Skip to content
January 19, 2012 / mike54martin

Dealing with a Difficult Boss

Almost all of us have had to deal with a difficult boss or supervisor at one time or another in our career. Most of us have fortunately survived to talk, and sometimes laugh about it, but if you are in the middle of a difficult boss situation then it’s probably not very humourous right now.

If you are in that situation then it’s important to remember a couple of things. First of all you always have choices, even in difficult situations. Secondly, you don’t have to deal with a difficult employer completely on your own. Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, you don’t have to tolerate abuse; physical, mental, or emotional abuse. Ever.

You may think that you have no choice but to accept difficult behaviour from your supervisor but in my experience that would apply to less than ten percent of all the situations that I have observed. And those would be cases where a person may be working in an isolated location or on a contractual basis and in both cases it would be impractical if not impossible to break the arrangement. In almost every other example I can think of, there is always at least one choice and that is to leave. That may be a last option for many different reasons but it is and will always be an option if the situation is intolerable.

There are also almost always other resources for an individual to tap into at or around the workplace. These include your co-workers, human resource professionals or employee assistance, union or association representatives. Outside of the workplace are friends and families and tons of community and professional resources that you can access for help and support. It has been my experience that once somebody reaches out or asks for help, that help is usually on its way.

Finally, a few words on abuse and bullying, the scourge of the modern workplace. When that abuse or bullying comes from an immediate supervisor or boss it is often difficult for an employee to know how to handle it. Often there is an initial period of shock until they understand exactly what is happening. Books and more books have been written on how to deal with bullies and abuse but the simplest and most effective advice I have ever heard is to tell them to stop and if they don’t then report them. You don’t ever have to put up with it. Ever.

This post first appeared on my blog at


Leave a Comment
  1. Lanre / Jan 19 2012 10:08 am

    I completely agree with you Mike. Tolerating difficult people would only make us unhappy. For some people who largely depend on that job for a living, leaving would be really hard, but as you said, it’s an option.
    In the work place, I think difficult bosses don’t give every employee difficult times. They have those employees which they prefer to others. Searching for the reason why this happens and becoming a preferred employee might also help.

    • mike54martin / Jan 19 2012 2:39 pm

      Thanks for the comment and I agree with you too!!

  2. John / Jan 19 2012 5:28 pm

    Thanks Mike that is very helpful information. It’s sometimes shocking and difficult to know who to turn to. Some people are able to talk to their friends and family but others keep things to themselves until they can figure it out. Either way it’s pretty stressful.

    • mike54martin / Jan 19 2012 7:22 pm

      Thanks John. I agree. It’s pretty stressful!!

  3. Kitty kilian / Jan 20 2012 7:24 am

    Hey Mike, have you advised people in such situations? Tell us about it! Put some people in there and the story will come alive (more fun to write, too).

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: