghost. Emails go unanswered, meetings are a rarity, and you’re left feeling like you’re operating in a vacuum.

4. The Dream Crusher: Setting goals is great, but setting unrealistic goals is a recipe for disaster. Yet, for some bosses, it’s all about pushing the boundaries of what’s possible, regardless of the toll it takes on their team.

5. The Public Shamer: There’s nothing quite like being thrown under the bus in front of your colleagues to make you question your career choices. Whether it’s a snide remark or a full-blown dressing-down, a boss who delights in public humiliation is a force to be reckoned with.

6. The Favoritism Fiend: Ever feel like you’re on the outside looking in while your coworker basks in the warm glow of favoritism? It’s a bitter pill to swallow, made all the more painful by the knowledge that your hard work goes unnoticed.

7. The Bully in the Boardroom: From verbal tirades to outright threats, a boss who rules with an iron fist can turn the office into a veritable warzone. It’s a toxic environment where fear reigns supreme, and nobody feels safe.

Crafting Your Strategy: Tactics for Taking Control of the Situation

Now that we’ve identified the enemy, it’s time to formulate a plan of attack. Here are some strategies for turning the tables on your terrible boss:

1. Bridge the Gulf: Communication is key, so don’t be afraid to sit down with your boss and air your grievances. Keep it constructive, focus on solutions, and you might be surprised at how receptive they are.

2. Seek Common Ground: Find areas where your goals align and use them as a springboard for building a better working relationship. It’s a chance to show your boss that you’re on the same team, despite your differences.

3. Embrace Feedback: As painful as it may be, feedback is a gift. Don’t shy away from asking your boss for their thoughts on your performance, and be prepared to take their criticism on board.

4. Think Outside the Box: When faced with a problem, don’t just throw your hands up in despair. Get creative, brainstorm solutions, and present them to your boss. It’s a proactive approach that shows you’re willing to go the extra mile.

5. Nurture Yourself: In the midst of the chaos, don’t forget to take care of yourself. Whether it’s hitting the gym, indulging in a hobby, or simply taking a day off, prioritize your well-being above all else.

6. Enlist Support: If all else fails, don’t hesitate to reach out to HR for backup. They’re there to support you and guide you through the murky waters of office politics.

When Should You Quit?

While perseverance and strategies for managing a difficult boss are essential tools in navigating a challenging work environment, there may come a point where staying in your current position is no longer viable. Here are some indicators that it might be time to consider moving on:

  1. Repeated Lack of Progress: Despite your best efforts to communicate, seek common ground, and improve your situation, if there’s no discernible progress or positive change in your working relationship with your boss, it may be a sign that the dynamic is unlikely to improve.
  2. Deteriorating Mental and Physical Health: Continuous exposure to a toxic work environment can take a significant toll on your well-being. If you find that your mental or physical health is suffering as a result of the stress and anxiety caused by your boss, it’s crucial to prioritize your health and consider whether staying in the job is worth sacrificing your overall well-being.
  3. Stifled Growth and Development: A bad boss can hinder your professional growth and development by limiting opportunities for advancement, withholding valuable feedback, or micromanaging to the extent that you’re unable to take on new challenges or responsibilities. If your career trajectory is being significantly impeded by your boss’s actions, it may be time to explore other options.
  4. Violation of Basic Rights or Ethical Boundaries: In extreme cases where your boss’s behavior crosses ethical or legal boundaries, such as harassment, discrimination, or abuse, it’s imperative to prioritize your safety and seek immediate intervention from HR or legal authorities. No job is worth sacrificing your dignity or personal integrity.
  5. Loss of Passion and Motivation: When you find yourself dreading going to work, experiencing a loss of passion for your job, or feeling consistently demotivated and disillusioned, it may indicate that the negative impact of your boss’s behavior has eroded your job satisfaction to the point where staying in the role no longer aligns with your professional or personal goals.

Ultimately, the decision to quit a job due to a difficult boss is a deeply personal one that requires careful consideration of the circumstances, potential alternatives, and long-term implications. If you reach the conclusion that leaving is the best course of action for your overall well-being and career advancement, it’s essential to plan your exit strategy thoughtfully and leverage your network for support during the transition.

You’ve Got This

Dealing with a terrible boss is no easy feat, but with patience, persistence, and a little bit of luck, you can weather the storm and emerge stronger on the other side. So, stand tall, take a deep breath, and remember: you’ve got this.


This article originally appeared in different form in Audere Magazine. Image by Andrea Piacquadio/Pexels.

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