Maxwell Stephens

Have you Got a Horrible Boss?

The title of this article is a nod to the 2011 comedy film ‘Horrible Bosses’ starring Jennifer Aniston and Colin Farrell. The plot is centred on three friends who conspire to kill their terrible bosses after they realise they are blocking their chances of happiness.


I suspect many of you reading this will have worked with a boss that you felt was unfair, rude, unrealistic, inappropriate, and so on. I of course presume that did not lead any of you to such drastic plans as murder. However I would guess it made you feel unhappy, consider leaving, or actually resigning. Unhappiness at work can not only ruin the time you are there, but also begin to seep into and damage your personal life. That is why it is so incredibly important that you have the tools and resources at your disposal to neutralise a horrible boss. These are our top tips.


Identify their emotions and motivations


When somebody is treating you badly it can be really difficult to find the motivation to understand their emotions. However the more you know about them, the better placed you will be to try and manage their issues. Remember as hard as it is to believe sometimes, your boss is human, with their own fears, concerns, and motivations.


Support their success


You are probably wondering why I would possibly suggest that you should support a bad boss, but the reality is that you have nothing to gain by making them look bad. Maintain your own professionalism at all times, support your boss within the organisation and give them no ammunition or excuse for their bad behaviour.


Understand their expectations


Ask your boss what they expect from you, what they want you to achieve, and how you can support them to achieve their own goals. This might already be formalised as part of a performance framework, but it would be helpful to also speak about this on a regular basis with your boss.


It is good to talk


If you have followed all of the tips in 1-3 and you are still having issues with your boss, then it is time to speak to them specifically on the issues you have faced with them. Have a think in advance what you could like to cover and practice that you are going to say a couple of times in your head. Try to avoid emotive language where possible, and try not to use attacking language. This will be difficult, which is why I suggested a couple of practices in your head or to somebody you know and trust (preferably not a work colleague).


Speak to HR


If you have followed all four tips above and you are still having issues, you should speak to your boss once again and try and resolve the matter. If you are still unhappy, you owe it to yourself and the organisation to speak to your boss’s boss or HR. I am of course presuming in this example that your boss has a boss, and that there is an HR department. You may not have this avenue open to you if you work in a very small organisation.


In Summary


There are going to be unfortunate circumstances where you find yourself trying to cope with a horrible boss. It would be tempting to bury your head in the sand, and continue until you can’t handle it anymore, and then leave. However the more productive and professional approach would be to follow our tips above to try and resolve the situation. 


Whether you’re looking to find a new job or looking for some advice on your career, call Maxwell Stephens today on 0207 118 48 48 or email


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