Work Relationships

How to spot and deal with horrible bosses

Written by Michael Hoon

Even if you’re happy with your position and your place of work, having problems with your boss can really make your life miserable. Some bosses just have a bad work ethic or unreasonable expectations of you. The most awful ones might have hair-trigger tempers, be cruel and demeaning, or even worse. Looking out for the warning signs that you might have one of these horrible bosses may help you deal with or even slip out of a bad situation before it’s too late.

1. Remain on alert during the interview.

The ideal way to deal with a bad boss is to never work for him or her in the first place. This requires you to pay attention to red flags during your job interview. Potential bosses reveal much about their personalities during interviews—even though you’re the one who’s being questioned. If she arrives to the interview late, spends more time staring at his phone than engaging with you, or is unprepared or insulting, you can expect a lot of the same behavior on the job. Some workers have no problem dealing with such unprofessionalism, but if you don’t want to deal with it, say “thanks, but no thanks” to this job opportunity.

2. Look out for issues on the job.

Some issues won’t arise until you’re actually working with your boss. These problems may involve a boss who is never there when you need him or one who’s constantly breathing down your neck. He may have problems with dishonesty, which can even involve taking credit for your work. She may expect you to work late, and in worst-case scenarios, only let you know this when you already have one foot out the door. He may not be willing to admit to his mistakes and might even throw you under the bus to deflect blame from himself.

One or two of these issues is almost to be expected—after all, bosses are fallible humans as we all are. But when issue piles upon issue, it might be time to seek employment with a boss who isn’t so horrible.

3. Believe it when you see impossible-to-miss issues.

Sometimes bad boss behavior can be pretty subtle. Other times, it’s more like a slap in the face. Racist, sexist, homophobic, or otherwise offensive behavior from a boss is impossible to ignore and a clear sign that your boss is utterly horrible. There is no reason you should have to deal with such behavior—you do not have to be a trooper and keep your mouth shut if you are being mistreated. Filing a complaint with HR is definitely in order under such circumstances. Bosses who are verbally or physically abusive or invade your personal space or sexually harass you should be reported to HR, OSHA, or even the police.

4. Listen to your body.

Your boss’s horribleness is not just detectable in his or her behavior. Your own body may also send you a warning. Does the idea of having to deal with her another day put a knot in your stomach or an ache in your skull? Are you losing sleep because you cannot stop thinking about how your boss chews you out every day? Does your heart pound as you walk into the office because you know your boss is either lying in wait for you or off who-knows-where while you’re left to deal with everything? Well, then your body may be sending you a clear message: get out— your boss is horrible.

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About the author

Michael Hoon

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