How to survive having a nightmare boss

Over demanding, unprofessional, demeaning and unrealistic, if these traits sound strikingly familiar your boss sounds like a daily office nightmare.

Whilst some bosses are more David Brent than Mr Burns, a bad boss can strongly affect team morale and create a deep seated fear culture as a result of their tyrannical behaviour. It’s not unheard of either. Research carried out by the Trades Union Congress (TUC) stated that 29 per cent of people have actually been bullied at work and in 72 per cent of the cases the bullying was carried out by the manager.

A difficult or bullying boss could be verbally or physically abusive. They could also be more manipulative with their treatment by blocking promotions, regularly making jokes at the expense of employees or setting employees up for fail with too many tasks and impossible deadlines. “All employers have a legal duty to provide a safe environment for employees to work in. It’s actually unlawful not to,” says Hannah Reed, senior employment rights officer at the TUC.

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It’s easier said than done to shake off certain behaviors as office ‘banter’ so it’s important to know your rights. “The best protection for employees is to join a trade union,” advises Hannah. “If you talk to a rep they can talk you through the process and will help you from feeling intimidated in the workplace.”

Don’t suffer in silence either. It’s important to take any complaints to a manager or the HR team. “A difficult or bullying boss can make you feel isolated, so talk to another colleague about what’s been happening,” Hannah says. “If you feel comfortable enough to do so speak informally with the bully about how you feel. You can always tell their manager or a senior manager and show the evidence gathered too.” Document everything they ask you to do and all mistreatment as well. “It’s important to keep a diary of what’s been happening in case you need it as evidence,” Hannah adds.

Having a difficult boss means our health is more likely to suffer too from stress and sickness, but it’s not just our bodies that take a hit, the company’s books will too. “A difficult or bullying boss can also cost a company money. If you’re being bullied you might call in sick or be less motivated at work so your production will be lower,” explains Hannah. “It’s not just about fairness in the workplace, it’s also about having a clean business practice.”

A difficult boss can really damage the confidence of employees and positivity but don’t feel like you’re in it alone. “Responsibility isn’t just with the individual, the primary responsibility rests with the employer who must encourage the respect and dignity of all employees.”