Bad Bosses: What to Do?

by TTMK on January 21, 2013 · 6 comments

Have you ever had a bad boss? For many people who have been working for a number of years, the answer is probably yes.  After working with enough people, it’s almost inevitable that we will run across a boss that just isn’t all that good.

In my case, this happens to be true as well.  Now, most of the bosses I’ve had have been quite normal people.  A few have been really cool, and I’d have to say that I was lucky to have them.  One guy I still keep in touch with after not having worked with him for a few years, and we operate as references for each other and annually go to ball game together.

However, in the group of otherwise normal people I’ve worked with, there have been a few bad apples.  Here I’ll share with you what I dealt with in the first of these 2 cases, and how things played out:

Bad Boss #1

While at a previous job earlier in my career, I worked for a woman who became my boss after I had been in the group for a while.  She was initially very nice to me, and seemed very interested in getting me involved in important projects.  We also had a good rapport, so I was generally pleased with how things were shaping up.

After working with me for a while, I saw a darker side. She seemed to compete with me or perhaps be “threatened” by me, as I had some skills in this assignment that she didn’t quite have.  Now, she had more managerial experience, but didn’t have the hands on skills I had in this role.  For whatever reason, we stopped clicking.  The important work continued, and I was relied on as usual.  But she took on a more snarky and sometimes very rude tone with me.  It seemed like something about me just annoyed her, but I absolutely didn’t understand what it could be.  Frankly, that in itself started to get annoying to me.

Then, I had a promotional opportunity in front of me, as I interviewed for a role in another department.  While of course biased, I felt that I was the best candidate out of the group.  I told my manager about it, and she didn’t take it well.  She wasn’t happy about me expressing interest in another role, and felt that I was needed on her team.  Plus, she indicated that I hadn’t been in my role long enough to move (nonsense).

Well, I didn’t get that new role for which I was interviewing on the other team.  What I later found out is that my manager went and talked to that hiring manager and gave a “balanced” view on me.  Come on.  Really, what I suspect she did was try to dissuade the guy from bringing me on his team, because she didn’t want to lose me.  I was the most experienced and strongest member of her team.

I was not happy.  Very annoyed to say the least.  I was fed up, and got my resume together to look at other opportunities at other companies.  Shortly after, she gave me annual review.  To my surprise, it was actually fair.  She gave me an excellent review.  I could see that she hated doing it, but the review was very good.

What to do at that point? Continue working for a manager who gave me a really good review, but didn’t seem to be fair to me in other ways and was snippy with me while not clicking with me? Or, look elsewhere?

Well, fortunately for me I ended up getting a promotional opportunity within the company in a different role, outside of that immediate department.  I made the decision that it’s better not to get caught up in an excellent review, while overlooking the big negatives of a boss.  If the person is not fun to work with, and doesn’t support your professional development much at all, those are good enough reasons to find a better situation.

Now, I do think that we should of course be thankful to have a job in the first place.  One could always contact a recruiting service either way. That being said, why settle for a sub par situation unless you have to.  Don’t work for a bad boss!

I have since learned that basic conflict resolution skills go a long way in situations like this and would have helped me deal with this particular boss. Even though I was the one who was being treated unfairly, I wish I had the skills to diffuse the situation before it reached a breaking point.

Conflict is found everywhere and having the skills to resolve them can help any career. Unresolved conflicts often lead to major problems for employees, so taking a few conflict resolution courses or even enrolling in a complete program can give you the skills needed to deal with these issues

Perhaps in an upcoming post I’ll share my story about Bad Boss #2.  That one was much worse!

My Questions for You

Have you experienced working for a bad boss?

What was the situation, and how did you handle it?

Do you have any general suggestions about what to do when dealing with a terrible boss?

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

AverageJoe January 21, 2013 at 4:15 pm

When I was in college, I was the senior student in a department that was managed by the lowest full time people on the totem pole. Imagine my surprise when a woman who’d worked for me as a student graduated and BOOM became my new boss.

I thought it was fine, but she was clearly intimidated. After a horrible start, I read a kick-butt book called Roger’s Rules for Success. It shaped up my attitude and totally changed who I view the world today. I scored the best review from her I’d ever had, but still got fired (the only time I’ve ever been fired from a job) two weeks later. Getting fired was maybe the best thing that’s happened to me career-wise. It taught me SO much about the working world.


TTMK January 21, 2013 at 6:21 pm

Average Joe – that’s an interesting turn of events…first having that new boss, then getting a good review, then being sent packing. Must have been a good learning experience to get early on.


eemusings January 26, 2013 at 3:51 pm

I’m really glad I’ve always had great bosses! My problem is I tend to get a bit intimidated by them after a little while on the job, even though I really like them, and find myself avoiding too much interaction…

The worst boss I probably ever had was the owner of a cafe where I worked part time. Volatile, temperamental, demanding. I only worked there for about a summer.


TTMK January 27, 2013 at 5:44 pm

eemusings – that’s great that you have had excellent bosses! As for the intimidation part of it, I can see that in terms of how much power a boss can have. If a boss wants to make an employee’s life miserable, it can impact a person’s happiness outside of the workplace, and maybe even damage a person’s finances if the job doesn’t work out. The boss can have a real influence in one’s life, which might be very annoying but I suppose it’s how things go when we are employees. On the other hand, they are (usually) people just like us, and experience managing others helps remind us of that.


Elizabeth @ Simple Finance January 26, 2013 at 7:27 pm

Oooooh, I’m curious about bad boss #2!

I had an AWFUL boss in my last job. He was not only passive-aggressive and lacked any social skills, but he was also completely unable to give credit where credit was due. If something went wrong, it was your fault; it something went right, it was because of him. He didn’t have any clear vision for where he was heading our newsroom, and it showed in the product we put on air.


TTMK January 27, 2013 at 5:47 pm

Elizabeth – bad boss #2 was worse. I would work for bad boss#1, who I described here, before working for bad boss #2! As for your boss story, it sounds like you dealt with a lousy one. Not giving credit but dishing blame is not cool for any manager to do.


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