Brilliant tips for "managing up" to a bad boss

By Amber Pizano | Apr 20, 2021
Career | ACHNET

Do you have an abusive boss that mistreats you for their benefit? Do they steal the credit, overwork you, keep you out of the loop, or publicly shame you? Does your boss ignore or actively suppress your new ideas? Do they fall apart when things don't go well or throw you under the bus? If you answered yes to any of those questions, I'm sorry to tell you, but you have a terrible boss. A toxic boss. An abusive boss.

How do I handle a bad boss, you ask? Let me tell you!

Bad bosses don't care about their employees. To them, people are just numbers. In their world, there's no such thing as employee recognition or appreciation. Their work domain revolves around them alone. This negative behavior is not only infuriating, but it can also stunt your professional growth. Your boss's negative behavior is more likely about their professional insecurity than anything about you.

Unfortunately, it's counterproductive to push back — passively or aggressively. Your first step in combatting a lousy boss is to try to understand what is causing their behavior. Perhaps they feel a need to be in charge, feel inadequate, or are obsessed with control. Invest some time asking questions and genuinely listening to their thoughts, experiences, feelings inside and outside of work; you'll discover who they are. Know what motivates and worries your boss and try to assuage their concerns.

Make a conscious and honest effort to earn your manager's trust and respect by succeeding in the dimensions they care about most. That means you must deliver on your work projects and deliver in a way that doesn't increase your boss's stress. Ask how you can help and provide regular and detailed updates, so your boss is apprised of your progress. Over-deliver, go above and beyond, and stay above reproach.

While it's easy to get discouraged and catch their negative mood—resist! You control your emotions--that's called emotional intelligence, and I promise you that you have it. You wouldn't be reading this if you didn't. Keep your chin up, nose to the grindstone, and you'll find their reigns will loosen sooner than later.

Make a name for yourself

Another tactic to combat an abusive boss is to join cross-functional teams and take on projects outside of your day job. Network with people across the organization so that your work is broadly recognized and can't be overlooked. If your co-workers are talking about you and their favorable experiences with you at work– their word-of-mouth is more powerful than your 'abusive' boss. The more people know about you