5 Steps for Dealing With Difficult Managers And Bad Bosses

By Gusty Pohlman - Cincinnati Country Day School - NextGenVest Club Co-Leader & Creative Director - Cincinnati, OH

You couldn’t wait to be hired, now you can’t wait to quit. Is a bad boss making your work life miserable? Unfortunately, you're not alone.As humans functioning in the complex rules of society, we crave the approval and respect of others. So when we are blown off, dumped, overlooked, abused, or ignored for no good reason—we feel worthless. Furthermore, when our hard work and progress is hindered by un-collaborative, uninspiring, and uncaring superiors, we question ourselves when we should really be questioning our managers.For this reason, difficult bosses are one of the most destructive forces in the workplace. Whether it be at a dream job, part-time job, or internship; bad bosses can appear anywhere. It takes just one person to turn a great opportunity into a nightmare, and to break a capable and intelligent employee down into a dejected victim—for it is not only what the boss does do, but what the boss doesn’t do that lays the foundation for failed productivity.As a situation that is too common-place, bad bosses are really affecting business.In the article The Real Productivity-Killer: Jerks, author Meaghan Ouimet infographic illustrates just how bad this bad business can be. The stats are alarming, to say the least.

  • Three out of every four employees report that their boss is the worst and most stressful part of their job
  • 65% of employees say they’d take a new boss over a pay raise
  • Bad bosses cost the economy an estimated $360 billion every year in lost productivity

Clearly, menacing managers are becoming a growing problem in the workplace. Yes, being head honcho can’t be easy but its difficulties should never excuse the mistreatment or misrepresentation of an organization and its venerable employees.The task of coping with a “bad boss” may seem monumental but, with the right strategies, it can be an attainable feat.

Steps To Success:

Think about the WHAT.

What is your manager doing that is causing you unnecessary stress? Is it harassment? Verbal abuse? Sexism or discrimination? Mismanagement? Carelessness? Negligence? Or a combination of all the above?

Think about the WHY.

What triggers the abuse? Is it a result of your actions, or for no good reason at all? Is it bringing down the productivity of the entire company or just you? What does your boss care about most?

Try to ADAPT.

Be mindful of your manager's weaknesses and go along with his or her preferences. Use your strengths to lay the groundwork for success. Working around their faults will not only allow for company progress, but for your own as well. Avoid his pet peeves, mirror his working style, and get tasks done promptly.


Speak up! Instead of letting your bad feelings boil, gather up the confidence to speak with your manager face-to-face. Skip the email, text, or call. You will find the most success in an honest, professional (and non-accusatory!) conversation. Oftentimes, he or she may be unaware of their faults and a gentle reminder may make all of the difference.

Stand up for yourself!

When you show fear and submission, your abuser’s power is strengthened. If you are really doing your best work, there should be no reason for criticism, yelling, harassment, or disrespect. If you’ve tried everything and the treatment isn’t changing, maintain your good work ethic and try to not let it affect your productivity. Keep your head high, invest in the power of allies, and document the abuse. Gather your evidence and examples, well thought-out defense, and possible solutions (perhaps your talents would be better utilized on another team, under a different team leader?) and meet with Human Resources, or the appropriate supervisors to discuss the treatment.Remember,you are valuable and so is your hard work and mental health. Don’t let an abusive manager undermine your success and poison your work environment; no one is that superior to you.

Follow Gusty's NGV chapter on Instagram at @NGVCincinnatiCD.

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