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8 minute read

Working for a Bad Boss: Tips to Help You Improve Life at Work

So does your supervisor tick all the wrong boxes?

You may be new to a job and trying to figure out the best way to work with your employer.

Or maybe you are a seasoned professional feeling like your new manager isn’t being a good boss. 

But what exactly defines a good (or bad) boss? 

Read this ‘checklist’ to see if your supervisor ticks these boxes so you can then determine if your supervisor is the problem and how you can manage your expectations.

1. “You do it”

Of course, there will be times when we feel we’re bombarded with work, but one important question to ask is if the work is unfairly assigned.

Are you taking on way more workload than your peers?

Is the assigned work out of your job scope?

Or is your boss asking you to work on something, that he is not willing to take on himself?

It can get especially frustrating when your boss assigns you tasks that he has never had to perform before, so he ends up giving you unrealistic deadlines along with it. 

What to do:

If you’re already struggling to complete the work that was assigned to you, be frank and tell him that you already have a lot on your plate and politely request if someone else on the team, can take on the work instead.

If he gives you unreasonable deadlines, tell him that it’s not feasible and propose a more realistic deadline, while assuring him that you’ll get the work done ASAP. 

2. Stealing credit for your work

Does your boss take credit for your work without giving you the recognition you deserve?

If it’s a yes, then he definitely deserves a red flag.

A good boss is always willing to spread the praise around because it builds morale, confidence, and inspires people to work harder.

Meanwhile, a boss who takes all the credit is only looking out for himself. 

If your boss is constantly pinching ideas off you or the team instead of offering them, this shows that he lacks the vision and ability to get the job done himself.

What to do:

Fishing for compliments may be hard, but be honest and tell him how hard you (and your team) have worked on the idea, and that some form of acknowledgement would be very much appreciated to motivate you to do better. 

3. Micromanagement 

No one likes the feeling of someone breathing down their necks. 

Micromanaging bosses have poor leadership skills and have zero trust in their employees.

They tend to check on their employees’ every move and not give them any freedom to take charge of their own tasks. 

What to do:

If your boss is a control freak, you can soothe their nerves by providing detailed notes on every meeting, and giving them frequent updates on a project’s progress.

This will give them the illusion that they’re in control and on top of things.  

4. Always missing in action 

Punctuality is a very important trait in the workplace — this does not apply to only the employees, but also the bosses. 

Such bosses tend to abuse their power and think that they do not have to follow company rules.

Coming in late, leaving early, taking very long breaks, and making up random schedules is disrespectful to everyone in the office. 

What to do:

Casually request for him to share his calendar with the team so you can keep track of his schedule, and have an idea of when he will be in the office.

If he’s a habitual latecomer, let him know that his frequent lateness is affecting day-to-day operations. 

Read More: Career Change: How and When You Should Switch Jobs

5. Plays favourites 

When favouritism comes into play, it’s easy to feel dwarfed and incompetent.

You’ll end up constantly comparing yourself to his ‘pet’ and that is a very unhealthy habit. 

Bosses who play favouritism also fail to reward those who perform well, and this type of unfair treatment can get on any employee’s nerves and even cause animosity among colleagues. 

What to do:

Try to secure some one-on-one time to bond with your boss.

By spending time with him outside the office, it can help cultivate a better working relationship and both of you can have a chance to get to know each other better. 

If the favouritism persists, make known to him that you make an equally deserving candidate, and convince him to trust you to get the work done.  

6. No respect for personal time 

Some bosses are workaholics and have no concept of personal time and days off.

They expect you to be at their beck and call 24 hours a day, seven days a week. 

Unless it’s urgent, your boss should not disturb you after working hours because you deserve the right to rest, and recharge during your downtime. 

What to do:

Set boundaries early on and let your boss know that you have handled the matter before the weekend, and will look into any amendments on Monday morning.

If the boss insists that you put in extra hours, make sure that he offers overtime pay or off-in-lieu as a form of compensation.

