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5 minute read

How to Handle Bad Bosses in a Toxic Work Environment

There are good and bad bosses but while it can be tough working with a bad manager, it does not need to be a nightmare. We look at different difficult boss personalities and share tips on how to work better with them.

You might have laughed at bad bosses and managers on the big screen (such as in the movie The Devil Wears Prada) but in real life, having an awful boss is no laughing matter.

We look at some of the common tough-to-work-with boss personalities and explore how employees, can better cope at the workplace while working with them.

The ‘Take the Credit but Pass the Blame’ Boss

Good bosses understand the value of teamwork and effort but are also willing to be held accountable and face criticism when things are not going so well.

However, there are manager personalities whose egos can interfere with work — taking credit for the ideas and even work of others, but fading away when they are needed the most and things don’t look so rosy. 


  • Make it a point to share your ideas with the wider team and document your work, especially important projects. This way, if you are ever asked by a superior to prove that something was your idea or your work, you will be prepared. 
  • Work on finding a mentor at your office who can give you good advice on growing your career, and who can also serve as a reliable reference if and when needed. 

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The Micromanager

One of the key traits of good leaders is the fact that they macro-manage — they focus on the big picture, allowing team members to deal with the tasks assigned to them.

On the flip side are micromanagers who feel the need to control everything around them in minute detail.

Unfortunately for workers, this might mean that they feel the need to constantly tell you how to do things you are perfectly capable of performing yourself.

Some even hover as you work, waiting for their chance to critique the way you are doing something.

Not only does this create a stressful environment, but it can also prevent employees from exercising and developing their skills.


  • The first thing to do is to take an honest look at your work performance. For example, have you had challenges meeting your deadlines or are you often arriving late at work? Your boss could simply be reacting to something you need to improve on. 
  • Be more zealous with your communication with your boss. For instance, send your boss a daily update on your progress before being asked. Also, let him know what you are working on and the status of your different projects. The trick here is to show that you are proactive and organised, so there is no need for him to worry.

Relate to these career stresses? Click here to visit our guide on how career issues affect mental health. 

The “People-Pleaser” Boss

At first glance, this might look like a boss that is a pleasure to work with but the truth is, no one likes a leader who is a yes-man — someone who can’t say “no” when it’s needed because she wants to be liked by everyone, and who avoids difficult issues, and tough conversations.

The end result is often overcommitting to projects with extremely tight deadlines as well as the inability to hold team members accountable for goals set.

This might lead to conflicts within the team.

The reality is that staff value and respects a true leader who is able to provide the resources, tools, and direction that help them get ahead in projects, and who helps in achieving career success.


Try arranging weekly meet-ups with your department and your boss to help her better understand the activities and work your department is engaged in.

This way, you can highlight the team’s resources so your boss does not overcommit to clients and/or her superiors.

Together with your boss, decide which projects are urgent and have priority.

Feedback and concerns can also be brought up as a team which might help your boss realise the issues on hand while showing her that you are all willing to help her address these challenges together.  

The Absent Boss

Sometimes, you may end up working for someone who seems to have checked out physically. They might either always be out of the office or if they are in, are constantly in meetings.

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This type of boss often relies on subordinates to find out what is actually going on in the office. Such bosses tend to leave their employees feeling confused, frustrated, and directionless.


  • Be proactive and communicate with your missing-in-action boss via email, phone, or even Skype (if he’s overseas).
  • Take the initiative to regularly check in with your boss on your projects, progress, and any key points that are critical to your job.
  • Ask your boss if there is anything you or the team can help him with — he might actually be involved in a project that commands all of his attention. Offering assistance may show your boss that you are a willing and able team member.

The Bully

Unfortunately, there are managers who bully and make unreasonable demands on their subordinates.

This includes bosses who shout at or speak condescendingly to staff, expect workers to work long hours regularly without any compensation, set unattainable sales targets, or repeatedly deny requests for annual leave. 


  • Learn to assert yourself in a calm manner. Trying to discuss things with your boss may help — maybe your boss does not realise she is being unreasonable because everybody else normally just gives in to her demands. Don’t make sweeping statements and use “I” rather than “you” so she doesn’t feel attacked. For example — “I have four ongoing projects at the moment and don’t have the capacity to take on a fifth.”
  • If your immediate boss does not listen to your concerns after repeated attempts, consider escalating the matter to another superior or your HR department. 
  • Form a strong social network at work — having emotional support from colleagues can help you get through unpleasant situations at work. They also may be able to provide insights on how to deal with the unpleasant situation such as advising you to be on time, if lateness triggers your boss’s irritation.
  • Know your rights — just as a company has expectations of you as an employee, you have employee rights too.



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