The typical scenario:

  • Person gets a job
  • Person gets good at the job
  • Person gets promoted because they’re good at the job
  • Person manages people who need to learn and do the job the person is good at

This sequence of events is rational… until you get to #4.

Managing people requires specific skills, many of which may not be inherent to the job the new manager is so good at, or to their personality in general. I’m sure many of you have learned the hard way that “numbers” people are not “people” people, most of the time.

Many companies also require managers to hire and train new employees, demanding even more skills that the manager might not have. And most organizations do not have the time, commitment or expertise to develop their employees’ management skills.

Sometimes, we get lucky. Sometimes people learn management skills quickly on their own, or are just naturally good at it. And other times, we’re not so lucky, and we end up with woefully dysfunctional managers and superbly frustrated employees.

Well, my fellow worker bees, until these times no longer exist, until the Gods and Goddesses bless all of us with magical managers, until there are no TPS reports or misbehaving copy machines… there are ways of surviving and even thriving as an employee with a terrible boss.




Your boss is a micromanaging control freak, righteous and resistant to change. Oh, hallelujah!


First of all, we all have room to improve and are also doing the best we can. Be nice to yourself and care for that ego of yours, because you’re probably not getting much encouragement from your boss. Take a moment or two to look at yourself in the mirror, smile that winning smile, give yourself a wink, a thumbs up, and a pat on the back, old chap!

Second, acknowledge that your boss clearly has shortcomings. These traits are inherent to unhappy, fearful and insecure people. Perhaps you can even develop a sense of compassion for this sad boss of yours? Maybe someday? Baby steps.

To work for this personality type on a day-to-day basis, it is essential to create ways that you can feel empowered. Set goals for yourself, and meet them. Make new tools or systems for doing your job better. Document ALL of this. Congratulate yourself and give yourself rewards. Though this may feel weird in the way that sending flowers to yourself on Valentine’s Day can feel weird, it WILL make you feel better.

And, your boss’s boss or future boss may also appreciate that you’re being proactive and positive, hence the need to DOCUMENT any and all efforts and ideas even if your current boss ain’t listening. If a tree falls in the forest, and no one is around to hear it, does it still make a sound? Yes! BE the tree in the forest – fall hard and loud, and someone will hear it.



Your boss is indecisive and doesn’t seem to have clear goals or long-term vision.


This is the psychological makeup of a child… or the seriously Zen (life is truly full circle, eh?). It can be both beautiful in its Chopra-ness and commitment to the here-and-now, and disconcerting, from a business-world standpoint. If you are depending on this person to make tough decisions, creatively solve problems, and execute plans, you are probably well-acquainted with disappointment.

So let’s just put this out there: this person is NOT an ideal leader, and probably shouldn’t be put in this position. Whoever did so had poor judgment.



Feel a bit better?

Good. Now, step it up!


Do the things you think your boss should be doing. If you end up not being able to do them either, perhaps you should reassess your expectations of your boss. If you end up doing them and succeeding, maybe it’s time YOU became the boss. If you’d rather not do anything but complain about your boss, then you are no better than them. Sorry for the tough love, but hypocrisy is as detestable as terrible driving; get off the road, buddy.



Your boss is emotional, erratic, unpredictable and temperamental.


Didn’t you know your job responsibilities also included being a therapist and a parent to your boss?!

What you may have noticed as a theme is that bad managers actually require that you manage them! So, in the best of worlds, when you come out of this situation, you’ll already have mad skillz (yes, skillz, with a “z”) as a manager, just from managing your terrible boss. It is good to recognize the light at the end of the tunnel.

In the meantime, you’re dealing with a delightful potpourri of the worst of humanness. And don’t it smell nice? Your boss is imperfect, and is obviously suffering from stress, whether they acknowledge it or not. They then take their stress out on you. This is tough and stress can feel contagious. Ultimately, though, your boss’s stress is not like the office stomach flu that’s got everybody hunched over and green-faced – it is YOUR choice of how and if you take it on.

Breathe. Stay focused. Cultivate an inner calm that is SO pure and deep and powerful that you feel miles and miles away from your boss’s toxicity. Hear your boss’s words, but tune out the sentiment behind them. Take space when and where you can. Listen to music. Talk to other people. Seek relaxation techniques. Know that you are growing, like a single flower in a field of dust. Be strong and proud. If your boss doesn’t see this, somebody else does or will.

If you absolutely must engage with your boss’s emotions, be direct and caring about it, like you would be with a child. Or at least be nice if you can. Ask how they are, if they had a good weekend, tell them to get better soon when they’re sick (though there’s no quick and easy cure for being “sick in the head”), and congratulate them when there’s something to celebrate. Be the bigger and better person. It’s a pain in the arse, but somebody’s gotta do it.


Be your own boss, because ultimately, you are.