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How to Deal with a Bad Boss: 10 Rules That Work Every Time

how to deal with a bad boss quote

Editor's Note:

You’ve reached a decision. It’s finally time to figure out how to deal with a bad boss.

Call it a battle of wills or a case of being at odds with your boss… whatever delicate turn of phrase you use, you’re in a real pickle.

Even if you aren’t currently embroiled in a conflict with the person who signs your paychecks, chances are there’s been at least one boss you could never see eye to eye with.

What if you could make mole hills out of mountains and actually transform your relationship with your supervisor for the better?

In this featured excerpt from Powerful Phrases for Dealing with Difficult People, author Renee Evenson lays down the basic rules for successfully confronting your boss even if they’re controlling, narcissistic, or incompetent.  

Read the rest of the blog post or shop the book in our store.


With 325 phrases and a 5-step conflict resolution process, this book empowers anyone to lead the way in creating a more harmonious workplace. Discover how to confront thirty common personality traits, behaviors, and workplace scenarios and grow your communication skills while you solve your most pressing issues at work: people problems.

When you’re able to successfully resolve problems with your boss, you’ll develop a stronger, more trusting, and supportive relationship with each other.

If you first view the situation from your boss’s perspective and understand his or her personality, you’ll have a better idea of how to deal with a bad boss.

Before learning how to handle the various personality types, here are some basic rules to remember when attempting to resolve a conflict between you and your boss:

10 Rules for Dealing with a Bad Boss

  1. Only approach your boss when you feel certain that you’ll be able to maintain your confidence and assertiveness throughout the conversation.

  2. When speaking to your boss, use positive and constructive language.

  3. Always remain calm, no matter how your boss speaks to you.

  4. Always treat your boss with respect.

  5. No matter what happens during the conversation, never insult your boss or other members of upper management.

  6. Clearly state the facts when telling your boss what’s bothering you and how it made you feel.

  7. Be prepared to share examples.

  8. Offer your compromise and focus on how you can work together to solve the problem.

  9. If you feel it’s impossible to have a productive conversation with your boss, speak to someone else who can provide guidance about how to deal with the problem.

  10. Don’t ever burn your bridges; you never know when you’ll have to cross one again.

Determine When and How to Deal with a Bad Boss

Confronting the problem head on is generally a good idea, especially if your conflict is with a boss rather than a coworker.

But Evenson says there are times when it could be in your best interest to learn how to put up with your boss’ quirks, idiosyncrasies, and personality traits.

Bear in mind that it may be in your best interest to rule on the side of caution and learn how to put up with your boss’s quirks, idiosyncrasies, and personality traits.

If you can ignore or work around your boss’s negative habits and keep your focus on doing a good job, you’ll have an advantage in being able to maintain a calm, confident demeanor. But if something bothers you to the point that it affects your work or your attitude, then it’s time to speak up.

a female boss who is skeptical of the report her employee is sharing with her

How to Deal with a Controlling Boss

Controlling bosses come across as authoritative: it’s their way or the highway. They feel they have the right to dictate and would never think of asking an employee for input.

Do your best to ignore the controlling behaviors and focus on doing the best job you can.

Apply the following principles when dealing with a controlling boss:

  • If your boss continually displays a behavior that affects your ability to complete your work or is giving you a negative attitude, then talk to him or her.
  • Speak respectfully when you define the problem.
  • Explain specifically the problem you’re having. Take responsibility that you’re the one with the problem, not the boss.
  • Then offer a compromise for how you’d like the situation to be handled going forward.
  • Gain the boss’s agreement and offer phrases of resolution and reconciliation.
  • Then go back to doing the best job you can.


How to Deal with a Narcissistic Boss 

If you work for a boss with a huge ego, it’s going to be difficult to ignore the bad behavior. If, however, you can learn to do that, it’ll make your life at work much more enjoyable. Learn to play the game by staying on top of yours.

Apply the following principles when dealing with a narcissistic boss:

  • Try to ignore the narcissism and concentrate on doing your best.
  • Showcase your achievements whenever there’s an opportunity. Send an email, speak up during a meeting, or meet with your boss to discuss your accomplishments.
  • If you do decide to speak up, stroking your boss’s ego a little may increase receptivity to the rest of the conversation.
  • Make sure you clearly describe the behavior and how you felt.

How to Deal with an Incompetent Boss

When you work for an incompetent boss, learning how to adapt will make you more skilled and proficient. If your boss isn’t able to give you direction, you’ll become more self-reliant. If your boss makes poor decisions, you’ll become more confident initiating your own outcomes. In other words, your boss’s lack of abilities could be a blessing in disguise.

Apply the following principles when dealing with an incompetent boss:

  • Whether it’s a new hire or a seasoned veteran who’s just plain incapable of performing well, try to adapt to the situation by doing the best job you can.
  • Learn to look at the bright side of working for someone who’s incompetent: you’ll become more independent and self-reliant.
  • No matter how you feel about your incompetent boss, never complain about the situation.
  • Look for teaching opportunities that will help your boss.

Want to read more? Get the book!

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Renee Evenson

RENEE EVENSON is a small-business consultant specializing in workplace communication and conflict resolution strategies. She is the author of several books, including Powerful Phrases for Effective Customer Service and Customer Service Training 101.

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