What to do when you have a boss from hell

Dealing with a Boss from Hell

A boss from hell is not that uncommon in most people’s working lives. At some point in your working life you might get stuck with a boss who has taken a dislike to you, or worse hates you for some obscure reason. Maybe you didn’t pander to their ego, or give in to their unreasonable demands, called them out when they tried stepping over you or perhaps they are insecure that you are smarter than them. I’ve been there.

SHRM commissioned a survey of the U.S. workforce to better understand the importance of workplace culture and its profound impact on employees. The report “The High Cost of a Toxic Workplace Culture: How Culture Impacts the Workforce—and the Bottom Line“, found that 1 in 4 employees dreaded going to work and don’t feel safe voicing their opinions about work related issues. 76% said that their manager sets the culture of their workplace and 58% of those who left a job due to culture claim People Managers are the main reason they ultimately left. The cost of turnover due to workplace culture over the past 5 years is a whopping $223B.

What steps can you take when you have a boss from hell?

Let’s say that you find yourself in the unfortunate situation of working for a boss from hell. What are your options? If all the avenues of communicating politely and trying to empathize have been exhausted, here are some steps you can take to save your sanity.

1. Keep a log of the troubling behavior

Boss from hell

The first thing you could do is keep a log of instances when your boss exhibits troubling behavior. Make note of the dates, times and what exactly was said by whom. Even better if you can get it in writing. Of course perpetrators are careful not to leave proof of instances when they bully subordinates, so make sure coworkers you trust are in the loop when such incidents happen. Also they might be doing the same thing to others, so discussing with others would give you the courage to confront your boss.

2. Confront the problem

The next thing you can do is to confront the problem. Don’t let the fear of repercussions prevent you from calling out bad behavior by your boss. If you are unjustly being harassed do not hesitate to call out your boss directly. Companies spend a ton of resources hiring candidates and its easier keeping an existing employee happy rather than hiring a new person for the job. Do not give in to intimidation or fear tactics.

3. Look for internal opportunities

You might want to stay with your current company for various reasons. Maybe jobs are hard to come by, or the location is perfect for you, or you like the team that you work with. Don’t let a bad boss drive you away from an otherwise great company. Become so good at your job and build relationships while work across teams. You can then leverage your relationships to look for internal opportunities within the company. The best people don’t have to look for jobs, jobs come looking for them. 

4. Report the problem

Often time bullies are cowards, so even a hint of bringing up this behavior to human resources would stop them. Every person has their own tolerance limit and companies have policies to prevent harassment. The last thing companies would want on their hands is a public relations disaster followed by a lawsuit.

5. Polish your resume and start interviewing

Boss from hell

If your company does indeed have a culture of standing by and doing nothing when incidents are reported or worse, if there’s a culture of covering up for perpetrators, it’s time to polish your resume and start interviewing outside. Toxic workplaces can hurt you in the long run. If you notice such a culture in the workplace, its hardly worth sacrificing your mental and physical well being, so start looking out for better opportunities elsewhere.


If you have a boss from hell, there’s a good chance that you will be treated unfairly. You will lose out on promotions and raises. Since a good amount of time is spent at work, you might as well look forward to going to work instead of dreading work because of a bad boss. 

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