Join us for The Certificate In Creating Wellbeing and learn how to help people thrive LEARN MORE
Can You Tame A Bad Boss?

Can You Tame A Bad Boss?

BY Michelle McQuaid

Is your boss stressing you out? If you answered yes, you’re not alone with 3 out of every 4 people reporting their boss is the most stressful part of their job.

Unfortunately many of us confronted with a boss who yells, is always looking over our shoulder, takes credit for our work or seems to go missing whenever there’s a tough call to make, bury our head in a never-ending list of excuses and simply hope our bosses will magically get better. As a result it takes most of us 22 months to free ourselves from a badly behaving boss.

Over this time the costs mount up. Studies find, left unchecked, a bad boss can undermine our performance, damage our health, destroy our relationships and leave us feeling depressed and anxious.

But what can you do when you need your job and they have all the power because ….they’re your boss?

Do You Need A Boss Whisperer?

Contrary to what you might believe you’re not helpless when it comes to dealing with a badly behaving boss. And your boss is also probably not as hopeless as you might think either.

“Bosses are rarely aware that they’re behaving badly,” explains Dr Michelle Pizer an organizational and counseling psychologist and renowned boss whisperer. “They think their behavior is justified to get the job done and lack the insight to understand how emotions impact on your motivation.”

“Most bosses behave aggressively or abrasively because they’re scared about their ability to meet the job expectations that have been set. They behave this way because they don’t know what else to do. It doesn’t excuse what they’re doing, but it can take the personal sting out of what’s happening so you can respond more effectively to what’s unfolding.”

“By helping them see the impact they’re having, getting them to care about the consequences and showing them better ways to get the results they want, you can create lasting changes with these kinds of bosses.”

So just what is it Michelle whispers to a boss? In this episode of Chelle McQuaid TV, she’ll share the simple steps you can take to ensure a badly behaving boss doesn’t ruin your career, your health and your relationships.

3 Ways To Make A Bad Boss Bearable

Michelle recommends three approaches to help make a badly behaving boss more bearable:

  1. Quickly ask for help – Act early when your boss’ behavior is likely to be personally targeted at you. Be cool, calm and collected as you reach out to other leaders and let them know you have a potential situation by using trigger words like “bullying”, “potentially toxic work situation” or asking if this is the kind of behavior you should alert the union or other governing bodies about. Suggest some coaching may help the boss.
  • Depersonalize what’s happening – While it might feel like your boss has it personally in for you, remember this bad behavior is coming from the fear and anxiety your boss is feeling. Pay attention to what’s setting them off and try and avoid these situations. Read their moods and choose your moments for interaction accordingly. Try to help them feel safe with you by letting them know you’re an ally, you want to support them and do what you can to help them look good at work.
  • Take care of yourself – Fuel your resilience by getting enough sleep, regularly exercising, eating well and staying connected to other people who respect, value and appreciate you. Cultivate interests outside of your job so you can reset your stress levels when you’re away from your boss. And if you find yourself in the firing line at work, head out for a quick walk, listen to a favorite song or talk to someone about anything but your boss to restore some positive emotions so you can respond more mindfully to their bad behavior.

Of course if your boss is being physically or emotionally abusive then you should immediately seek help and get out.

In my experience a badly behaving boss is the gift you never ask for. You wouldn’t volunteer to work for this person but it can offer an incredible lesson in how to manage your own fears and boost your resilience in the face of challenging relationships. I’ve also discovered that when we don’t accept the gift and deal with it, there’s a tendency for it to follow us to the next job!

You can read more about how to deal with abrasive managers with this free book chapter from Michelle’s website. And if you’d like to hear the creative way I dealt with one of my most challenging bosses you can see me tell the story here.

If you have a boss who is making your life miserable what are you doing to try to improve the situation?

Quick tip:You can save this post to your favorites, so you can access it quickly and easily later! Just click the “Add to Favorites” button to save it forever. You can then find it later in My Toolbox -> My Favorites.


Join us in the playground - where like minded people share, learn, create and play together.

Learn More


Listen to the world’s leading positive psychology researchers and practitioners as they share their insights on our top-rated podcast.

Listen Now


Do you want to help boost people’s wellbeing, resilience & performance? Then join us for the next round of Certificate In Creating Wellbeing.

Learn More