Here are three strategies for surviving a bad boss

Terrible managers are a root cause of employee turnover, sluggish productivity and low morale. On the flip side, a great manager can help people and organizations thrive. With so much at stake, it seems reasonable to assume that managers would be hired with care and given the training they need to be successful. Sadly, truly gifted managers often seem to be the exception rather than the rule. 

Some managers are merely inexperienced, while others are downright abusive. In either case, a bad manager can take a toll on our emotional and physical health, not to mention our professional reputation. 

If you find yourself working for a less-than-stellar leader, here are three things you can do to protect your well-being and maintain a positive professional identity.       

Act quickly

A manager is in a position of power, which can leave us feeling at a disadvantage. You may not want to make waves or appear overly sensitive. On the other hand, if you let a situation go unchecked it is likely to get worse. 

It takes courage and skill to advocate for ourselves. Keep track of situations that leave you feeling frustrated and under-valued. On the third incident, schedule a meeting to discuss the situation with your boss. Offer genuine appreciation for what is going well in your position. Then be very clear about what you want and need from your manager going forward.

You may find yourself on the receiving end of some critical feedback as well. If that is the case, remain open to suggestions while also maintaining your own professional dignity. The goal is to build a working relationship that allows both parties to feel valued and respected going forward.

Bring your A-game

It is amazing how quickly our performance and our attitude can suffer when we don’t feel supported and respected by a manager. Before we know it, we may find ourselves in a downward spiral. The best way to avoid this is by making the decision to stay productive and do great work.

The only thing you can truly control is your reaction to the situation. Make your response above reproach. There is incredible power in maintaining the highest of professional standards even when others are behaving poorly. At the very least, you can take comfort in knowing that you did your best to handle a tough experience. Remember, your value does not diminish because your boss fails to see it. Keep shining no matter what!

Get support

When we feel treated unfairly, there is a tendency to want to protect our egos and our reputations by bad mouthing the boss. Venting to fellow team members might feel good, but it is not going to be helpful in the long run. Now is the time to take the high road!

Seek the support of a trusted colleague outside the organization. Find a mentor or a counselor to help you process the experience and explore solutions. Sometimes it makes sense to speak to HR, but every situation is unique. Choose your support carefully. Seek out someone who knows your value and who brings objectivity to the situation.

If the relationship between you and your manager remains strained, you may need to strategize an exit plan. When determining next steps, it is important to recognize how much the relationship with your boss matters! A manager can build you up professionally, and they can also damage your confidence and self-esteem. In case you need reminding, you alone have the ultimate power to determine how people treat you and that includes your manager.

Carrie Pinsky is a career counselor in private practice. Reach her at