How to Deal with a Bad Boss

Should you stay, or should you go

Photo by Brooke Lark on Unsplash

I’ve been in the workforce for a pretty long time — longer than I like to admit. One thing I learned is that how I felt Sunday night — the last night of the weekend –was a good barometer for how I felt about my job. If I was excited for the week ahead, I knew I was in the right place. But, If I was anxious and dreaded the thought of waking up Monday morning and spending yet another week at my job, I knew I had to change things.

In some cases, it wasn’t the job I hated, it was the job situation. Few things are more frustrating than securing your dream job, getting to work, and then realizing you have a bad boss. That realization can suck the enthusiasm out of you. While it’s easy to feel powerless in this situation, but you don’t have to. There are some things you can do to make your life easier and reduce the stress that having a bad boss inevitably brings to your life.

1. Find a way to separate your work performance from your boss’s

Separating your work performance from your boss’s can be difficult to do, especially if your boss blames you for his mistakes. But if he’s slacking off and trying to blame you, his bosses will eventually see through that. When this happens, it becomes imperative to document everything you do and everything your boss has asked you to do. In other words, you need to engage in hardcore CYA.

If your boss is disorganized, you’d be wise to ensure you are super organized. If he does the minimum amount of work necessary, then you should do the maximum.

Ask for due dates for every project or assignment. I once had a boss tell me I was taking too long on a project when he didn’t give me a due date. How was I supposed to know when he needed the project? I learned the hard way to always ask for a due date. I’ve never made that mistake twice.

2. Help to educate your boss

Sometimes, your bad boss isn’t bad at all. He or she just doesn’t know the job like you do. If you handle this situation the right way, you can really shine. Be sure to help your boss learn the job and if you can, do it without making him look stupid. One way you can do this is to provide him with information you use every day. And if possible, act as his advocate with your co-workers, you will surely reap rewards.

3. Set boundaries

Learn to say no to favors your boss asks off the clock. With any job you should have a detailed job description so you know what tasks can be considered your responsibility. You may need to pitch in and do tasks that you normally wouldn’t — like making copies for your boss or answering the phones when the business is shorthanded. That stuff is bound to happen.

When they ask you to babysit Saturday night that’s taking things a bit too far. He or she may be trying to take advantage of your goodwill. Even if you like the kids, it’s okay to say no. Remember once you open that can of worms, they may ask bigger favors that you don’t want to do.

4. Keep a list of your successes

A bad boss praises your work privately when you do a good job and criticizes your work publicly when there’s an issue. This should be the other way around. If you do a good job, your boss should be your best advocate. If you fall short of the mark, he or she should take you aside and provide constructive criticism and tips for how you can improve. It's situations like this where you’re going to have to look out for yourself.

Keeping a list of your accomplishments throughout the year can really come in handy around review time when your boss asks what you’ve done for him lately. There it is, in writing.

5. Document, document, document

Document everything you do. Make relevant copies of emails and any projects you’ve worked on. And have backups for your backups. Be prepared in the event he/she calls you out for things you didn’t know you needed to do. If you make copies of your assignments and you stay organized, you’ll be able to show him or her what they initially asked you to do.

6. Find an outlet for stress

It wouldn’t hurt to find something outside of work that constructively helps you relieve stress. Whether you spend time snuggling on your couch with your cat, take nightly walks or join a gym, you need to take time for yourself. Jerks are the most stress-inducing bad bosses out there. Take care of yourself.

7. Keep your resume updated

You never know where the next job opportunity might come from. Maybe a client sees how hard you work or realizes you’re the one doing the work your boss has been taking credit for. By keeping your resume updated, you can easily email it to anyone who asks if you have one handy.

8. Look for another job

If it’s gotten to the point where you hate your job. Life’s too short and too precious to work a job you hate. It’s bad for your mental and physical health too. Symptoms like an upset stomach, loss of appetite, sleepless nights, and reduced interest in sex are real consequences of working a job you hate.

Quietly start looking for another job. Be careful though. Don’t look for a job during work hours at your current job. Don’t copy your resume on the printer or do a phone interview while you’re at work. If you do, you’re bound to slip up and leave a resume in the copier or be overheard by a co-worker or the worst possible scenario — your boss.

Also, try not to quit your current job before you find another job — stick out if you can until you secure another position.


Your work life can become unbearable when you have a boss you hate. There are things you can do to make your life easier —like documenting your tasks and tracking your successes will help you deal with the bad situation. It will also help you when it comes time to update your resume and look for another job. You’ll have a good list of successes to draw upon.

When you have a bad boss, sometimes it comes down to how much you are willing to take. Only you determine the answer to that question.

Ultimately you may have to search for a new and hopefully better job.

Writer, Midwesterner, Amateur Cat Herder, Nap Enthusiast. Previously, Contributing Editor for CWIM.

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