Tuesday, October 17th, 2017

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The. Worst. Boss. Ever. Dealing with Bad Bosses in a Bad Economy

If you report to a miserable, soul-sucking boss at work, chances are, in this economy, you’re going to have to suck it up.

Hundreds of thousands of employees are being laid off every month and jobs are scarce. And for years, companies have been cutting back on training managers properly in the first place. Many are completely unequipped and untrained on h1ow to manage their employees effectively. But, there are ways to deal with even the nuttiest nutjobs sitting in the corner office. We talked to Randall S. Hansen, founder of quintcareers.com, a career development Web site, and Harvey Hornstein, who has written "Brutal Bosses and Their Prey," about the best strategies for handling the worst managers.

You know that freshly minted MBA graduate who has never spent a day in the real world? Well, now he’s going to overhaul your department, make you all apply for your jobs again and solve all the company’s inefficiencies.

Yeah, right.

This type of boss usually knows the employees know more than he does, so avoid showing off your knowledge, which will only feed the boss’s insecurities, Hansen said.

"Never say, ‘This is how it’s always been done,’" he said. Never challenge his ideas in front of others. Instead, meet with the boss privately about assignments and ask to brainstorm about various ways to approach the task. (Especially if you know his way is going to crash and burn.) Go into the meeting with a few alternatives and let the boss feel like he is helping you find the best solution.

"You have to behave in a way that helps them maintain authority," Hornstein said.

The boss who screams, puts you down, goes ballistic, crushes your ego and leaves you damaged.
Unfortunately, there are not a lot of strategies that work to reform this sort of nastiness.

Hornstein says there can be two different motivations driving this predatory boss. One type simply enjoys making others feel small, so he can feel bigger. That can be a psychopathology, of sorts, he said. He suggests learning the "predator’s" patterns and avoiding him during those trigger moments.

Hansen added if the Toxic boss is behaving especially hateful toward you, it may be worthwhile to re-evaluate your own behavior or ask an independent third party if you are inadvertently doing something to set this maniac off.

A different type of motivation may stem from the boss’s own anxiety. His explosions are a way to cover up that emotion. In this case, helping ease the boss’s concerns can ease his outbursts and abuse, Hornstein said.

In either case, keep a journal, with specific dates and details that document your boss’s bad behavior. Do NOT keep this record on your work computer. The documentation will help if you end up reporting the manager to a superior or to the human resources department.

Try to develop a mentor relationship with someone higher up in your organization, so you can go to him or her and seek advice.

Hansen recalls his Jekyll and Hyde faculty adviser when he was an undergraduate. "I would go in one day, and I’d be God’s gift to the major. The next day, the adviser was threatening to fail me … I never did discover if it was a mental imbalance or drug use," he said.

On a good day, this boss is loving you, lavishing praise on your outstanding work. The next day (or maybe even the next hour), the same boss is trashing you to every other manager or hating the same idea she loved the day before.

"Either they don’t remember the original directive or they’ve changed their mind about it," Hansen said.
The silver lining, as Hornstein points out, is this boss has the capacity to behave well.

"It’s in there somewhere…appeal to the good guy," he said. Offer good-faith responses to specific criticisms.

Hansen suggests keeping a paper trail of the positive feedback and getting your accomplishments periodically "on the record." Consider sending a weekly (or bi-monthly) status report memo about what you have accomplished in the past week or on the current project.

"Typically, the boss will respond with something," Hansen said. Save it. You can use this paper trail in your performance reviews, because you can’t be sure which of the boss’s personalities will show up to work that day.



A professional woman in public relations told her boss when she was offered a better job, which she intended to accept. Her boss convinced her turn down the offer and stay. The next day, he fired her. The other job: Gone.

This is the boss who will never confront you directly. He will complain to someone else or punish you with more work or bad assignments or make jokes at your expense.

The passive-aggressive handles hostility or anger in an underhanded or devious way that is hard for others to prove. Hornstein says this type of boss is very difficult to deal with because his behavior is subversive. It is important in these cases to have a mentor or another advocate in the company to speak up for you in management circles.

