What To Do When Your Boss Has It Out For You

what to do when your boss has it out for you2017 Update: We still stand by this advice on what to do when your boss has it out for you (and links have been updated) — but you may also want to check out our more recent discussion on how to deal with extreme coworkers.

How can you avoid getting fired when your boss has it out for you? In general, how can you deal with horrible bosses? Reader M has a good question:

I know you’ve covered things like workplace etiquette and tips on dealing with co-workers, but do you have any suggestions on how to deal with horrible bosses? A friend of mine has been having issues with a boss (male, if that matters) who has been bullying her recently through means of intimidation, threatening her position in the workplace, and embarrassing her in front of clients. With a downward spiraling economy and many people being laid off, what is the best approach to dealing with someone who is looking for a reason to fire you?

Ouch. I’m sorry for your friend, M! Vivia Chen at The Careerist just covered what to do when you’re getting fired, so this seems timely to me.  Everyone has a lousy manager at some point in their life, some of whom actually hate you.  I once clashed so badly with a superior that she actually threw a redweld at my head (yep, Professional was her middle name); I’ve fortunately blocked out most things about that time in my life beyond the fact that I woke up, every day, to Whitney Houston’s song, “It’s Not Right, But It’s Okay.”  You will get out.  Here are some tips for the friend with the bad boss:

– Start a written record of your dealings with the boss.
  If there are misunderstandings or miscommunications, document those.  I would start keeping all emails and voicemails, not only from the boss but from anyone involved with the boss — other underlings, clients, etc.

– Keep calm.  Do not let the boss bait you into responding in an unprofessional way.  Chalk this behavior up as “par for the course” — it will help you avoid being surprised or hurt when the boss behaves badly, as he or she inevitably will.

– Do not trash talk the boss.  Not with coworkers, not with clients, not with all those job interviews you’re hopefully going to have very soon.

– Reconnect with your references (and possibly ask for advice on dealing with the boss).  Sometimes a reference will turn into a great mentor in this kind of situation, and give you wonderful advice about how to deal with a bad boss; even if the reference doesn’t turn into a great mentor asking her for advice still gives her more perspective to what’s going on, especially if your boss does succeed in firing you.  Besides, you never know — your reference might hear about a perfect new job for you.

– Plan your exit.  First, get your resume into fighting shape right now.  Depending on your experience, I would suggest looking at lateral positions as well as next-step-up positions.  What are the skills and responsibilities missing from your current resume?  It sounds crazy to ask for more responsibility from a horrible boss (or to voluntarily spend any more time with him or her), but sometimes you need to double down in order to get out.

And when you do get out:

– Do not burn bridges.  Better yet, make nice.  Try to stay friends with your bad boss — you never know when they’ll have a useful piece of advice for you.

Readers, what do you think? How have you dealt with bad bosses in the past? What would your advice be if someone thinks her boss hates her?

Original image (2013): Flickr / runran. Blue/red target currently pictured via Stencil.how to deal when your boss hates you

Can you avoid getting fired when your boss hates you? Here's our advice for what to do when your boss has it out for you.


  1. Lady Litigator :

    Ouch – I feel M’s pain, and want to add that this happens at all levels of an attorney’s career. As a partner, I had a manager partner who went off the rails. Even though his behavior wasn’t personal, it felt personal. My advice is to start looking for another role, but expect it to take a while. It took me a year, during which the managing partner became more and more erratic. In the interim, I avoided him as much as possible. I reported regularly via email, and spent time with him only at monthly partnership meetings. I made clear everything I did was beyond reproach, so that I knew if he went off, it wasn’t because of anything I had done wrong. It was exhausting, but I got out in the end. You have to protect your career, but you also need to protect your mental health!

  2. Threw a Redweld at your head?! I mean. I think we need to hear that story.

    • Seconded.

    • Sweetknee :

      Redweld ? That’s nothing. . . one lawyer I worked for threw a stapler at me. Good thing I have quick reflexes. I stayed there about 4 months after that, sent a letter of resignation, and had my keys delivered to the office by a process server. That was the WORST job I ever had.

      • That’s ASSAULT – like serious assault. First, I can’t believe you stayed on. Second, I can’t believe they kept HIM on. And third, I can’t believe you didn’t call the cops on that *ssh*le.

      • Wow, this has happened in other firms too?! (See my comment re: stapler below). Amazing.

    • Thirded!

