In this post we will go through the general framework for how to deal with a bad boss.
The tree main concepts are:
- Be prepared for the worst: When you can handle the worst, you dominate the easy
- Have Options: Once you can happily walk away, you can stay on your terms
- Keep Mental Control: Control thyself to control thou environment
- Prepare For the Final Showdown
- Lifestyle Solutions: Live On Your Terms
- Mindsets: Thanks God For The Bad Boss
- Do Nots:
- Summary: How To Deal With a Bad Boss
Prepare For the Final Showdown
Who’s got more power? He who knows that if worst come to worst, he’ll win.
Your boss bosses you around because he believes he can. He believes you can do little about it. Part of it is because he’s got the authority, and part of it is because he holds the trump card: he can fire you and you can do little about it.
Let’s move the trump card into your stack and we’ll turn that dynamic on its head.
Holding the trump card in a street altercation would mean not being afraid if it came to blows.
In the workplace, that means reaching the final showdown and get him fired. Or, alternatively, getting fired, going to court, and win (big).
Let’s do just that.
We will give your bad boss a nickname: ahole. And now let’s start digging ahole’s grave:
1. Know Your Sh*t
Who lets ahole bosses trample on their rights? Those who don’t know their rights
In the vast majority of countries (all?) there’s a huge divide between what’s legal and how things are done.
That divide is your best friend.
Start by knowing your rights, ahole rights and, most of all, the common legal pitfalls.
- Consult a lawyer: a 200€ employment lawyer consultation can pay back 100x or more
- Find a lawyer: before you need one. Consider getting legal insurance too
- Research online: in the information age the only upper limit is people’s laziness
- Ask: ask those who’ve already been there. Process, timelines, hurdles.. ?
Start today. Don’t postpone, don’t dawdle. Online research and consultation won’t take you longer than a week of slow pace work and it will serve you for a lifetime.
And you lay the first brick of your Iron Dome.
2. Induce Him Into Mistakes
Who’s got more power when the sh*t hits the fan? The ones with Evidences
Once you know the law and unbeknownst to bad boss, start accruing the evidences against him.
It’s really easier than most would think.
For example, based on the information you gather, is it illegal in your jurisdiction to:
- Work on weekends?
Then do make yourself available to work on weekend. But let them ask you to, and record it
- Work longer than 10h a day?
Schedule morning meetings at 9:30.
Now any day with a meeting or work emails after 19:30 is a day to be used against ahole.
- Work during holidays?
Or schedule an important call during your holiday, do not contact ahole at all. Let him reach out to you to ask you about that call.
Tell him the line is bad, tell him to email you.
- The big blunders
Sometimes you can get a slum dunk with a single mistake.
A threat, or a sexual pass. Company parties with abundant alcohol can make for the perfect trap.
Note: be careful on what counts as evidence and what carries more weight: in some countries it’s OK to record conversations, in some others it’s illegal. Do text count as much as email? That’s all info you need to know. This is why you consult an employment lawyer knowledgeable of your jurisdiction.
3. Look Dumber
Which enemy is easy to beat? The one with his guard down
Law #21 of the 48 laws of Power suggests to play a sucker to catch a sucker.
The dumber you see, the easier for you to spin your web.
Play naïve and forgiving indeed. Pretend you’re sloppy in your personal life. Show a hippie side that’s all about moving on.
You can do this with stories and off hand remarks.
Tell during team lunch your last landlord didn’t give the rent deposit back to you. Someone will mention police and suing and you reply emotionally:
“man, lawyers only take your money and the last thing I’d do on earth is wasting time with courts. I leave troubles behind and move on“
Showing a “moving on” attitude and a naive worldview will make your background work of evidence collection loads easier.
4. Get Some Sick Evidence
Which enemy is easy to beat? The one the jury will hate
Let him commit the most heinous crime: making people sick.
Get sick intermittently, suddenly and when he needs you the most.
This will lead him to contact you while you’re off. Do your work, just a bit at at slower pace and let him contact you.
Party and sleep little on Sunday, look like a mess when you visit the doctor and get a whole week off on Monday. Say being bullied at work makes you a nervous wreck.
Go back to the doctor on Wednesday to record a worsening of the symptoms: your boss keeps chasing you. Let your doc record everything and use emphatic words such as: bullied, harassed, intimidated.
In most countries you don’t report what you’re sick of to your employer. Just tell him it’s nothing. Actually, say you don’t care about sickness and will get the job done anyway.
That will lead him to contact you anytime you’re off. Exactly what you want.
When your boss will find out it will be too late.
5. Keep Your Hands Clean
Which enemy is unassailable? The one you can’t see. No evidence, no case
Law #26 of the 48 laws of Power says you always must be a paragon of civility and keep a spotless appearance.
As you induce him into mistake, you’re irreprehensible (from a legal perspective):
- BYOD: bring your own device for your personal stuff. Use work equipment only for work stuff
- Go early and leave late: work long hours on paper (and do your personal stuff in unrecordable fashion)
- Follow All Guidelines: You know all those password guidelines and filing systems nobody follows? Well, you will. Every time.
