Selva Ünal offers her best advice on how to deal with a bad boss in tricky work situations
“The bottom line is, bad managers are bad for business, and they’re even worse for their employees” – Leah Arnold-Smeets, COO at SuperToyBox

At some point in your life, you might end up working with a bad boss.

“How can I know if my boss is a terrible person, who enjoys demeaning me and shattering my self-esteem at every opportunity they find?” I hear you ask.

Well, my dear, it’s actually very simple;
Even when you try your best, is your best still not enough?
In front of your colleagues are you told you are incapable of doing your job properly, but in private they tell you about the excellent work you have done?
When you first started your job, you loved it but now have grown to hate every inch of what you’re doing and going to the office is a pain in the ass?

While working with a boss who created a toxic environment for me (and most people in the office), I felt that I needed to find ways to deal with this boss because I enjoyed my job, but hated working with ‘The Boss’. So I asked my confidante Dr.Google, and luckily Dr.G was able to generate over 89 million results on to how to solve my problem.

Over the following  days, weeks, months, I applied all the possible solutions so that I could neutralise the toxicity that ‘The Boss’ created every working day. I’d like to underline that this wasn’t an easy task. In some ways for me, it was a social experiment in which I was the ‘guinea pig’.

Forbes, Harvard Business Review, Psychology Today and many more websites have a wonderful list of ‘How to Handle a Bad Boss’, ‘9 ways of dealing with a Bad Boss’ etc. etc. Most of the advice given on these websites is quite repetitive, ranging from empathising with your boss to reporting them to human resources. Now, I’m sure this is great advice but it doesn’t always solve the problem. Moreover there is even a greater problem, there is a HUGE GAP in the advice given on these sites… NONE of the sites suggest to tell the bad boss that they need to change their attitude and behavior and learn to create a pleasant environment for their employees.

Of course you may wonder, ‘Well the boss needs to be aware that they are a terrible boss’. Honey, they  know very well that they are really incapable of managing a team and have to resort to bullying to keep their place. It’s shallow what your boss is doing to you but in most cases nobody calls them out. And sometimes if you do call them out, you might end up being blamed, unfortunately.

Photo: Mohamed Hassan (pxhere); Licence: CC0 Public Domain

There’s a good amount of research done on productivity in the workplace but I had little to no luck on finding research on the “Bad Boss” effect on employees. Of the few that I did find was a recent study conducted by Benjamin Artz, Amanda H. Goodall and Andrew J. Oswald on “How common are Bad Bosses?”, which shows that approximately one eighth, 13 percent, of Europe’s workers have a bad boss. It is important to point out that even though this figure is low, it might not necessarily reflect the reality since the research was conducted on a random sample of 28,000 European employees (N.B. there are over 188 million employees in Europe). The research also points out that there is suggestive correlational evidence between bad behavior by a boss having worse implications than other kinds of bad behavior at work, and that anger about the boss may last longer than other types of anger.

Another similar study was conducted by Sachiko Kuroda and Isamu Yamamoto named “Good Boss, Bad Boss, Workers’ Mental Health and Productivity: Evidence from Japan”. They investigated the effect of supervisors’ management, communication and capability on workers’ mental health and productivity in Japan. The results were predictable: when the supervisors weren’t competent and communicated badly, the probability of an employee quitting increased.

So, after following the advice on these websites and reading the published papers on this topic, I realised I was getting nowhere, and the frustration, anger and resentment kept growing and growing… which led me to write this article on ‘The Ultimate Guide to Dealing with a Bad Boss’.

“What is the ultimate guide to dealing with a bad boss?”
Well, my dear, it’s actually very simple;
Leave. Quit. Just remember, it’s not your job to tolerate and ‘fix’ your toxic boss’ behaviour.
Whatever you do, do not stay in that environment for too long as it is very unhealthy.
Yes, you need to be able to financially support yourself after quitting. Go and apply to as many suitable jobs as you can find and arrange a new job for yourself or ask your family and friends to help you through this (both mentally and financially).
And know that not all bosses are bad, there are many good bosses out there that will inspire and encourage you every single day.

Cover photo: Luis Villa Del Campo (Flickr) CC BY 2.0

  • mm

    Selva Ünal graduated from Economics and Politics from University College, Dublin. A seeker of new ideas and beliefs, she decided to explore the Far East while undertaking a Master’s degree in Asian and International Studies from the City University of Hong Kong. She also has a Master’s in a joint German-Turkish programme in Social Sciences. Her inquisitive life has led her to work in a broad range of careers – research assistant, copy-editor, and a voice-over artist. Now, she aspires to be a well-known writer.

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