Hansen suggests trying to talk to this boss outside of work, by requesting a breakfast or lunch meeting. Do not get in a power struggle or let him see he or she is getting under your skin. In a non-confrontational way, put the onus on yourself. Tell the boss you work better or more efficiently with a certain type of direction and/or feedback. Offer suggestions and ask your boss for ways to improve the communication between the two of you.

You spend countless hours working on a project for your company. You pour your own unpaid time into it. And, when it’s time to present the idea, launch the innovation or tell the success story, guess who takes the credit for your idea and your work? You guessed it: The Glory Hog, the boss who is just as quick to steal the credit as she is to blame her employees when something goes wrong.

She’ll sell you up the river to save her own skin, and her directives change with the direction of the political wind. She plays favorites with employees and takes part in the office gossip.

"This is the second worst type of boss to have, after the toxic boss," Hansen said. They know what they are doing. This boss is likely to praise you privately or want to give you a raise, but will never promote you.

Document your accomplishments and bring them with you to performance reviews. Try to steer clear of the gossip and politics yourself. Stick to protocol.

It’s especially important to find and develop a relationship with a mentor, apply for internal job postings or transfers and look for ways to get yourself promoted.

Hansen worked for a senior level executive once who would walk the hallways at 4:45 p.m. every day to make sure Hansen’s employees didn’t leave a minute early. This is the micromanager; the one who has your home phone and cell phone on speed dial; the one who checks in several times a day and would read memos over your shoulder, if she could.

This is typically the boss with too much time on her hands, who has trust issues and trouble delegating.
In this case, it can be helpful to set boundaries, time frames and checkpoints at the start of a project.

Consider offering to send an afternoon "status update" e-mail every day. In a private, non-confrontational meeting, suggest you may be more productive and efficient with more structured checkpoints and fewer spontaneous interruptions. Try to find some mutual ground and establish some boundaries.

"You’re never totally going to get out of that loop," Hansen said. "But you may be able to cut it in half."


You’ve got a stack of paperwork on your desk, and your boss adds three more things he needs done immediately on your pile. Your job description has grown to include your duties and the duties of two other people in the department who were laid off months ago.

"Sadly, this is the fastest growing type of boss with so many cutbacks and so few employees to do the work," Hansen said.

It can be helpful if you take stock of your duties and create a log of the amount of time devoted to each task. When you are assigned a large project with an unrealistic time frame, break it down into its components and assign a time allotment to each piece. Don’t refuse an additional assignment, but ask your boss to help you prioritize your tasks. Certain tasks may not be as important anymore and others may have to be delegated elsewhere to create a manageable workload. Talk to your boss in the spirit of sharing information and trying to find a solution, instead of simply complaining about your workload.
(c) 2009, St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
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7 Responses to The. Worst. Boss. Ever. Dealing with Bad Bosses in a Bad Economy

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  4. M says:

    In 2003, I worked as a case assistant for a Law Firm. It was at this law firm that I learned the definition of an evil boss. His name is Mark G, Sr. Paralegal, a short bald little twerp who ran through case assistants like toilet paper, carefully wiping his ass with each and everyone one of them. He had this inferiority complex which stemmed from working with attorneys (he did not even graduate from college) therefore he was extraordinarily cruel to anyone who reported to him in order to make himself feel better. There was one incident that stuck with me and will always remind me of why I hate this person.
    The twerp (Mark) had me send out email regarding the crap case he was working on (treated me like a gloried secretary) and I happened to miss a coma and a space in the paragraph. He yelled at me as if I had destroyed all his work and his good name. A coma and a space, is this really a reason to treat your employee so poorly? Another incident involved him yelling at me at the top of his lungs after I asked him a very simple and valid question. I’ll be the first to admit that I was not a stellar assistant as I had no legal experience. However, I would had more respect for the SOB if he had just politely fired me for not being the right fit. I personally have never been fired, but Mark G would have done me a favor by doing so.
    When I resigned from the position in early 2004, the office manager, Mary, had asked me why I was resigning. I took the high road and stated that law school was no longer in my future plans and that Mark had nothing to with my resignation. This was a complete lie. I hated this guy so much, that I could not bring myself to be around him, let alone report to him.
    Mark if you read this, please take it as a free pass to suck it!

