Five Best Ways to Deal with the Worst Boss

You can survive and even thrive if faced with this unfortunate, all-too-common career pitfall

Oh, the terrible boss! Many of us work as hard as we can to deal with a manager or supervisor who is truly off the rails, though sometimes we’re pushed too far — think of the characters on the big screen played by Lily Tomlin, Dolly Parton, and Jane Fonda in the classic 1980s fantasy-comedy, “9 to 5.”

But in real life, many people face seriously tough and stressful situations. A boss can become unreasonable to the point of harassment, bullying and even abuse — verbal and otherwise. Some managers are clearly not cut out to manage people, period.

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Sales executive Marie Jones (not her real name) of Boston told LifeZette, “I had the most miserable, conniving manager imaginable. She assigned me menial and low-level tasks, some even meant for the janitors. So I began to log the incidents.” Doing so at least gave her clarity about what was happening, she said.

Related: Seven Expressions That Reflect the Healthiest Lives

Jones added, “Finally my boss’s boss called me in for a meeting — to let me know my boss had been skimming profits from the company. And I was offered her position. Karma does a sweet job of catching up with people.”

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If you have a manager who is so difficult to deal with that you’re about to tear your hair out, what measures should you take? In the “De-stress the Nonsense” seminar I teach, I share with executives of all levels these five key tips:

1.) Choose the right time for a one-on-one discussion. Avoid distractions. If appropriate, try to have the meeting out of the office or away from others in the group — this can be more effective.

2.) Be direct and honest. Have your notes in order. Confronting the boss can be unnerving, and there’s nothing wrong with bringing along brief notes with you. It’s better than taking the risk of forgetting to discuss a critical point.

3.) Prepare an end-game resolution (or two or three). Presenting suggestions to remedy a difficult situation holds both of you accountable to maintain your respective ends of the agreement.

4.) Schedule a follow-up meeting, to confirm you’re both still on the same page.

5.) If the first four methods aren’t effective, and you still want to keep your job at your current firm, there’s no alternative except to meet with a higher-level executive. Bring along your notes, maintain your confidence, and explain how you’ve made every attempt to resolve the issue.

Related: Five Ways to Be Happier in the Job You Hate

If there’s no “higher power” to help you, then it’s likely time to look elsewhere for employment.

Overall, before exacerbating any business conflict, be sure you’re not taking the situation personally. Always try to infuse humor and laughter into the workplace whenever possible and appropriate.

There’s much to be said for and gained by killing people with kindness and taking the high road. Many years ago, while working with a child who was being teased at school, I continuously taught him why others treat people poorly. When people create unnecessary drama with others, it’s usually because they don’t like themselves. There’s something within them that makes them unhappy.

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The unfortunate fact is that they often take out that discourse on those around them.

Many times the terrible boss is unhappy with himself or herself, with the job, the work performance, or a situation in his or her personal life. Do your best to turn it around before it gets out of hand.

Based in Boynton Beach, Florida, Christine King is founder and CEO of Your Best Fit, a health and wellness company that provides fitness, nutrition, and design and management services for individuals, private clubs, luxury communities, and corporations. 

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