  3. I thought getting abused and thrown under the bus was just a fact of law firm life?

    • Anonymous :

      hahaha. +1

    • Only if you got the t-shirt. :)

    • SoCalAtty :

      In my experience it has been! Good advice so far.

    • We can certainly draw the line at physical assault yes?

      But with partners and superiors who are, for lack of a better term, difficult – I found the best way to deal with them was the same way I dealt with the difficult kids I babysat as a teenager. I made sure there were clear expectations (reviewed assignments before I walked out of the room), checked in frequently with progress, stayed calm and breathed deeply, accepted their worldview (or in this case – their office rules), and b!tched about it all over drinks with friends. It works pretty well and surprisingly, the partners liked me just as much as the kids I sat (which was quite a lot). Lol.

    • Not just law firms, unfortunately.

  4. TO Lawyer :

    Is it totally idealistic for me to want to believe that people in professional workplaces should act like professionals? I’m honestly getting really sick of all the pettiness and childishness in my firm – I understand that litigation is adversarial but does that really have to extend to partners/associates/assistants that work with each other on a daily basis?

    • Anonymous :

      Yeah, I held that same idealism at one point. Now I just recognize childishness as the norm. Sigh.

    • Yes, it is NOT realistic to think that just b/c your boss has a JD degree that he is a good person. I have met so many peeople with JD’s and so many of them are both BOSSES and jerk’s. FOOEY ON THEM!

      I have concluded that I am VERY lucky that I found the manageing partner. I owe it ALL to my job as a process SERVER that I was in the ELEVEATOR at the same time as the manageing partner, and he must have felt sorry for me b/c I was NOT sure where I was goieng, and he did NOT even know that I was goeing to be a lawyer, tho mabye he could tell that I had a lot of savvy and legeagal knowlege. So my advise is to find a manageing partner who is nice and work VERY hard for him so he will be nice to you. You MIGHT even get a clotheing allowance like me b/c the manageing partner want’s me to look good in court, b/c if the firm wins, we ALL win! FOOEY!

    • I have had this exact thought. I’m not a lawyer but have worked in biglaw twice, in a professional rather than support position. I’ve also worked in a few high-caliber academic departments. Nowhere have I seen what I would call “professionalism” actually upheld even most of the time. Ironic since we all strive so hard for it. I’d say I’ve accepted that this is the reality of the work world…but I wouldn’t say I’m ok with it.

      • SoCalAtty :

        After being in-house since Feb., it still shocks me every time my interactions with my new collegues are completely professional. It gets a little heated, but never unprofessional. It’s amazing.

  5. This is a dumb question, but I can’t for the life of me figure out the GS scale. For instance, an attorney job is looking for GS-11 to GS-15. How do you figure out which one you are? I did try to Google this, but I can’t work it out!

    • GS-11 is entry level for an attorney (meaning you have passed the bar exam but have less than a year of experience).

    • Anonymous :

      It says it somewhere- but GS-11 you are new attorney, GS 12 usually at least a year of experience, 13 at least two, 14 more than 3, and GS 15 is a managerial position

    • If you are applying for a federal job, say you are “most qualified” or whatever the highest thing is, for just about everything. It’s the only way to get past the screenbots. Seriously, I am at a non-law agency and despite the “improvements” to the system, we still have trouble getting qualified applicants to make it past the screening stage. Conversely, people who are totally NOT qualified make it through. The problem is that the initial screen is usually done either by computer or by people who really don’t understand the job and have no idea how to tell who is qualified other than seeing which boxes they checked.

  6. Cat Lady Problems :

    Ladies, I need your advice. I have two cats that my husband agreed to let me get because I love cats and they make me happy. He does not particularly care for cats, or indoor pets in general. He’s a pretty big neat freak. He tolerates the cats and pets them and whatnot, but sometimes they get on his last nerve– they are loud, one of them sheds copiously, and they both have claws which they use to destroy things. What can I do to make this cat experience better for my husband? Is there some way we can all live together harmoniously? There have been no “me or the cat!” ultimatums, but I’d like to keep one from happening.

    • Crazy Cat Lady :

      – Clean up behind them (the shedding)
      – Clip their claws (I use regular nail clippers) or use soft-paws (glue on rubber caps)
      – Designate a part of the house to be pet-free (somewhere you can keep the door closed)

      • -vacuum often
        -get a powerful (sadly expensive) air filter that can take care of some of the hair and allergens
        -second the suggestion to make at least one room pet-free (maybe your bedroom, assuming the kitties have other comfy spots to sleep)

      • I wrote this below, but I would not recommend nail clipping for novices. It can end badly for both cat and human.

