Free trial

4 types of bad bosses and how to handle them

Written by Violet Myers

Unfortunately, most of us will suffer a bad boss at some stage in our careers. In fact, three out of four employees report their boss is the most stressful part of their job, while 65 percent say they’d take a new boss over a pay raise.

But what can you do if they’re fresh out of new bosses? Hit the wanted ads and hope you’ll get lucky next time?

Don’t do it.

In this blog, we’ll guide you through some of the most problematic characters from the professional world and what you can do to handle their bad behaviour.

Bad Boss #1: Micromanaging Martha

Martha is highly competent, hardworking and takes her job seriously. There’s just one problem: Martha is a serial micromanager.

It doesn’t matter if you’re presenting to a client or taking the rubbish out, Martha has to oversee everything. She’s involved in every part of a project and refuses to delegate.

New call-to-action

While this intense style of management may be helpful to a new starter, when Martha’s still proofreading your emails in your second year at the company, you may start to wonder; doesn’t she trust me?

How to handle her

The problem with micromanagement is it can make us feel a bit useless.

When our judgment is constantly brought into question, we lose confidence, motivation and enthusiasm. This makes us far from the ideal employee, so why does she do it? According to careers expert Taylor Jacobson micromanaging is about fear:

'Micromanagement is like saying, "I'm scared we'll fail." The solution is to find out what your boss needs to feel safe, that you've got things under control.’

Next time you’re working on a project, put yourself in your boss’s shoes and think; what can I do to make them feel secure? Step up your game and give them no reason to doubt you.

If the micromanaging continues it may be time to voice your concerns, your boss may not be aware of their behaviour and may just need a nudge to let go and delegate.

Bad Boss #2: Credit stealing Craig

Craig is great. He’s open minded, a good laugh and always open to new ideas. So much so he often brings yours up in department meetings. It’s a shame he never gives you the credit.

Whether it’s a gem of a brainwave or closing an important deal, Craig is always there to share in your glory, or steal it completely.

How to handle him

While we may tell ourselves it doesn’t matter, really we know credit stealing is a serious problem. After all, a good idea can be the difference between a promotion and being overlooked. But how can you approach it?

  • Calm down
    Angrily confronting your boss will do you no favours. Take a few days to calm down.
  • Give them the benefit of the doubt
    Assume your boss has taken credit unintentionally. If this a repeat offence schedule some time to talk.
  • Let them know your career goals
    Tell your boss any career aspirations, and tell them how much you would appreciate them making others aware of your accomplishments.
  • Make others aware of your accomplishments
    If your boss is a serial credit stealer be vocal about your ideas and accomplishments. Make sure your colleagues know where the hard work has come from.

Bad Boss #3: Nasty Natalie

Bosses are human too. And like us, they have bad days. Their car’s break down, they argue with their kids, they pour coffee down their casual Fridays corduroys. Natalie, however, hasn’t gotten out of the right side of the bed since 2001.

She berates staff publicly, belittles anyone who disagrees with her, and over reacts to bad news. Natalie is a nasty boss.

How to handle her

Constructive criticism is a given at most offices. Not only does it help to improve your work, but it can enhance your skills and even push you to reach new limits. However, aggressive criticism is always unnecessary, while behaviour that causes humiliation and distress skirts the realms of workplace bullying. So, what can you do?

First, access the situation. Has their attitude become unprofessional? If not, try these tips for dealing with a difficult boss:

  • Take steps to improve communication and have your boss be crystal clear about their intentions for your work.
  • Before starting anything make sure they clearly brief you to avoid any mistakes.
  • Don’t let their behaviour affect the quality of your work. Stay focused and rise above it.
  • Anticipate your boss’s requests and try to stay one step ahead.
  • Identify your boss’s triggers and avoid them.

If however, their behaviour has become improper and is causing you or your colleagues distress, it may be time to take it higher. Take a note of any behaviour you find worrying and make an appointment with your HR representative. No one deserves a boss bully.

Bad Boss #4: Disorganised Darren

Oh, Darren. He’s such a great guy. Always smiling - even if he does forget his lunch. So supportive - even if he didn’t tell you about that big presentation. Very apologetic - every time he fails to brief you properly before an important deadline.

We’ve all got a lot on our plates, but Darren seems to have an all-you-can-eat buffet portion on his. The real kicker? Darren’s lack of time management means that if work slips through the cracks, it’s always you who has to stay late to make up for it.

How to handle him

The trouble with a disorganised boss is that the company leader sets the precedent for the whole team. Much like a sea captain and their crew, if your boss hasn’t got their eye on the horizon, you could all end up going down with the ship. Here’s what to do.

Contrary to popular belief, bosses have been proven to be human too. Therefore, try to think if there’s anything you can do to help. Perhaps you could recommend a useful tool?

  • Basecamp is an ideal project management tool. You can assign tasks and set reminders - perfect for forgetful bosses.
  • Turbine HQ (hey, that’s us!) is a super easy way to schedule annual leave and monitor expenses. Don’t let Darren forget your holiday again.
  • Toggl is a time monitoring tool that helps you stay on track with your tasks. Having a clear image of daily tasks can help boost productivity and organisation.

Don’t let the bad bosses grind you down

Sadly, bad bosses are a fact of life. Whether they’re guilty of micromanaging, poor organisation, overly critical or credit stealing, most of us will have to deal with one eventually.

While we can’t change other people’s behaviour, we can control our reaction to it. Be proactive, open to communication and respectful to improve any bad situation. And remember these four tips to help you navigate your way through a host of difficult working relationships.

But most importantly remember: Nolite te Bastardes Carborundorum.

Download our human resources cheat sheet here

Work relations , working with employees , workplace policy