How to: Deal with horrible bosses

‘I hate my boss’…

Unfortunately, it’s a statement which rings true for many of us at some point during our working lives. But aside from the occasional social media outburst and post-work rant, turning your frustrations into something more constructive can seem like a big challenge.

To help you turn things around, here’s our guide to some horrible bosses you could encounter, and how to deal with them:


The Stressed-Out Boss

Who they are: Perhaps the most common version of the horrible boss. Usually suffering from stress because they’re constantly being pressured about performance by senior management. And, unfortunately, you’re feeling the fallout from that – even though your performance often has nothing to do with their anxiety.

How to spot them: Usually identifiable by their constant eye-rolling, beetroot-red face, and brows permanently set to angry. They don’t smile as much as bare their teeth.

What to do: Aside from doing your absolute best to ensure you’re consistently achieving your goals, you can also help your boss by asking them if there’s anything you can do to lessen their workload in those brief moments of downtime you have. And always try and remain calm, polite and businesslike.


The Unpredictable Boss

Who they are: They blow hot and cold – making this type of horrible boss one of the most confusing. One day they’re perched on the edge of your desk laughing or confiding in you about their insecurities, and the next they’re shooting daggers at you across the water fountain.

How to spot them: They either come across happy and approachable, or sarcastic and annoyed. There is no middle ground. The Unpredictable Boss could also be called the manipulative boss; they want you to wonder if you’re still their favourite. Which you do. Constantly.

What to do: ‘What did I do? Yesterday we were BFFs’ – You might be thinking these words but whatever you do…don’t say them out loud. The trick with this type of boss is to remain un-phased by their shifting objects of affection, and ignore, ignore, ignore. Remain impassive and unemotional and they’ll soon realise that you’re not up for playing their games.


The Mean-for-Fun Boss

Who they are: They snipe and criticise for sport, never missing an opportunity to make someone else feel small. Everyone in your workplace is terrified of them. Unfortunately, nobody has the confidence to say it to their face.

How to spot them: Imagine a cross between Mr. Burns and basically any Disney villain (we’re looking at you, Scar), and you’re pretty much there. You’ll also notice your colleagues spend a lot of time trying to avoid any interaction with them at all, so they often operate alone. Like a slightly less cool one-person wolf pack.

What to do: Watch carefully to see what kind of situation is most likely to coincide with your boss having a temper tantrum. Are they particularly caustic first thing in the morning? Try offering to make them a coffee when they arrive. Perhaps they get super-acerbic on a Friday when they’re tired? Then make sure most your team’s work is out of the way by then. Translation? Kill them with kindness.


The Absentee Boss

Who they are: Rarely seen in the office, the Absentee Boss will always do their best to avoid being contacted – despite their constant assurances that they’re ‘picking up emails’. Will ask to be CC’d on absolutely everything you send out, although they will never actually reply to an email themselves.

How to spot them: With difficulty. Although they will appear in the office at least a few days before annual reviews, or when their own boss is scheduled to drop by. Obviously.

What to do: Rather than rely on email, directly ask your boss when they’re next in the office and set some aside some time in their diary to catch-up. If you need more regular contact, use video conferencing apps to chat to them one-on-one, without any unnecessary distractions (see also: excuses).


How to deal with your horrible boss

Whatever type of boss you have, be consistent with your approach.

If you can remain true to your own work ethics, even in the face of the stress that a horrible boss can bring, then you’re well on the way to not only coping well, but also rising above their antics.

Accept your horrible boss for what they are, and as long as they’re not making things too difficult, then you can work out the best strategies for coping with their behaviour.

And if it does get too much for you to take, speak to a member of your HR team as soon as possible, and discuss your best course of action.

Because dealing with a horrible boss and dealing with bullying is not the same thing…

How to: Deal with bullying in the workplace


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3 comments on “How to: Deal with horrible bosses

  1. Lisa Maw - July 20, 2016 at 15:26

    Very difficult in some organisations to speak to HR because they are either friends or family. Therefore you have no support at all.

    1. JC - August 20, 2016 at 12:51

      The issue I have is that in the organisation that I work in the lines are blurred with all of the above, my direct manager is the epitome of the changeable character. He shares personal info one day and you cant sit and discuss business critical issues the next. He does have a favourite though who cant do anything wrong. Its frustrating and drives me to do the one thing that goes against my morals…Outdo him in every management category and replace him!!!!

  2. Ceri T - March 31, 2017 at 08:11

    Unfortunately my boss managed to hit all these boxes, and HR were impossible to get help out of, so in the end I just said enough and found a new job.