        You can also shave the cat to reduce shedding.

    • Associette :

      We also have two cats and I am more of a cat person than my husband (the first one we got because I wanted a pet, the second one we got because I felt bad the first one was alone when we were at work). What worked for us is that I basically take care of them entirely myself. This includes regular brushings, and claw trimmings. I also clean the litter box 1 – 2 times per day with a thorough cleaning once per week. I have those cardboard scratching things in various rooms, concealed but present so that the cats use those instead of the furniture/carpets. My goal is to have cute fluffy creatures hanging around, but none of the consequences (i.e. smelly litter box, ripped sofas, fur everywhere).

      After about 1 – 2 years of my efforts – I can honestly say that my husband loves one of our cats more than I do. He gets all the benefit without the work. Now that I am pregnant – the tables are turned and he is on litter box duty. He doesn’t mind *that much.*

      • Dog lover :

        Your husband is a better person than me. It would be the cat or me. No question.

        If in some alternate universe I was required to live in a house with my spouse’s cat (shudder), I would require these things:
        – No cat smell. Obviously I mean from the litter box, but I also just mean in general. I don’t want my living room to smell faintly of animal.
        – Litter box needs to go in the least-visible corner of the house. I really don’t want to be in the same room as it.
        – NO cat hair. This may even be a worse offense than the smell. If possible, get a cat that doesn’t shed. If that’s not possible, you better vacuum and lint roll the furniture often enough that I don’t ever, ever see cat hair. Gross. (FYI- I love dogs, but I also have the same rule about them. Hairs on furniture are gross. I outright disgusted when I go to someone’s house and have to sit on a couch with visible animal hair)
        – No cat-related duties. Ever. Seriously. Even if you go out of town and I’m at home, you’re still going to have to either board the cat or hire a neighbor kid to come take care of the cat. I’m not touching that litter box.

        Clearly I’m harsher than your husband, but as I said, no spouse of mine will ever get a cat. Hopefully my comments at least gave you some ideas for increasing your husband’s comfort with the cat.

        • Someone who hates cats as much as me! No offense to cat lovers but I cannot stand them. My husband insisted on getting two cats after we moved in together (he always had cats growing up, and his mom is now like the stereotypical crazy old cat lady) and both were gone within three years. There’s no way I am ever living with cats again, so no advice for the OP.

    • Clearly Speaking :

      I just purchased a cat grooming attachment for my vacuum and a very long extension hose. I am sick of cat hairs every.freaking.where.

      Hope I live to see some benefit from it; kitty hates the vacuum.

      • Associette :

        hmmm – do you actually vacuum the cat, or the furniture with the cat’s fur on it? That is too funny if it entails vacuuming the cat. It is like that 80s hair cutter “flobie” (or something like that).

        • Sweetknee :

          I vacuumed a dog of mine once who shed like crazy. She LOVED it ! I think it felt like a massage. I used the brush type attachment for my vacuum.

        • MaggieLizer :

          I would not expect vacuuming your cat to go over well. I tried to blow dry my cat once when he was a kitten; he looked so small and cold after his (necessary) bath I just wanted him to be warm and dry. To this day he’s still deathly afraid of my hair dryer. He’s 8.

          • Yeah, our cat runs & hides every time I bring out the vacuum. Trying to vacuum him would not work at all, and I don’t want to have to worry about the bites & scratches he would inflict on me if I ever tried it!

        • Clearly Speaking :

          You actually vacuum the cat. The end is a brush that attaches to the hose. The plan (which I completely chickened out on yesterday) is to attach this gizmo the hose extension, put the vacuum in another room, close the door as much as possible and the try to brush the cat.

          Success would be if A. she lets me near her with the brush as the suction will still make a sound and B. the resulting flying fur actually is vacuumed up, as opposed to the massive vacuuming and lint rolling I do now after grooming her.

          I am cautiously optimistic about this endeavor, emphasis on cautious. I am hoping for, but not truly expecting, success.

    • First of all, get one (or more) of those awesome scratching posts they will actually use – important that they be tall enough for the cat to stretch out on, very stable… (SmartCat Ultimate Scratching Post is one that worked for me; it’s on Amazon) and train them to use it (catnip helps!). Second, is your place big enough that the cats can be shut in a room to sleep? It’s like keeping a pet free room, but I found my cats would wake us up early in the morning so having them isolated away from us was helpful. Finally agree with the comments on grooming (brush the cats frequently, clip their nails) but I would add to that not to leave clothes unhung (they sleep on them), vacuum the furniture and floors regularly.

