Do you have a bad boss?  

The signs are readily apparent.

• She gives you a mountain of new work to do – as well as a short deadline – then rants that the rest of your tasks are not completed.

• He steals your ideas.

• She complains about her employees…to other employees.

• He speaks to you as if your age and IQ were identical.

• She has office pets, employees who get all the plum assignments and the most slack.

• He doesn’t provide clear instructions, but gives you a hard time in front of your co-workers for not “getting it.” 

• She gives you a task, and then tells you – in minute detail – how to do it.

• He’s a fireman, rushing in crisis mode to put out one fire after another.

• She brings personal problems to the office, and makes everyone as miserable as she is.

• He drinks his lunch, then becomes abusive after he returns to the office.

• She encourages you to speak your mind, and later uses your comments against you.

• He says one thing, then does another.

As bad as your boss is, there are always some who are worse. Like these two examples:

An article that appeared in describes an employee of an auto-parts plant who heard that a nearby restaurant was burning down.

Since the employee’s wife worked there, he rushed out of the plant to get to the fire.

The boss demanded that the employee be written up for leaving the plant without prior approval, for running through the facility and running without wearing safety glasses.

Then there’s the tale of a manager who once started a sales meeting by firing a stun gun behind her staff members as they entered the room.

This apparently was meant to be motivating, as was a later technique of throwing candy at the sales staff, as if tossing treats to animals that performed well.

So what do you do if you face one of these or similar abusive situations?

Here are some tips:

• First of all, make sure you’re doing your job correctly and well.

• Write down the bad behavior. Describe what happened to you, time and date it. Then send a copy of it to yourself at your home address. It may come in handy later. It also will help you realize that this situation is about your boss, not about you.

• Talk to your boss. It’s possible that bad bosses don’t realize what they’re doing. Plan ahead what you plan to say. Write it down first. Practice it (a coach can help you with role play in a safe situation where you can do as many “do-overs” as you need to get it down). Deliver your information calmly.

• Figure out exactly what drives you nuts about the boss’ behavior. Once you identify it, it’s easier to recognize it when you see it and may help you keep your cool.

• Establish clear boundaries between work and the rest of your life. Don’t let what’s happening on the job ruin your personal relationships.

• Take good care of yourself. Eat right, get enough sleep and stay active. If working for this person is killing you, quit.

• Ask for help if you need it. Help could come from family, friends, your company’s human resources department, a manager in a different department or a lawyer.

• Consider hiring a coach, who can be enormously beneficial in supporting and helping you in this process.

• Be careful about going to your boss’ boss, who should have prevented this type of behavior to begin with and therefore has a vested interested in making your supervisor “right.”

• Be prepared to resign if none of the foregoing helps. That means keeping up contacts in your field, updating your resume and being aware of new job opportunities.

Working for a bad boss can be excruciatingly painful – physically and emotionally – and can do a lot of damage to your self-esteem.

You deserve better.

Jackie Harder owns Key Dynamics, a coaching, training and consulting company in Key Largo, Fla. She is a graduate of the Core Essentials Program of CoachInc., member of the International Coach Federation and International Associations of Coaches, and is president of the Key Largo Chamber of Commerce. Got questions about coaching, or would like a complementary session? Go to and learn more.