Have a Truly Terrible Boss? Here’s the 5 Best Ways to Deal With Them

  • Mike James, HR Guest Author at Kickresume
  • Mike James
  • Updated November 7, 2023 5 min read

Just like a good school teacher will bring out the best in their students, a good boss can inspire their staff to achieve and perform at their best.

On the flipside, constant negativity and obstructive behaviour at work has a corrosive effect that leads to a toxic atmosphere in the office, and very often — a frustration to the organisation.

If you’re unlucky enough to have a line manager or director who is a really terrible boss, you need some strategies to deal with the situation.

We’re not talking about executives involved in any illegal activities here, just some people who, for whatever reason, have the effect of making your working life a total misery. Of course, you could always leave (and often that’s the most realistic solution) – but why should you?

Here are 5 unfortunate scenarios that you may encounter at work, and how to deal with them.

1. Your terrible boss lacks management experience

If your manager clearly doesn’t seem to know how to do their job, or how to lead their own team, this can be frustrating all round.

The good news is that even they will learn, given time. In additional to everyday on-the-job training and experience, there are effective management and leadership courses that they could attend, so lack of management experience or leadership skills may only be a transitional problem.

In the meantime, if you’re able to be generously spirited and support your boss without causing them embarrassment, you may sow the seed for a long and loyal professional relationship.

terrible boss

Make it clear that you understand that they isn’t incompetent, merely inexperienced, and offer your help discreetly and selflessly.

2. Your terrible boss always takes the credit

A selfish and deceitful person is never going to be a good manager to be working for. But rather than exposing your boss’ overinflated claims for what they are, you may be better off biding your time until a more senior person sees through the pretence.

But what do you do while you’re waiting for your boss’ ceiling to cave in? A two-pronged approach is best.

First, make the best out of the situation and prove your worth, so that your value to the department is never in question – who knows, maybe you’ll be recommended as the next manager?

Secondly, plan your next career move on the side, perhaps by gaining experience in other departments where the line management is more to your liking and your efforts may be rewarded more easily.

3. Your terrible boss only sees the negative

Some people seem to be wired in such a way that they only ever comment on the negative and never give praise.

While it’s a normal instinct to focus on the negative, some people take it to extremes. It’s a mind set that can be intensely frustrating to be around and can zap the energy of everyone in the vicinity. What can you do?

First of all, find out whether there are grounds for your boss’ negativity. Are they truly unhappy with your performance at work? If so, this needs addressing in a professional HR context as a matter of urgency.

However, if they are continually grumpy for no apparent reason, your best tactic is to counter your boss’ negativity with positivity. Don’t let the continuous nitpicking bring you or the other team members down and inject enough positive energy to reassure yourself (and others) that things are a lot better than they are making out.

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4. Your terrible boss is never available

Whether your manager never seems to be in the office, is always on the phone, in meetings or their door is always shut, they are essentially absent and can offer nothing much in the way of management. While this is disheartening, it also critically leaves the team with no-one to give direction.

If your boss is routinely uninvolved in the goings-on of their department, they leave a power vacuum that someone, sooner or later, officially or unofficially, will fill. It could be you.

Obviously, you need to be careful not to step on anyone’s toes but if you’re ambitious and have natural leadership skills, now is perhaps a good opportunity to let them shine.

5. Your terrible boss is micromanaging

The micromanaging boss is at the opposite end of the behavioural spectrum. They will want to know every detail of what you’re doing every minute of the day, watching you like a hawk and correcting every tiny mistake you make.

There are clearly trust issues at play here, and a deep discomfort of delegating even small tasks. ‘If you want the job done properly, do it yourself’ could be their mantra.

The trick here is to learn to tune into the way this person ticks and work with them, not against them. Anticipate what they are going to ask and be prepared.

If they stress about deadlines, make sure you’re ready in good time. If it’s typos that drive them mad, double-check every document.

If you can read them to such an extent that you can answer their questions before they even ask and solve their problems before they have a chance to point them out, you will slowly gain their trust and loyalty, and most likely for the long term.

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  • Mike James, HR Guest Author at Kickresume
  • Mike James
    HR Guest Author
    Mike James is a featured author and business writer, specialising in HR, Marketing and Cybersecurity. Published on numerous online authorities and print magazines, Mike is currently focusing on HR and management.

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