    • Check out the following books by Pam Johnson-Bennett. They are both good resources for general cat issues.

      Think Like a Cat: How to Raise a Well-Adjusted Cat–Not a Sour Puss
      Starting from Scratch: How to Correct Behavior Problems in Your Adult Cat

      1. Get a good sturdy scratching post. The SmartCat Ultimate Scratching Post is amazing. Try different materials (sisal, cardboard) to see what your cats like. Use a Scratch Not spray or Sticky Paws to keep cats from clawing the furniture. Both those books have good reccomendations.

      2. Groom the cats regularly. Search for “cat grooming brush” on Amazon and check out some reviews. I also keep blankets on the couches and beds so the fur doesn’t get directly on the furniture. Keep lint brushes around the house.

      3. Play with your cats regularly. Cats need to get out their energy. Ideally try and play with them before mealtimes. Their normal habit is to hunt/play, eat, groom and sleep. Learned this from My Cat from He**. :-)

      4. Speaking of which, check out that show on Animal Planet. They showcase real life situations of cats and couples who are at odds.

      5. Good idea from others to keep some places of the house cat free. We use a device called Stay Away to keep our cats from going behing the electronics/entertainment center. They have a can of air and motion sensor that emits air and a sound to keep cats away from a certain area. Eventually they get used to the sound only or just the sight of it keeps them away from certain areas.

      6. See if your husband will engage the cats in play. Playing with my cats and seeing them chase their bird toy around the house always brings a smile to my face. Maybe he’ll see some of their cuteness instead of just the fur, scratching etc.

    • Dog lover :

      Oh I should add- I don’t hate cats, I hate *living* with cats. I would definitely secretly pet the cat when you weren’t looking.

    • Also, get cat perches and set them by the windows. That way they will have their own space to hang out and maybe will stay off the furniture.

      If litter boxes are a problem, there are many types of boxes that can be disguised as furniture. We got one from Designer Pet Products that looks like a bench. We keep it by the window and the cats use it as a perch.

    • momentsofabsurdity :

      So I’m very much a dog person, not a cat person, and as long as my dog is alive, I can’t have a cat (he will eat them for breakfast). That said, if I had an SO that loved cats, I could come around and pitch in. I agree with the suggestion above for scratching posts and SoftPaws. Also, maybe try getting/using a Furminator on them to help with the shedding (along with regular grooming).

      Like Dog Lover above, the biggest thing for me would be the odor, beyond that, I like cats okay. I just think they tend not to make houses smell that nice, but that’s pretty easily fixable with regular cleaning, litterbox trained cats, and unscented litter (also I’ve seen some great “hidden” litter boxes – inside furniture like low cabinets. I think those are great, while litter boxes in the bathroom totally gross me out).

    • Special Snowflake :

      Honestly if you have a kitty who does not make life easy (as it sounds like yours does not) the thing that has worked best for me and my husband is putting the cat in the basement when we are not home or sleeping or simply can’t deal with him at the moment.

      No it’s not kitty abuse, he has two litterboxes, a bed, food, and water down there, plus windows to faux-chase wildlife from. We put his bed up on a shelf and he actually loves climbing around on top of our boxes of xmas decor, etc. This has eliminated the shedding and clawing problems, since he’s not allowed on furniture (trained via spray bottle) and when we’re around he obeys. All we have to do is reach toward the spray bottle and he will jump off the chair/stop clawing (which only happens like 1x a week, usually when he’s trying to get our attention).

      and while this doesn’t silence him when he gets up at 6 to mreow as if he has not eaten for days – it is certainly more muffled than if he is on top of your face.

      I understand you might not have a suitable basement or extra room for kitty, but honestly, for us it’s the only answer. I love the little purrbucket but my husband is ambivalent at best (though he’s gotten better over the years) and if left to his own devices, he would shed, claw, and probably pee on all our furniture.

      • Special Snowflake :

        that last sentence had all kinds of dangling modifiers and pretty sure it sounds like my husband wants to claw and pee on the furniture. that’s possible too, but definitely the cat we worry about when he’s alone in the apartment.

    • Anonymous :

      loud cats?

      • Maybe they are female & go into heat? If that’s the case, get them fixed!