Lifestyle Solutions: Live On Your Terms
Your issues in dealing with a bad boss likely share the same roots with most other problems you have. Fix those and you will improve your whole life. Here’s a few ways:
6. You’re Not a F@ck*** Victim!
Who is a victim? Him who think of himself as a victim
Let’s face it dead on. You’re a grown up in a free world. Why are you a victim at all? If you’ve been at the mercy of a bad boss for too long you allowed it.
Thinking anything else is giving power to your oppressor. Are you really willing to give all that power over you to some frustrated mid level manager?
Extreme ownership mentality, such as accepting that you are responsible for everything happening in your life is hard to accept at first, but once you embrace it will set you free.
Your bad boss has no power over you: you put yourself in a victim position and you will take yourself out of it.
Starting from now: you’re a free man in a free world, you can move at any time and you can change your circumstances however you see fit. Internalize that psychology and let’s start to give you practical options.
And smile as you undig your hole: you’re getting greater and greater:
7. Develop Options: Networking
Who stays a victim of bad bosses? Those with no other options
How do you stay in control of any relationship? By not needing them. You might want them, you should want any relationship you’re in, but you are able to walk out and find other opportunities if the other party crosses your boundaries.
In working environment this means:
- Know everyone in your industry: meet up, events, trade shows
- Know every competitors in your city
- (Socially) seduce HR people
- Know every other boss in your organization (you could work for)
8. Erase Neediness: Get Financial Independence
Who’s afraid of bad bosses? Those who can’t pay rent if they get sacked
A certain level of financial independence is key to your freedom, your self confidence, and even your capacity of standing up to evil and misdeeds.
While the capacity of generating your own income at will is invaluable, your only need to be able of surviving for several months without any income to give you the confidence of standing up for yourself.
Here’s some ideas for you to consider:
- Get a GF who can host you: if worst comes to worst, she always wanted to move in anyway no? 😉
- Rent out space: rent (or own) a flat with several rooms and rent them out for profit
- Save money: as simple as that, money is power. Save some power for rainy days
- Golden parachute: arrange for a good severance package, use all the legal hacks above
9. Become Un-sackable: Be Get At What You Do
Who is at the mercy of the queen? The little value adding pawns
The simplest, and possibly the most useful “hack” is as simple as that: be(come) great at what you do. Become a Linchpin. Deliver so much value that anyone will be afraid at the thought of you leaving. Do so much that everyone in your organization knows you’re the man.
Then, once you will be obviously more useful to the company than your boss is, guess who actually got more power? Actually, at that point, you won’t even care anymore about comparing yourself to your boss because you’ve simply moved past him (unless you really want to sink him, and if he really deserve it, go for it).
So don’t complain, don’t wait… Start from today with a single minded goal: become the best at what you do.
10. Porcupine Strategy: The Power Moves Master
Who do bullies pick on? People who can’t defend
It doesn’t matter if you’re the biggest tiger, the king of the Savannah or . Nobody’s gonna swallow a porcupine.
Even if they’re smaller and less powerful porcupines make it hard -and painful- for any wanna be assailant, and that makes them strong.
Similarly, you wanna make the ahole feel the sting every time he disrespects you. That’s operant conditioning and trust that, like the Pavlov’s dog, he’ll soon think twice before harassing you.
Here’s a great example:
Just remember: timid reaction calls for harder put downs. Bold moves take the fire out for good.
11. People’s Skills: Turn Colleagues Into Allies
Who’s easy to pick on? The lonely one with no friends
Phil Jackson in his autobiographical Eleven Rings says that one of the biggest challenges of leadership is keeping the guys who hate you away from those who are undecided.
And guess what you will do instead? You will make friends with the whole team and slowly but surely turn them into allies against the common enemy.
It’s not difficult getting colleagues to dislike average bosses. It’s a piece of cake turning them against bad ones. Drop hints if needed, but make someone else admit first they can’t stand him.
Spread hatred but never look like you’re driving a personal crusade: people don’t like whiners. Let them vent while you provide the sounding board to their stories. Do share your part, but never let your complaints be bigger than theirs.
Remember: if you want to lead this charge you can’t be a victim, so your message is:
“Man, this company/team has such great potential and I love you guys.. It is just a pity that ahole is wasting all our potential“.
Orchestrate for a group-wide negative review on Glassdoor. Openly mention ahole if you can -you can with MDs- or make it indirectly obvious it’s about him. It will serve you well in a possible court case.
And of course your friendly colleagues will also be supportive witnesses if it comes to court.
And once most of team hates ahole and loves you, you can start thinking about a possible putsch.
Mindsets: Thanks God For The Bad Boss
As the great Robert Greene says in The 33 Strategies of War, the war is often more mental than physical.
12. You’re Free
Who’s happy in spite of everything? You!
Connected to the above point: you are a free man in a free world. Repeat that yourself. Breath deep, close your eyes. Imagine a place where you’d like to be. A white sand beach. A snowy mountain. A happy ending massage in Thailand. A sunset on the ocean.
Because you can go there. Because you can live that. Any time you choose. Any. Time.
And if you stay, that’s also your choice. Now make the best out of it.
13. Win The Mental War: Act, Don’t React
He who makes the other react controls the game.
