We’ve all heard the old saying, “Employees leave bosses, not companies.” And it’s true, folks—sometimes having a boss you hate can make or break your work experience.
If you’re unhappy in your job, there’s a chance your job isn’t actually the problem. Maybe you’re doing the right thing in the wrong place, and you just need an environment change instead of a full-blown career switch.
If that’s hitting a nerve with you, you’re not alone. But the great news is that while there are plenty of terrible bosses out there, there are also plenty of bosses who are so awesome that their employees consider them to be a friend, role model and mentor.
Healthy work environments do exist, and it might be time for you to leave so you can find one! Or, it might be time for you to take a deep breath and have a hard conversation that will create some positive change in the workplace you’re already in.
So, if you hate your boss, here are five tips that will help you figure out what to do next.
1. Evaluate why you hate your boss.
Nobody just goes around hating people for no reason. Take the time to analyze where that hatred comes from. Does your boss’s personality get on your nerves? Do they chew with their mouth open during lunch meetings or stop by your desk to chat when you’re in the middle of something? Do they give you big projects and tight deadlines without enough advance notice, leaving you feeling exhausted and burned out?
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In other words, is your boss annoying, or are they seriously toxic? Maybe they gossip about other people, lie about their actions, put you down, or take all the credit for the work you’ve done. Take some time to evaluate the behaviors that are making your blood boil and try to determine if it’s something that can be discussed and worked on, or if it’s something that no employee should have to tolerate.
2. Take a look in the mirror.
If you’ve hated your boss at every single job you’ve ever had, it might be time to take a long, hard look at the common denominator: you. A problem with authority or taking feedback can sometimes manifest as disliking your leader. Or, is it possible that your boss is cracking down because of a tardiness or performance issue on your part? Now, of course, I’m not talking about cases where a boss is being abusive—but in most situations that involve conflict, it’s a good idea to look inward and see how you might be contributing to or enabling the problem.
This is also a good opportunity to be honest with yourself about your career choices and determine if you’re just unhappy with your boss or if you’re unhappy with your whole career. Here’s a thought exercise for you: If you were to take the leader out of the equation, how would that change your view of your work? If you know you’d love your job if it weren’t for your boss, that tells you you’re doing the right kind of work—you’re just dealing with a difficult person (welcome to the real world). If you think you’d be miserable no matter what kind of boss you had, you might need to find a new job that’s actually right for you.
3. Have a hard conversation.
Okay, so you’ve done some honest reflecting and determined that your mental, emotional or physical health might be in jeopardy because of your boss—or at the very least, you’re feeling miserable enough to consider throwing in the towel at your current company. It’s time for a hard conversation! Hone in on exactly what issue needs to be addressed, then schedule a time to talk with your leader about the problem.
The best approach here is just to be honest about the specific things that are bothering you, how those things are interfering with your (and your coworkers’) morale, and what can be done to fix it moving forward. Offering a solution and being willing to put in some effort can really go a long way.
Here’s an example: Let’s say your boss is an overly critical perfectionist, and they expect their employees to work overtime frequently to achieve their desired results. You could say something like, “I understand that you want the best results possible, and I want to go above and beyond to deliver those results. But getting constant negative feedback and working a lot of overtime is starting to take a toll on me. Hearing what I’m doing right and what I can improve on will help me grow. Additionally, can we come up with a plan to make the work process more efficient so I can stick to my normal work hours?”
Your boss might be receptive to this conversation, or they might not. Their response and any changes that happen (or don’t happen) afterward can help you find a reason to stay or leave.
4. Give your boss some grace and time.
Once you’ve had the hard conversation, take a step back and observe how (and if) the situation changes. Don’t be too quick to write your boss off as “the worst” unless you’ve seen a pattern of destructive behavior over time. Take into consideration anything that was revealed during your conversation with your boss—maybe it’s a hard season where your boss (or the company at large) is under a lot of stress and pressure. Have they had to make a lot of budget cuts or layoffs lately? Are they dealing with something in their personal lives that you don’t know all the details on? These are good reasons to be patient and ride it out. Time will tell if this is a passing issue or if everyone around you is also having problems with your leader.
Also, if you’re new to your current position and your boss still hasn’t grown on you over the past few weeks, keep on doing your best and getting to know them. It can take a while to build trust and rapport with your leader, so don’t give up too easily.
5. Make a decision.
Giving someone time doesn’t mean waiting forever. At the end of the day, this is your life, so you get to make the choice to stay or go. Don’t let anyone intimidate or guilt-trip you into staying someplace if you’re miserable. And if you’re caught in an abusive and toxic situation, go ahead and report it to HR—you don’t have to just accept being mistreated. When you’ve done everything you can to report or talk through the situation and still nothing changes, then it’s probably time to gracefully bow out.
But in situations that are frustrating but not toxic, know that leaving is not always the best answer, and the grass isn’t always greener on the other side. There’s always a chance that you will grow because of the difficult people and situations. What if you can be a light to the people who need it? Who knows—you might help your coworkers and your company become better because you leaned into the conflict and worked to find a solution that benefits everyone in the long run.
If you’re still having trouble deciding if you should leave your job or not, take my free Should I Quit My Job quiz! The quiz can help you figure out what to do next so you can start feeling passionate about your work.