        • Cat Lady Problems :

          They are both neutered males. One of them is fairly quiet except for the occasional melodic trill. The other one like to talk/howl whenever he wants attention, which is any time he’s not asleep.

    • Anonymous :

      get the cat de-clawed. i lived with my husband’s can for about 10 years, until she recently passed away. before we had kids, i learned to love her. but she was old and went crazy (peeing all over things, whining all the time etc) when the kids were born. there were many times i wanted to make her go away, but knew how much she meant to my husband, so i stuck it out.

      it sounds like your cats are fairly young though, so “sticking it out” could be a very, very long time. to help the shedding, we found there were certain pieces of furniture the cat would like at any given time — just let her have it, and clean the other furniture. any yes, keep the house, litter box etc as clean as possible and never, ever make your husband do any of it.

      • Anonymous :

        Please research declawing before you do it – I understand cats scratch up furniture but it’s really not good for them, can lead to complications, and often causes behavioral issues (like litter box avoidance).

        • Oh my god, yes. Declawing is totally cruel (to the point that some vets won’t do it now) and completely unnecessary. You can trim their claws or get plastic attachments put on, you don’t need to rip out their nails. Not to mention that cats are generally very easy to train and if you provide them with scratching alternatives, they will not scratch furniture or rugs. There are also sprays you can get that don’t smell but will magically keep them from scratching whatever you spray.

          Also, if you do trim their nails, please don’t just start off using your nail trimmers – you can really hurt the cat and the cat can really hurt you.

          To the OP, clean up after the cats, if they shed a lot, get them shaved (you can give them cute little lion haircuts, my friend does this with her fluffy fat cat each summer), and give them lots of their own spaces (perches, scratching posts, window seats, etc) so that they don’t mess with yours. I feel very strongly that 99% of the time, there are no problematic pets, only people who don’t know how to handle animals.

        • Yes, do not declaw. Declawing does not just remove their nails but is more like cutting the first knuckle of a finger. Get these instead: http://www.amazon.com/Soft-Claws-Cats-System-Medium/dp/B00074W45I/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1368135192&sr=8-1&keywords=cat+nail+tips

          • kittylover :

            This is all so odd to me. My house does not smell like cat (i have two, and multiple houseguests have been surprised when they saw the cats because there is no cat smell, so I know I’m not just immune). Their litter boxes are in the garage, with a cat door on the door between house and garage, so the litter box is well away from people. My cats (who are 10 and 14) have never, ever gone to the bathroom on the carpet. Ever. Even when my older boy got a UTI, and couldn’t hold it like usual, he went in the bathtub. Best. Kitties. Ever. They have never scratched furniture. (they do have tall posts to scratch instead). They are allowed outside in an enclosed area, and I really think that’s part of their good behavior. I think inside-only cats who literally never get outside at all go a little mad. I totally understand why safety wise, but I still think that’s the problem.

      • De-clawing is torture. It is the equivalent of de-fingering a person. Or at least de-boning one. If you feel tempted toward this practice, just give away the cat.

        Ugh, I cannot believe someone would even suggest this in this day and age. I worry that there are still people who prefer cheap drugstore cosmetics despite the barbaric animal testing—but apparently we need to take a few steps backward and first learn that we don’t torture our pets.

        • Anonymous :

          It is like ripping nails off a human – I can’t believe people are still clueless about these things. Poor kittties! :(

    • My friends that have crazy-shedding cats swear by the Dyson Animal Ball vacuum. Spendy. But these are friends who don’t have a ton of discretionary income, and all say it is so worth it.

    • Cat Lady Problems :

      Thanks for all the awesome advice! I’m going to look into getting that scratching post and perhaps the pet-hair focused roomba. I already have a nifty rolling litter box that I keep clean, and we trim their claws from time to time, but I need to be better about being consistent with that.

  7. A partner I used to work for once threw a stapler at another associate. Although that was terrible at the time, it became a running joke (whenever said partner wasn’t around). And when we got harshly criticized by said partner, we would commiserate with each other that “well, at least he didn’t throw a stapler at you.” Needless to say, I got out of that workplace.

  8. Clearly Speaking :

    Two different takes on the boss from hell:

    Sometimes they get canned. If enough employees leave or transfer, higher management will take notice.

    Sometimes you need to do what is best for you and leave. My BFH story involves a change in ownership that included nepotism. Over 20 (yes, 20!) people left, some who had been there decades. Save yourself, start you exit plan NOW.

