Work is a place we all have the right to feel safe and supported. Unfortunately, both in the corporate and non-corporate world, there are bad people.
We’ve all had the experience of working with someone who’s mean, rude, or even abusive at work. And sometimes we can tolerate it if they’re on our level, however, when it’s your boss who embodies these traits, that’s a whole other story.
In this article you’re going to learn how to handle, and what to do about, a bad boss in the workplace.
What are the characteristics of a bad boss?
There are several warnings signs and characteristics that make your boss a bad one. Your boss may demonstrate one, several, or all of these traits. The important thing to remember is that sometimes these traits can be subtle, and may even go unnoticed at first.
For example, a boss doesn’t have to be abusive to you directly in order to be considered abusive. You might witness them being abusive to other people or staff members at your work.
Meanness, abusiveness, and bullying
This is the most obvious and damaging characteristic of a bad boss. It’s where they insult you or your work, put you down in private, in-front of others, via email, or via commentary on your work documents. It’s where they say insulting and personal things about you, your work, or even about your race, gender, looks, and ethnicity.
Abusiveness isn’t just someone yelling at you, or using defamatory language. It can be as subtle as someone laughing at you, or intentionally embarrassing you in front of others. It could even be someone making subtle, yet sly remarks about your work. Also, it could be that your boss is intentionally leaving you out of the loop on things, keeping you out of important meetings, and excluding you from social events at work.
Let’s face it. This kind of boss, is an asshole.
A bad boss can also be an incompetent boss. This is someone who simply can’t do their job, or at least, not at a high level. They’re impatient, shortsighted, and easily flustered or overwhelmed. It’s the kind of boss that just palms off work to the other members of his or her team, because they don’t have the ability to juggle varying tasks at one time.
An incompetent boss can be insanely frustrating. Firstly, they’re not able to pass on their skills and knowledge (which is one of the best aspects of having a great boss). Secondly, they’re not able to assist in your professional development. Thirdly, their inability to manage tasks and projects can reflect back on you, and your wider team.
Taking credit for your hard work
A bad boss could also take credit for your work. This is possibly the worst sin of all. We all work hard in our jobs, sometimes tirelessly, to earn respect and recognition in the companies we work for, and amongst our peers. But when our efforts are credited to others, it’s a massive stab in the back. This should never be tolerated, and when you notice it happening, it’s time to do something about it.
How to report your bad boss to HR
HR is there to support you. That said, it may not be best to go to them first. I suggest escalating the issues you’re having with your boss to the person which he reports to. For example, if I was having issues with my boss, I would then directly contact our chief marketing officer and have a one-to-one with him. In essence, you need to find someone senior in the company or workplace who you trust, and who’ll listen to what you have to say.
They may then choose to escalate the issue with human resources on your behalf, and schedule some time for you to meet with them. In essence, you should be able to demonstrate how your boss has mistreated you, and be able to provide some examples.
More tips for dealing with a bad boss at work
Even if the issue has been raised with someone senior in the company, and is in the process of being followed up by HR, you may still need to deal with your boss in the interim. Here’s some tips for dealing with your crappy boss in the meantime.
1. Keep your cool and stay professional
Keeping it professional is the best advice when it comes to dealing with any kind of workplace conflict. Always try to keep your composure, keep your voice level, and avoid any personal attacks, insults, or colourful language. Appearing rational and reasonable will buy you credibility.
2. Talk to someone about it
Confide in someone that you trust. Having direct support from someone either in your team, or part of your wider department, will help get you through this tough time, and keep your self-esteem high.
3. Call them out on it
This may in fact stop your bad boss behaviour in their tracks. Simply highlighting how someone is behaving back to them, and how it makes you feel, can have a powerful effect. Sometimes people behave the way they do because they believe they can get away with it. But when you stop them and say, “Hey, I noticed that you’ve said something like this before, and I don’t find it very constructive, actually I find it a little disrespectful.” You don’t have to insult them back, just express yourself in a calm, reasonable, and professional way.
4. Prepare your exit strategy
If things are getting worse with your boss, if the communication has completely deteriorated, and the no-one in the senior leadership or HR has done anything to rectify the situation, it’s time to start looking for a new job. And not just any job, but an incredible job that excites and satisfies you.
The psychological effects of dealing with a bad boss
Dealing with a negative, abusive, mean, or incompetent boss at work can have varying effects. These could range from feeling frustrated and angry, to feeling isolated and depressed – depending on the circumstances. Some further psychological effects of dealing with a negative boss at work may include:
- Lowered self-esteem
- Anger and frustration
- Feeling socially isolated
- Heightened nerves and anxiety
Workplace bullying is a real issue, and goes way beyond just merely dealing with a bad boss. If this resonates with you, or could affect someone you know or work with, it’s essential that you ask for help from a professional.
The important thing is that you tackle the issue head on. Seek to build an open dialogue with your boss, or other senior people within the company. Of this fails, it’s time to spruce up the resume and cover letter, and start applying for new jobs.
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Will Vaughan is the Founder & CEO of Your Career Mastery. He’s dedicated to helping young professionals discover and land the job of their dreams using a mix of proven strategies, tips, tools, and mindsets. He currently works as a Content & SEO manager for a 100 million dollar tech company in Melbourne, Australia.