Fix My Job: Bad Boss

Ever been on the wrong end of a red-faced boss screaming at you with rage? If so, you know that words – and words alone – can be very harmful. 

If you’ve been the victim of this kind of behavior, you’re not alone. A recent Gallup survey  found more than one in 10 U.S. workers – more than 15 million people – “totally dissatisfied” with their boss or immediate supervisor. Bad bosses, in fact, are one of the main reasons people quit their jobs.

Is your boss toxic? If he or she is screaming at you, criticizing you harshly in front of others, or frequently crossing the line between the personal and the professional, the answer is probably yes. And if you feel crummy after talking to your boss – especially if there are physical symptoms like stomachaches or headaches – then you definitely have a boss who’s bad for you.

How to handle an abusive boss

  1. Talk to him or her: Your boss may not be aware of how his or her behavior is affecting you and others. A professional, nonconfrontational conversation might help – especially if you point out how his or her behavior is not helping the goals of your organization.
  2. Talk to his or her boss: If talking to your boss directly doesn’t work, you might approach his or her boss and let that person know about the problems you and your co-worker are having with a particular boss or supervisor. Discretion is required; if your boss’s boss doesn’t do anything, but your boss finds out you went over his or her head, the bullying could get worse.
  3. Consult an attorney or government agency: Unfortunately, there’s no law against being a jerk.  A manager who screams at his or her subordinates may be an ineffective leader, but he or she may not be breaking the law. Your employer, however, does have a responsibility to provide a safe and healthy working environment. In certain severe situations, bullying may create unsafe conditions and lead to action by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) or a state-level health and safety agency.Also, it’s illegal to single out employees for abuse because of their gender, race, religion, disability, or status as a veteran.
  4. Talk to your co-workers: Are other people at work having this problem? All the solutions above are stronger if you’re acting together. Your boss – and your boss’s boss – are more likely to respond quickly to multiple complaints than an individual grievance. To build a case, an attorney or government agency will want as much evidence as possible. It can make a big difference if you can add to your own complaint with stories from others in your workplace.

Useful Links

Article: “Workers’ Rights in the Workplace Regarding Verbal Abuse” by Dana Sparks, Demand Media Written to help protect employers against abuse claims; includes helpful info on workers’ rights

AgencyU.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, field offices:

Agency: U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration, regional and area offices

If you think your workplace is unsafe because of bullying or you have been unfairly targeted for abuse, you can:



<< Back to Bad Boss