    • “Sometimes you need to do what is best for you and leave.” — That was my approach. First job I ever had, right? Wet behind the ears high school kid looking to make a great impression on the head librarian and no matter what I did, I was the whipping girl. On the upside, I began to learn what I should look to avoid in a workplace at the age of 16-17. Tip to kiddies looking for jobs: don’t be the only one there whose mother does not also work there. Mothers will not let menopausal bosses take anything out on you. Also, if you and only you are the one being made to do all the heavy lifting — literally, when it comes to a library — and you are in fact the smallest person there, please consider leaving.

      I mean, it was a great fitness plan, but wow, was it ever mind-numbing.

      So the autumn after my grandfather died and I was down to Allie Brosh levels of depression-induced apathy-slash-invulnerability, I wrote my resignation letter, set it down on my boss’s desk, and left. Sod the two-week notice. That’s for people whose working environments will be tolerable for two more weeks. I think I may have done a drive-by resignation: my friend waited outside in the parking lot, I ran in, I dropped the stupid note, and I ran back out.

      tl;dr Discretion really is the better part of valor.

      even tl;dr-er Run.

      • LOL! I shouldn’t laugh at the “Allie Brosh levels of depression-induced apathy-slash-invulnerability” but I think I can on the grounds that she would too! I’m presuming you’ve seen she’s back? I loved her blog….I hope the fact that in 20 minutes after posting she got enough “likes” and comments to populate a small city makes her feel better!

    • Yes, just get out. I worked for a sadistic, miserable man (a very hardened litigator who also seemed to be genuinely unhappy) for a few years. He seemed to hate me viscerally at times. I really, really tried. I could not do anything right. Then I noted more and more of his comments – no female attorney had ever done anything right, nor had anyone of another race or religion. Then his book started to shrink and the partners started to fight…. I’m on my own now with 13 years of experience, contacts and a growing client base. Leaving was THE BEST thing that I’ve ever done. Some firms, bosses, practice groups etc. cannot be fixed and are not worth the hassle. My only regret is that I did not leave sooner. I was at another firm in the past where one new lateral partner was a raging narcissist and treated people horribly. More than 20 attorneys have left since I did, as the narcissist gets promoted into firm management and abuses more widely. The 20+ attorney pack (of all levels, all book sizes) saw that situation was not going to be fixed either. Sometimes ya gotta go.

      • Dear MJ–I am the usual MJ around here–would appreciate if you let me keep my handle. I’m a corporate girl!

    • My BFH (love that acronym!) also involved nepotism. I am so thankful that I got out. And while I do generally agree with Kat’s advice on this subject, under no circumstances would I ever stay friendly and/or maintain any sort of professional relationship with this man.

  9. I’m currently dealing with a bad boss (new regional manager) and just want to put out a word of warning for anyone in an upper management position. If you have any managers under you who do not take criticism or push-back well, you have a problem. I’m currently in a very challenging work environment (client issues). With our old manager, we could bring up the problems we were having and she’d hash them out with us and help us find a workable solution. The new boss just berates us. She seems to assume that the problem is us, not the client. The result is we’ve stopped telling her when there are problems with the client. She now believes everything is great and we’re making real progress. The truth is that things are worse than ever, but we’d prefer to handle this on our own, thank you, without getting a tongue lashing on top of what we’re already dealing with. I’m sure she’ll report up her chain that everything’s great. Upper management will believe that she’s really turned things around because projects that were stalled and problem-ridden are now chugging along nicely. Meanwhile, the project is actually crumbling the company’s best people are looking for new jobs.

    • Ugh, I´m kind of there too. Our team has major problems with our biggest client, and we are on the verge of losing that client. But every time the people working with this client ask the manager for help or more resources the manager just shrugs and kind of says “deal with it”. And she has told the upper management that there are no problems with this client. In front of the team. Needless to say, I´m looking for another job.

  10. Stuck in moderation so re-writing to see if that fixes it:

    I’m currently dealing with a bad boss (new regional manager) and just want to put out a word of warning for anyone in an upper management position. If you have any managers under you who do not take criticism or push-back well, you have a problem. I’m currently in a very challenging work environment (client issues). With our old manager, we could bring up the problems we were having and she’d hash them out with us and help us find a workable solution. The new boss just berates us. She seems to assume that the problem is us, not the client. The result is we’ve stopped telling her when there are problems with the client. She now believes everything is great and we’re making real progress. The truth is that things are worse than ever, but we’d prefer to handle this on our own, thank you, without getting yelled at on top of what we’re already dealing with. I’m sure she’ll report up her chain that everything’s great. Upper management will believe that she’s really turned things around because projects that were stalled and problem-ridden are now chugging along nicely. Meanwhile, the project is actually crumbling the company’s best people are looking for new jobs.

