How To Handle The Stress Of A Bad Boss

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Like with everything else in this world, there’s a healthy mix of good and bad, even amongst leaders. It’s just as common for us to read about good leaders as it is for us to read about appallingly bad leaders.

The ideal job is one where you love your work, you earn well, you have a flexible work schedule, your colleagues are fantastic, and your boss is a diamond of the first water. There are of course workplaces like this and even though the skeptic in me wants to think that perhaps these workplaces have unicorns as well, considering how outside the norm they seem, I will admit that some of us are really lucky and have hit the jackpot when it comes to a fulfilling professional life.

And then there are the rest of us. We may not love our jobs, but we manage just fine, are interested enough to keep working and can put with different aspects of the job because some compensate for the others.

And then there’s the final bunch of us. We have a lot of good things going on, but unfortunately, when it came to the good boss jackpot, we missed by a mile.

Unfortunately, everything else being touched by gold cannot compensate for the damage caused by a bad boss. Bad leadership can be stressful, lead to unhealthy workplace dynamics and even thwart an employee’s career.

Also read: People Don’t Leave Jobs, They Leave Bad Bosses and Toxic Work-cultures!

So what can one do when faced with the sickening realization that their boss is the opposite of good?

Quitting the job is unfortunately not the right answer. It might be the most immediate option available but it is important to keep in mind that this is a fallback that is not available to everyone.

Or there might be other factors that prevent you from leaving, such as:

You like your job

You have a good team of people

Your job is convenient and integrates well into your personal life etc.

As you can see, there are myriad of reasons as to why discovering you have a bad boss does not equate to time to find greener pastures. 

Sometimes, the only thing you can do is stay and tough it out or find workarounds that help.

But before we come up with workarounds, it’s important to define what is a bad boss. This is because not all bad bosses are created equal. On a sliding scale of ‘Inefficient and powerless’ to ‘ragingly angry dragon determined to set everything on fire’, there are a lot of in-betweens. Also, a bad boss is not someone who is strict and disciplines you. That’s just them being strict.

Bad bosses blow small things out of proportion or rigidly stick to regulations, even at the cost of good work or people. Some bosses mean well, but their attempts to set things right often do more harm than good. Some bosses are great at working as individuals but are not the right fit for a leadership role. Some bosses are just blessed with unpleasant personalities because yet again, the world needs a mix of good and bad. There’s also the painfully incompetent boss who’s been kicked upstairs because of office dynamics or office politics etc. Then there are the bosses who seem to exist to just make life more miserable.

It’s my sincere hope that all of you reading this article are blessed with decent enough bosses, if not good enough ones. But if you aren’t, here is a primer on handling the stress that comes from dealing with a bad boss.

Identify the main issue to find workarounds

Obviously, if everything is the issue you have your work cut out more often than not. But otherwise, it makes sense to identify the main problems you are up against. For example, does your boss seem to suffer from short-term memory loss and forgets details and then berates you for not adding those details? The solution is to document EVERYTHING. Insist on documenting meetings, use emails and if necessary, take notes and refresh your boss’s memory. You do not have to wave it in their face. But you could point them towards the documentation to remind them that this is what they actually said. 

On the other hand, if your boss has a tendency to panic way before deadlines, it would be prudent to draw up a project schedule and send them updates at appropriate times. This was they know that everything is going according to plan.

Knowing how your boss functions can help you figure out how to deal with them better. Sure, it might involve a little extra work, but on the other hand, if the pay-off is reduced stress, then do not begrudge the extra work.

Also read: The Positive Effects of Compassionate Leadership

Find solace in your team

If you have a good team, depend on them instead of your boss. Good team support can offset the stress that comes from dealing with a bad boss. All of you have a common pain point – your boss – and each of you has probably come up with various ways you can get around your boss’s issues. Share tips, back up each other and of course, present a united front when it comes to your boss.

However, this is only something you can try if you do know that you have a good team. It does not work if your team is already fractured or has people who are simply not willing to put in the effort. 

Jump ship

If you can and your bank account is not going to suffer for it, jump ship. Bad bosses can have a deleterious effect on your mental health, and eventually, you are going to be a point where you have reached your limit and cannot deal with anymore. It’s true that we all have to adjust to a certain extent when it comes to our bosses. But there’s a difference between being accommodating and actively undermining your own peace of mind, just to keep the peace.

Because there truly aren’t enough workarounds when it comes to dealing with bad bosses. And of course, the solutions listed above are not long-term solutions. The only long-term solution is leaving, unfortunately.

About Padma_S

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Padma is an experienced content writer who currently works in the HR Software industry as an HR Expert/Editor at Engagedly


At work, she's passionate about employee engagement, leadership, and communication. Outside of work, she's a big fan of quirky comedies and murder mysteries, be they in book format or on the big screen, animals and good food.

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