Working With Horrible Bosses

Originally published October 3, 2017 by The Montrose Daily Press

We’ve all had them.

A boss who makes 40 hours of our week a living hell. The micromanagers, the egomaniacs, and the altogether terrible leaders. The ones who leave us wondering, who hired them in the first place?

Most workplaces aren’t democracies and we unfortunately don’t choose or impeach our own leaders. When we find ourselves in a situation with a particularly bad boss, we typically cruise the want ads for a new job while simultaneously wishing our boss would do the same. This cycle further proves the point that people do not leave a job or a company, they usually leave a manager.

Perhaps there’s another way …

How to enjoy a 40 hour work week with a horrible boss (and prevent a drinking problem):

1. Find every possible way to make your boss look good.

Anticipate her needs, solve problems ahead of time, and take the initiative to make her look good to her superiors or customers. Human nature might have us doing the opposite, but if you suddenly and altruistically become your boss’ right arm, she will inevitably appreciate it.

Not to mention, as employees, we have the responsibility to work as hard as we can and bring our best talents to the organization and the people it serves. Regardless of the dragon in the corner office. Make them look good. It will pay off.

2. If you’re a middle manager, be the buffer.

Protecting your team from the behaviors and repercussions of your horrible boss is your job. This is often one of the most painful and difficult positions in an organization. Without badmouthing your superior, you must make him look good to your team. The only thing worse than one person being miserable under terrible leadership is six people being miserable. Rise above.

3. Talk.

Do not talk above or around your boss, but to her face. Unless you’ve honestly and boldly presented your issues to the boss and provided solutions on ways you can better work together, the problem is partly your responsibility.

The worst thing you can do (unless morality or ethics are an issue) is go over your boss’ head. That action is disloyal and cutthroat. You will lose all credibility with your leader, and possibly her leaders as well.

That being said, if you’ve had honest and open conversations with your boss and honestly tried resolving things, there may be a time and place for a conversation with a higher up.

If this does occur: Stick to the facts, not opinions. Do not expect a change. Personality differences and leadership style are unique to every individual and disciplining someone for “being a jerk” may sound good in theory, but isn’t practical.

4. Ever heard the saying, “Difficulty builds perseverance, and perseverance builds character?” Often we must endure a horrible boss for months or even years. Though it seems impossible and pointless at the time, this practice is building us into better employees and better leaders in the end. Many great leadership styles were formed under poor leadership.

When you look back two or three years from now, you will be grateful this person taught you exactly who you didn’t want to be.

5. In the absence of a good leader, find yourself a good mentor. Not someone you complain to, but someone who advises you in a positive direction.

Working under a horrible boss gives you an opportunity to lead “up the chain.” Utilize your mentor and other resources for developing your own leadership skills. There’s nothing that says leadership can’t be done from within and if you do so through humility and example, people throughout the organization will notice.

You may have seen the actual movie “Horrible Bosses” or “The Office” where Hollywood adds a bit of humor to the perils of life under an “interesting” leader.

Those of us who have actually been though it probably laughed a little less at the real life experience. Laughing or not, the key to surviving a difficult boss is realizing our own behavior is the only thing we can control.

Chelsea Rosty is the executive director of the Montrose Chamber of Commerce/ Director of Business Innovation for the City of Montrose. Reach her at