  5. Maricel says:

    I am working as an auditor for a boss who has difficulty in building people relations and in representing the truth. It is hard to believe that someone in her position is in a level of trust. Specifically, when I first began working for her, I detected a problem in her interactions among my colleagues as I sensed a whispered tone among them about her. It was about a month later she approached me and mentioned her dismay about a colleague and felt the need to fire him. I felt this as unprofessional and further suggested to her that the colleague she wanted to fire had aided me in onboarding and taken on several tasks for her at once. She then told me that she could not trust in his ability to complete his work timely and that he did not listen to her needs. Going forward about 4 months, she moved her gaze onward to another colleague and threatened my colleague under similar pretenses. This colleague left the department soon after. Then, my manager’s gaze has been fixated on me. Her tone has changed in the course of 6 months towards me– I went from her go-to guy who always met deadlines to a guy who can never meet deadlines. I am spending extended hours working day and night and several weekends. It has come to a point where she does not even work a full day at work anymore. Other managers are asking me about her absence and inquiring about several projects I have submitted to her last year for completion. I have learned that they have been told by her that those projects are still with me even though I have handed them off to her months ago on time!!! She is also notorious for arriving late or missing most of her meetings. Yet, when I was late to a last minute meeting she scheduled at 11PM for early next morning, she told my colleagues I was disrespectful for arriving 4 minutes late. One of many stories about her dishonesty, two weeks ago, we were to receive a report to finalize from her. She mentioned that she made notes to the report and we were to complete the work by Wednesday last week. I received the report on Friday with a note to finish it by end of day. She noted in the Friday email that she made no notes to the report, but to do as discussed. Not only did she misrepresent the truth, but I had no idea what her expectation was because she had left the office!!

  6. CiCi Bloom says:

    CommentThe worst boss I ever had was a Vice President (Corporate University) at Global Multi-Brand Commericial Manufacturing Company located in Davidson, North Carolina. It was very apparent that she was insecure and only favored people who could stomach telling her how wonderful she was on a consistent basis. In 7 years, she eliminated over 65% of her entire staff for the most selfish reasons, costing the company over 1 million in relocation, severance pay, loss of productivity, and recruitment costs. The ironic part of this story, is the department was based on providing techniques and skills to the top leaders of the company on how to develop their employees for retention purposes. She grossed over 1 million dollars in bonuses in 2009, but her entire job was conducted by her staff who was completely exhausted working grueling hours trying to prepare her for meetings, metrics, operations, etc since she knew absolutely nothing about her organization. She was quick throw her staff under the bus to save her own behind. The VP is unfortunately still there and continues to treat her staff in the most unrespectable way, by holding her hand in their face not allowing them to explain themselves when she made false acquisations or didn’t have the facts straight. She would also ralley other staff members against others out of enjoyment of seeing the frenzy to eliminate an employee. By far the worst, is when she would humilate her staff in front of others by saying “Repeat what I just said!” “Repeat it again…and now repeat it one more time so I know you got it through your head.” Out of my 18 year work history in Corporate America, this is the worst “MONSTER” I’ve ever encountered and I know for a fact that her management style was NOT part of the University Curriculum.

  7. TJ Simmers says:

    I found a great statement about today’s society and figured out….I worked for this guy!“Evil refers to incorporeal beings who exist on other planes. They vibrate at low frequencies, feed off of fear, and generally enjoy harassing other beings they encounter. These human beings have chosen to put their own selfish interests above those of others. They may be greedy, self-centered, mean, and spiteful. They do not vibrate even close to a love energy, and are doomed to remain in this low vibration state for eternity.”

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