  11. Life Lessons :

    Nothing is worth your sanity if the boss is “bad enough”. After leaving, I never looked back and thought “oh, I wish I’d tried harder” (or similar). Move on asap.

    • I can’t echo this enough. If the boss is dysfunctional, sociopathic, or just plain whackadoo, the only way the situation will change is if the person changes. And people only change when they want to, and sometimes not even then. There is no bad-boss situation I’ve ever walked away from – and unfortunately, I’ve had more than one – where I looked back later and thought “I should have toughed it out.” One of my bad bosses, after I left, tried to physically assault one of her peers after it was discovered that she had embezzled money from the company, and she then disappeared from our city’s professional landscape forever. Another one of my bad bosses was arrested for domestic abuse a couple of years after I left the job working for him. It is painful and somewhat shocking when you find yourself dealing with a terrible, vindictive boss. I remember thinking, in the first situation, “I have a great education and work history, how in the world did I deserve this?” But it is not about you and nothing you do is going to “fix” the situation. The best you can hope for is to hang in long enough for the bad boss to leave or get fired, and that never happens as fast as it should (if it ever does happen). Your life, health, career and sanity are not worth it. “Job-hopping” still exists as a loose concept but tolerance for shorter employment stints has gotten a lot better and will just continue to get better as Gen-Yers change jobs every 2-3 years and that behavior gets normalized. I hope the writer above will tell her friend to cut loose and run.

  12. Anonymous :

    Once, I quit a job with 1 week notice for multiple reasons (no lunch period, asking me to lie to the state board, etc). the monday after my last day, there was shooting at the time/place i would have gotten out of the subway and someone died.

  13. Special Snowflake :

    “Do not trash talk the boss”

    This is definitely the hardest for me. I kept quiet for about six months, thinking my boss just hated me. Then I was transferred to a new office location where I interacted with other employees under him and turns out, he is like that to everyone. I have definitely slipped a few times, and shared “omg can you believe this awful thing he did” stories with other employees, which I’m not proud of. But I found it tough when other employees would start a rant about PsychoBoss not to chime in and be like, “I hear you- listen to what he said to me yesterday”.

    The most professional way I’ve found to deal with this is to either make vague, non-comittal statements or- to a new employee who was feeling singled out by his cray- I said something like, “That’s just the way Boss is. Don’t take it personally.” (which is true).

    However, its a shitty situation. Even if you have things documented! I went to HR about the verbal abuse, and they wanted examples. I pointed out I have IM’s saved where he has apologized for said abuse (because I must have looked visibly upset in front of him, despite my best efforts not to cry) and the HR chick said, “oh well, if he apologized, he knows it was mean, so that’s not really abuse”.

    My goal for now is to suck it up, possibly get transferred to another department, and keep my friggin mouth shut. But it sucks- thanks for the post Kat!!

  14. 1. HR is not your friend. Bad boss or no, HR is not there to help you, they are there to protect management.

    2. Never appease a bully. It doesn’t work and will only encourage the bully that you are an easy and appropriate target.
    With a bully boss, you need to do the opposite. Push back a little and make it clear that he/she picked the wrong target when they decided to bully you.

    • Great point, and one that doesn’t come naturally to me. I tend to keep my head down and take abuse rather than standing up for myself. But it’s true, bullies go after people they think they can mess with, not the people who make it hard for them. It’s a balancing act and you want to stay professional about it, but I echo the idea that you need to push back.

  15. On a related note, what do you do if your boss is crazy (nasty, backstabbing, gossipy, demanding, controlling, completely inappropriate, sexist, etc), but she plays favorites, and one of the favorites is YOU?

    I started my new job nine months ago and was immediately warned about the boss by basically all my co-workers (individually), so I armored up and made sure to be as unimpeachably professional as possible right from the start, just in case they hadn’t been exaggerating.

    They weren’t exaggerating.

    However, nine months later I seem to be one of the favorites, and I am the ONLY woman favorite. My position is tenuous, of course, and I could step wrong and fall from grace at any time. My co-workers are all very nice, kind people, who don’t seem to resent me, but I worry. It is incredibly uncomfortable to sit in meetings and listen to her berate the others, then praise my ideas.

