The 'problem' boss

Most employees spend more than 8 hours per day at work. They work with people they did not choose to have in their lives and every workplace is riddled with challenges and problems that need to be solved.

Where there are people there will be interpersonal dynamics. These dynamics may be good, bad or toxic. Many employees are blind to their contribution to stress, disharmony and negative environment at work. This statement includes the boss. The boss, or rather manager, might be unaware of his/her influence on you and your experience of the workplace.

You're exhausted. You're irritated. You're hopeless. You're discouraged.

Your interaction with your boss leaves you frustrated. Your belief that your boss is a bully, intrusive, controlling, picky or petty. You are desperately wondering how you can professionally deal with a “bad boss”.

Let’s look at the problem from a few different angles. In the first places, it helps to get the terminology right by not referring to the manager or senior as a boss. Secondly, your manager is an employee, just like you. Use the correct job title, because then your perspective will change to the fact that this person has a different function than you. Thirdly, never call a person a problem, because that gives them the excuse to misbehave and treat others poorly.

There is a lot that you can do at work to manage yourself and to be accountable to the manager and your company.

Tips for managing yourself:

  • Do your work and adhere to your job description.
  • Be on time and prepared for work and meetings.
  • Communicate professionally at all times
  • Keep your reports up to date.
  • Stop gossiping. Your manager does not want to be blindsided. You don’t want your manager to learn about something you are doing — or didn't get done — from another manager or department.
  • Practice a strong work ethic.
  • Volunteer to help with any emerging crises to relieve some of the pressure on the manager. Your loyalty will help to build a stronger bond with your manager. The manager has multiple responsibilities and concerns that you are not aware of.
  • Take responsibility for your wellbeing. Seek a mentor from among other managers or more skilled peers, with the full knowledge and cooperation of your current manager, to enlarge your opportunity for experience. 

When your manager’s behaviour is a problem

Problematic behaviour and attitudes include the following:

  • The manager is never, ever wrong
  • An out-of-control manager who throws tantrums
  • Mood swings or passive-aggressive behaviour like ignoring some staff
  • Loves the limelight – all the time
  • Overpromising and not delivering
  • Quick to blame others for mistakes, but rarely express gratitude when you succeed
  • Use of sarcasm and insults or tease and flirt
  • The manager gossips and spread rumours about staff
  • Micromanaging or constantly changing their minds
  • Not honouring working hours and calling employees during off-hours
  • Playing favourites amongst staff
  • Unfair treatment, such as your work is never enough or projects are suddenly whisked away
  • Poor listening skills, especially not hearing other people’s perspective

A few tips to manage your situation

Don’t go to war publicly with your manager, but draw your manager's behaviour to the more senior staff member's attention as soon as you have the opportunity, privately.

If the behaviour does not change, appeal to the senior manager and the Human Resources staff. Describe exactly what your manager does and the impact the behaviour is having on you and your job performance.

Utilise the resources made available in your company like employee wellness programmes and other wellness initiatives.

Aquilla Wellness Solutions offers one-on-one training and coaching programs designed to intensely educate the people in your organisation who require concentrated coaching best delivered directly. For more information about one-on-one coaching and training sessions please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or Dr Barbara Louw on 0837001441.

The book Managing Trauma Relief by Dr Barbara Louw & Rev Wynand Louw, ISBN9781920527174, gives guidance on how to deal manage stress in the workplace and managing unwellness. All the above mentioned problematic behaviours are signs of unwellness in the workplace.

Dr Barbara Louw’s solutions-focused sessions are structured to address immediate issues that the employee is experiencing. Every session is delivered in an engaging format, leaving the participant with practical guidelines for behaviour altering directions and applicable tools for their work environment.

Also, read the article is about “The problem employee”.