Tim Grover says that top performs make others measure up to them, not the other way around. Don’t ask yourself how to deal with ahole then, think how hard it will be for ahole to deal with you instead.
This is mostly a mental attitude of course.
It’s key, not just to dealing with a bad boss, but in life, that you stand guard at the gates of your mind.
Do not allow anyone to drag you down or spoil your mood. This is your mind, this your own f@c**ng turf, YOU call the shots there:
- Ask empowering questions
- Imagine of the day you’ll sink him
- Smile at how much better you’re becoming thanks to him
- Develop the habit: change thoughts every single time your boss pops up
Do anything, but retain control of your mind and emotions and keep it positive and constructive.
14. Boss? You Don’t Have a Go**amn Boss!
You never have to deal with a bad boss if you never have a boss
Never mentally accept any leadership of any undeserving ahole just because his picture is above yours in some meaningless org chart. One of the best advises I got from Brian Tracey is that you always think of yourself as your own boss. You are the president of your own corporation.
If you have a boss, your boss is your final result only.
- Sales? The customers are your boss. They’re the ones who pay you.
- Research? Are you researching to make our lives better or are you researching to please your boss? Please get your priorities straight because we really need you to be in the former category.
- Customer Relationship? Are you making your customers happy or your boss? Please the former, this world really needs people who can make our lives better.
15. Reframe It: Your Chance To Learn
Smooth sailing won’t carry you to greatness. Harsh seas and high waves will
Let the victims of this world complain about their hard hard life.
In his masterpiece The Obstacle Is The Way Ryan Holiday teaches us the stoic art of looking at problems as opportunities.
How great would you be if you could become that kind of enlightened, resourceful man who can see the pros in the seemingly cons of life?Because, you can.
Be the man who’s glad about the hardships of his life because you know hardships are exactly what makes you stronger and build your character.
A bad boss is your chance of putting into practice skills that will make you great.
Thank you bad boss for providing me with the chance of becoming a better (wo)man!
Destroying Ahole Is Your Duty
If you let amoral accrue power, you’re their accomplice
The above are all for coping and going beyond.
But finally, what if dealing with a bad boss means to you simple to destroy him instead?
That’s great pal, I’m all for destroying aholes.
In this case, you need a “righteous mindset”.
Letting ahole run slipshod isn’t just bad for you: it’s bad for everyone (except maybe ahole).
Cornering and taking power away from him won’t just do good for you, but will do good for your colleagues, for the company and, yes, for the world at large.
And that’s the mindset you need to have to operate at the highest level: by destroying your bad boss you are doing something good for the world.
So go forth my friend, and do this world a favor.
Talk To Him
People listen to actions, not words. Don’t plead when you can act
I gotta laugh at the mainstream advice of voicing your complaints to a bad boss. Next thing you know someone will recommend you to pray and turn your cheek. Why “talk to your bad boss” is bad “strategy”? Because ahole feels superior to you and chances are he wouldn’t harass you if he knew any better and if he cared about you.
“talk to bad boss” also presupposes a few things which are more likely to be false than true.
- Ahole can take negative feedback: Great people take feedback without taking it personally. But great people are unlikely to be ahole bosses
- Ahole will listen: Most people erect barriers to painful information. Bad bosses likely fall in this category
- Ahole will “change”: Most people don’t change. And even rarer is that words will change them
Here’s what’s more likely to happen when you “talk to him’:
Ahole will resent you: If there was a chance he didn’t dislike you before, now he surely will
Ahole knows you’re enemy: Now you’re on the watch list. Kiss goodbye to any effective silent kill strategy. And if you do great at work you only become more dangerous to him
Talk To His Boss
Here’s another popular advise: “go talk to his boss”.
What are you a kid pleading for daddy’s protection? Because that’s exactly how it will sound. Also, be realistic: it’s more likely than not that ahole will eventually know you complained to his boss and it will complicate matters further.
Exception: Think execution, not complaint. The time you go over ahole head is when you have enough power or can rally enough critical mass to oust him.
Summary: How To Deal With a Bad Boss
Warning: I am giving for granted here that bad boss is indeed a terrible boss. But YOU need to make sure of that. Ask yourself over and over if the problem might not be you instead. Or both of you as it’s often the case.
If that’s the case, all the strategies discussed here become not only unethical and amoral, but also exponentially more unlikely to succeed (and more dangerous to deploy).
Legal Note: You might not need to go court for two reasons. Once you start accruing legal knowledge and proof you might feel confident enough to stand up and solve the problem. If needed, a lawyer can successfully settle for you out of court (most cases will be like this). Also, this post is no legal advise. Do your own research.
Summary: Never let bad boss get to you. If you like the company, keep delivering excellent performance. As a matter of fact, USE your hatred for bad boss to become even greater.
Only face him directly when you’re powerful enough to oust him or when he’s disrespecting you in public -you can never allow that-. Otherwise, be nice enough to leave him unsuspecting as you explore other options, strategize against him and find better options.
And yes, be grateful. I guarantee you that in learning how to deal with a bad boss, you’re getting better.
Now go get him. And thank you for making this a better world.