    Any tips on how to maintain my good relationship with my co-workers while avoiding forming any bad habits due to my weird position?

  16. Revolution! :

    I’m somewhat surprised that none of the above comments suggest going above the bad boss’s head beyond documenting things to protect yourself. I’m currently in a situation where I report to a terrible boss. He’s terrible at his job, he treats me and my peers like we’re his grade school-aged children, he loves any opportunity to make you waste time or feel powerless, and if you dare to disagree with him, he responds by yelling and getting red in the face. So I went above his head. I was very careful not to tattle or give specifics, but I made it clear to upper management that there is a “situation” and that I needed to know what she cared about so I could ensure I did my job in accordance with her wishes. To my surprise, I discovered that I was not the first person to complain and that upper management knows Bad Bass is a problem. Ok, no, my revolution did not entirely work. Bad boss is still there making my life more difficult than necessary. But now that I formed a relationship with upper management, at least I’m not in fear for my job. I speak to Bad Boss as little as possible, within the bounds of making sure I do my job, and I am fully prepared to explain any disagreement I have with Bad Boss if he makes it an issue.

    I know I’m the minority here, but I don’t think I’m powerless just because I’m at the bottom of the hierarchy. I agreed to do a job, according to certain terms. Yes, I can leave. But I can also speak up before leaving. And that way, if I do leave, upper management will know that Bad Boss drives away the talent, and, perhaps, Bad Boss will stop getting promoted to positions where he can make more people miserable.

  17. I just wanted to underscore the importance of DOCUMENTATION. Document every interaction you have with a horrible boss.
    And if you only interact with him/her via your work e-mail address, FORWARD any telling e-mails they send you to a non-work account. Your employer generally has the right to do what they want with your work e-mail, and if things ever get so bad that you have to walk out or they shut you out, you will need them as back up.
    My mom is suffering a horrible boss who is verbally abusive and says horrible untrue things to her when no one is around. Always take notes on your interactions with them, good or bad, with the time and date and location. And ditto not leaving it on the work server – maybe have a running log in your g*mail, for example.
    If the boss gets this bad I would recommend that your friend tries to always have a witness in her dealings with him. In some work places (esp. unionized) you have this right.

  18. I agree re: documentation. Very important. Keep a running log of all of boss’s offenses.

    A witness whenever possible is good too.

    Also, if you are in a “protected class” that can’t be discriminated against, you may have a legal case against the boss if he/she harasses you.

    That means if you are: a racial or religious minority, a woman, gay or lesbian, disabled, or over 40.

    If so, document ANYTHING that even smells as if it could be directed at you because of your protected status. I.e., anything he says vaguely racist, sexist, homophobic, ageist, etc.

    You can then report this to HR. They won’t WANT to help you (they are HR after all), BUT, they don’t want to get sued.

    Rather than risk a lawsuit, HR may discipline the boss, remove the boss, or move you to a different supervisor.

    You can also go to the EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) and inform HR that you are going to do so based on boss’s discriminatory behavior.
    Use words like “hostile workplace” and “harassment” when talking with HR – this scares them.

  19. Hi – do you have any advice to deal with a difficult subordinate who creates drama, yells and upsets business partners/clients? This person reports to me, and even though I have documentation, management won’t do anything about it. They seem to be afraid of this person.

  20. Sorry. So often I see these “How to Deal With A Bad Boss” articles and so often the advice is “just deal with it” or “find a professional way to handle it” and so forth. Some bosses just need to be told by multiple people at one time that they are in fact shitty bosses. Some even need to be punched in the face. Perhaps if there were more direct results to their actions, there wouldn’t be so many douchebag bosses.

  21. This is a great article, but for me too late. Unfortunately, I was naïve and my Director was able to not only dismiss me, but dismiss me with cause – although I was never privy to the evidence. She was able to do this on her own accord without question, especially since HR is 2,000 miles away. She has a terrible track record, and this is the first time I have ever had problems for this very large employer (national bank) in my 16 years with them, 3 years in my last position.

    Despite some legal advice, I did go after this issue above after being let go. I was able to get my salary for when I was unemployed for the period in between jobs, only 6 weeks; however, they made me sign a document that I would not discuss this matter, and that they are not at fault.

    I am not looking for money, and I did not do anything that would of prompted the dismissal with cause. That said, what might be your recommendations to try to be employable again for this employer moving forward? Is there anything I can potentially do to try and change the initial and very questionable dismissal with cause?