Dealing with Difficult Bosses

Dealing with Difficult Bosses audit career advice

Micromanager? Dictator? Bully? Favouritist? Incompetent? Bad bosses come in many forms and if you don’t address the issue, working for them could have a severe impact on both your job performance and mental wellbeing.

Whether it’s a boss with anger management issues who flies off the handle over bad grammar or a lazy boss who expects you to pick up all the slack; Simon Wright, Managing Director of provides some tactics that could help you successfully navigate their difficult behaviour and come out on top.

The Bully Boss

Remember there is a fine line between a tough management style and what you might label bullying. Understanding what drives them may give you some insight into how they lead. If your boss is liable to shout at you over punctuality or email typos, make a concerted effort to avoid those mistakes. Bullying in the workplace takes many forms so make sure you’re certain before you take action.

Your Strategy

The first thing you can do is refer to your company’s “Staff Handbook” and their policies on bullying to help inform you of your rights should you have to go down the route of making a formal complaint. Keep records of all instances of alleged bullying. Include times, dates, places and specific incidents. Keep it factual and as objective as possible but be honest about its impact on you.

Confide in a trusted friend or family member. Having another perspective can be hugely helpful in understanding the dynamic between you and your boss and how to deal with it. However, don’t be careful not to “badmouth” your boss to a colleague – keep things professional. Or if you feel comfortable doing so, arrange a time to talk to your boss so you can discuss how their management approach is making you feel. Don’t be confrontational and definitely don’t accuse them of “bullying”.

The Incompetent Boss

Late to meetings, disorganised, returning documents riddled with mistakes? Having an incompetent boss can be frustrating but instead of focusing on their shortcomings, allow that to highlight your strengths.

Your Strategy

If your boss is perpetually late be on hand to cover for them, if they have poor organisation skills do what you can to help them stay on top of things, if they’re prone to forgetting things note down important interactions down to refer back to later, if they take forever to respond, get on with other work instead of waiting around and falling behind. The most important thing is not to allow their weaknesses to affect your performance. It may be tempting to retaliate with excessively long lunches or minimal effort or lack of interest but that will only discredit you. Instead, let yourself shine by being the indispensable employee they can’t live without. That service and dedication won’t go unnoticed and it may even open other doors for your career. 

The Micromanaging Boss

With remote working a common reality of modern day business, bosses may be wont to become more controlling than ever. You know you’re getting the job done but their constant interference is starting to wear thin.

Your Strategy

A simple approach to counteracting their overbearing management style is to take the initiative and keep them informed of everything you’re working on. Give them a daily rundown of your projects and tasks at the start of the work day, be quick to respond to their emails, try to anticipate their demands and get them done ahead of schedule. The idea is to stay one step ahead so that even though you’re not in the office, your boss can trust that the work is getting done in a timely and professional manner. Set boundaries from the outset, particularly in the instance of remote working, that way you’re both clear on how your working relationship should operate.

Bosses Behaving Badly

When it comes to dealing with difficult bosses, the key is to remain professional and think before you act. In some cases your boss may not even be aware of his or her behaviour so never assume anything. Learn from your experience and more importantly put a plan in place to avoid future bad bosses. Research the company you’re interviewing with. Maybe approach a current employee and invite them for coffee to get a sense of the company culture and use the opportunity to subtly learn as much as possible about your potential boss.

Whichever kind of boss you’re dealing with, don’t let their position of power make you feel you cannot change or address the situation to improve working relations.  Like anything else use it as a learning curve and let it shape your professional development in a positive way.


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