7. Disregard your opinions 

Some bosses get frustrated when their employees question their decisions — it’s always their way or the highway. 

When you offer an idea, they immediately shoot it down without making an effort to even consider them and this hurts your feelings and confidence.

What to do:

Voice how you feel and convey to him that your opinions and insights are valuable too.

If he thinks that your ideas and opinions are not feasible, tell him that you would appreciate constructive feedback instead, so you can work better on future ideas.

Click to read articles about career switching

8. Abuse and harassment 

Physical intimidation of any kind is a clear sign of abuse, regardless of whether there is any actual physical contact or not. 

Verbal abuse, on the other hand, is not just limited to hurling vulgarities.

Yelling at you in front of the whole office, making personal attacks that are unrelated to your work, and throwing out threats, also falls under this category. 

For sexual abuse, it’s much more serious and can range from making inappropriate or sexist comments to criminal offences like molest and rape. 

What to do:

If your boss physically and/or verbally abuses you, report it to HR immediately.

If you’re faced with a boss who makes inappropriate comments, tell him firmly that you don’t feel comfortable with him passing such remarks.

For more serious sexual abuse, you can even escalate the matter to the authorities. 

9. Denying your employee entitlements

As an employee, you are entitled to a monthly salary, claims, and annual leave. If your boss refuses to pay your salary or keeps delaying it, it’s definitely a cause for concern. 

If he makes it hard for you to apply for claims and annual leave — especially when you’re entitled to it — it pegs him as an inflexible boss. If you work hard, you definitely deserve the freedom to take some time off work. 

What to do: If you are not paid on time, approach your boss first to understand if there are reasons for the late payment and whether the regular payment schedule can be resumed. 

If you are still not paid your full salary within seven days of it being due, your boss is considered to have breached the terms of employment.

According to regulations by the Ministry of Manpower, you reserve the right to terminate employment without serving notice. 

10. Hindering your professional growth 

A good boss will encourage and help you to advance your career, be it through mentoring or continued learning. 

If your role in the company has been stagnant and not progressing for more than two years, it’s time to talk to your boss about career progression opportunities. 

If he thinks that you are ‘not ready’, request further training to improve yourself.

But if he ignores your request or tells you that you are wasting the company’s time and resources, that just shows that he does not care about your career growth. 

What to do:

If need to, you can seek another mentor in the company outside your department.

A mentor can become a valuable resource if you desire to climb the corporate ladder, and serves as a good sounding board.

With over 80,000 jobs available on MyCareersFuture, find one that fits you here!

He ticks most boxes on the ‘Bad Boss’ checklist, now what?

The most straightforward solution is to nip the problem in the bud, and have a talk with your boss. 

Arrange for a private meeting and try to discuss matters with him.

Often, people don’t realise that their behaviour is unpleasant to others and bringing the matter to light, can help resolve the negative work environment. 

When talking to him, you need to be specific and let him know what you need from him in terms of feedback, direction and support.

Be polite and focus on your needs. 

If talking to your boss still does not help matters, you can report his bad behaviour to the upper management and let them make an executive decision. 

In the meantime, refrain from complaining or gossiping about your boss to your colleagues, because this may heighten problems you already face and potentially create tension. 

Should you find a new job? 

There’s no reason to condone your boss’ bad behaviour, and if working with him takes a toll on your health and emotional well-being, then it’s better to leave the job. 

Once you make the decision to quit, it’s important to do it as professionally and gracefully as possible. 

While it might be tempting to go out in a blaze of anger, this rarely works out well in the long run.

The industry is small, so it’s best to not burn bridges!

However, if you are not willing to leave just yet, you can explore other opportunities within your organisation instead. 

Look into other roles that might interest you, and talk to colleagues and managers in other departments to gain a better insight on who you might be working with next. 

Think about what your skills might be appropriate for, and proceed to make a case for your transition. 

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