Coburg Banks | Multi-sector UK recruitment agency

How to Cope With an Awful Boss

By Charles Trivett | Aug 2, 2016 | Candidate Tips

devil boss sneaking up on employee typingAwful bosses come in all shapes and sizes…

Some are miserable and rude, some like to moan, mither and micromanage whilst others quite literally have no idea what’s going on in the office.

And then of course, there are the bullies. (The worst of the worst).

Well, you don’t have to put up with any of it! Make a change and take action today.

Here’s how…

Be understanding.

Before completely writing off your boss, you should take some time to consider why you think they’re “awful” in the first place.

Having a little bit of empathy could help you to understand their behaviour.

Is the company going through a really stressful time? Is your boss stuck with a bunch of lazy and annoying staff? Do they even know that their actions are upsetting you or other employees?

Stepping into their shoes and having a real think could change your mind about them entirely – and reveal ways in which you can adapt to better support them…


If you establish the reason for their “awful” behaviour, try to find ways to support them which actually prevent that behaviour.

For example:

  • If they’re a micro-manager, keep them updated with everything you’re doing, any progress you’ve made and what you plan to do in the future. They’ll soon learn to trust you.
  • If they lose their temper easily, try to find out what their triggers are and stop them from occurring in the first place.

Being able to adapt, learn and prevent problems before they even occur is what makes the difference between a good employee and a superstar.

An important exception to this point is when you find yourself working for a bully. You should never, ever let people at work make you feel intimidated, scared and/or discriminated against.

That’s NEVER right.

Don’t act rashly.

If you come to the conclusion that your boss is just a bad boss and no amount of adaptation on your behalf will change that, then take some time to consider your next move.

Confronting your boss argumentatively and/or emotionally will rarely end well; you need to think through all of your options and if you do decide to approach them, have a game plan ready…

Have a chat.

This will not be the right thing to do with every boss; some people just don’t like being criticised.

But if you do think that your boss would welcome an open discussion and think they’d value your input, it could be worth calling a meeting with them.

As I mentioned above, you’ll need to plan exactly what you’re going to say and you should never attack or accuse your boss outright.

Be sensitive, be calm and don’t get emotional.  Click here for some tips on this.

Report them.

This should be a last resort as it’ll pretty much burn your bridges with your boss.

Whistleblowing can be a distressing and often traumatic process and unfortunately, it can be you, the accuser, who ends up coming across like the ‘tell-tale’ or ‘trouble-maker.’

It’s not right, but it happens and you should know that, so you can protect yourself.

Write everything down.

This may feel a little bit weird, but it’s very important to keep notes on any inappropriate things that your boss does – especially if they’re a bully.

Document all of the facts, how events have affected you and the team and make a note of any witnesses. You never know when you might these in the future.

Don’t just moan.

I know; we all need to moan and groan about work sometimes.

But don’t become that person who spends all day, every day bitching about the boss, without taking any real action.

Your negativity will bring down the rest of your team and you also run the risk of losing your job because someone tells tales on you.

Be the better person and either attempt to work with them, change things or leave…


If nothing changes and you aren’t enjoying your job (especially if you have a bully boss) then you should seriously consider leaving.

Life’s just too short to hate your job.

Learn from the experience.

Don’t be too quick to take any old job – you don’t want to jump straight out of the frying pan into the fire – ending up with another bad boss.

Obviously it’s difficult to tell straight away – but during communication and interviews, look out for the “awful boss” warning signs like:

  • A bad attitude.
  • Excessive nervousness.
  • Scare tactics.
  • Sneaky body language.
  • Over-friendliness.

Click here for more tips on how to spot a bad boss from the interview.


There are ways and means of tackling a bad boss, but ultimately you need to decide – is it worth it?

Can you actually cope? Or would you be better off, somewhere else?

Recruiter Pro Tip

It will be a fabulous feeling when you do finally hand your notice in – but try not to leave things on bad terms (IE. don’t do something ridiculous and silly like this lot).

You never know when you’re going to need something off your bad boss (like a reference).

Click here for some of our top tips on how to hand your notice in, professionally.

If you’d like more top advice on job-seeking, interviews and general career advice, then click here to subscribe to our weekly blog post.

Good luck.

- Charles Trivett
Charles - blog author

Charles Trivett

Charles heads up Coburg Banks’ IT Division, and has worked in recruitment for nearly 20 years.  His knowledge of how to optimise and get the most from a recruitment campaign is second to none, and he now works with a select handful of clients in maximising their recruitment ROI.

> More blog posts by Charles Trivett

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