How to handle a nightmare boss

Caroline Cassidy

In an ideal world we'd all like to think we could work for a company where hard work and talent is valued. But as many will know, that isn't always the case.

how to handle a nightmare boss
how to handle a nightmare boss

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Bullying bosses and abusive managers are not uncommon and with so much pressure to hold down a job, not to mention employment law reforms that will allow employers to pay off under-performing staff, dealing with a difficult superior can be stressful at best.

If you are at a loss as to how to handle your nightmare boss, here are a few tips to help you stay sane without jeopardising your job.

Take note
'He said, she said' is a dangerous game to play in the workplace. No matter how consistent, reliable and efficient you may be, a bad boss will often blame staff when a problem occurs.

That's why documenting everything is a must-do for anyone with a nightmare boss. Keep a record of co-worker or client compliments, accomplishments, how you resolved issues under difficult situations etc, complete with dates. Faced with indisputable evidence it will be almost impossible for your boss to blame you for something that is not your fault.

Similarly, keep emails from and to your boss, particularly those detailing requests, deadlines, your job description and requirements. With any luck, such documentation could help to resolve any issues that may arise - if not, it could serve as valuable evidence should the worst happen.

Be detailed
The annual review provides ample opportunity for your boss to put pressure on you to do things quicker, better, even more of it. But if you are a hard-working, conscientious employee, there's a simple way to prove it... and it's in the details.

For example, don't simply point out that you did things quickly, give details of the time it took you. Confronted with hard evidence as to your suitability and ability to do the job, it will be tough for any boss to give you your marching orders.

Be professional
If you have been unfairly abused or accused in the workplace, you'll know staying calm is one of the toughest things to do. However, if you respond in kind to your boss's bad behaviour you will only make the situation worse.

Maintaining a professional persona may help to diffuse the tension, and will make it harder for an employer to hand you your P45.

While you don't need to be a doormat, the best way to react to a boss who's freaking out is to calmly ask what is wrong and how you can best work together to fix it.

Choose words wisely
We've all had the odd moan to our fellow employees but it pays to be careful who you talk to about your boss. Bump into your boss's boss, for example, and you may be advised to focus on the positives rather than the negatives as criticism of your own boss could be taken as criticism of more senior management, potentially making the situation worse.

The same goes for potential new employers should you decide to move on. Why you left your previous employment is a common interview question - avoid slating your old boss, rather point out that you disagreed on the most efficient way to get things done. If the interviewer gets even a glimpse of drama queen, they're unlikely to offer you the job.

Know when to draw the line
Consistent, regular abuse, either verbal or physical, being unfairly overloaded with work, threatened with the sack or unfairly denied promotion or training opportunities implies your boss is not just a nightmare but a full-blown bully. Such treatment doesn't just affect your work performance but can cause serious health problems like stress and depression.

While the ideal is to talk to your boss about the situation or combat his behaviour with the aforementioned techniques, there is, of course, a limit to what you should put up with.

If you have no joy discussing serious issues with your immediate boss, try talking to someone in human resources or an employee representative, such as a trade union official, about the problem. Should your grievance remain unresolved, making a formal complaint might be the only option. Visit for more information on dealing with workplace bullying if you are unsure how to proceed.

What are your top tips for dealing with a nightmare boss? Leave your comments below...