What to do if you hate your boss

Posted 15th October 2019 • Written by BBC •

"I actually loved my job but when you have a boss that hates what you do - or is just trying to undermine you - it really does kill your enthusiasm," says Craig (not his real name).

At first, he liked his manager but that changed when he saw her shout at an assistant on the team.

And things only went downhill from there. She would shout at him in the office and publicly undermine him at industry events.

"At first it was the snide remarks," he says.

'Soul destroying'

"Slowly and surely things started to change and the remarks became less snippy and more out-and-out aggressive, hostile and condescending."

He says it became "soul destroying" going into work every day. "Your personal relationships suffer too," Craig adds.

"When you work for a bad boss - someone who's just constantly belittling you - it lowers your self esteem.

"You don't produce your best work, you don't feel happy, you don't actually want to go the extra mile."

Craig's experience is not unique. In fact, 7% of people say they don't get on with their boss, according to a study by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD).

'It's the little things'

In most cases, employees take against their manager over a perceived unfairness or an excessive workload, says Ben Willmott, head of public policy at the CIPD.

"It's quite often the little things that can add up and lead to a breakdown," he says.

To avoid that, he encourages employees to have an honest conversation with their manager about an issue, if they feel comfortable doing so.

"The manager may be completely unaware of how their behaviour is being perceived and that in itself might be enough to be a bit of a wake-up call," Mr Willmott says.

However, he points out that more serious issues, like bullying or harassment, should be dealt with by HR or another manager.

'Think long and hard'

Mr Willmott says that a good manager should know a bit about the lives of their employees such as whether they have kids and where they like to go on holiday.

"If you don't care about your staff then you won't have trust in the employment relationship and without trust, you're building an organisation on sand," he says.

Before deciding to quit, he encourages people to think "long and hard" about whether the culture is likely to change.

However, Damian Beeley - a PR consultant who once had problems with a boss but now manages a team at Haggie Partners - says that if the issue is personal, it might be time to start looking for a new job.

"If you don't like them and they don't like you, that's probably never going to change," he says.

But he thinks it's an easier problem to have as a boss than as an employee.

"As a manager, if there are people that don't like you, it should be a concern and you might want to reflect on why they don't like you," he says.

"However, if you are an employee and you hate your boss, that is a much more uncomfortable emotional place to be."

Adam Whatson knows what it's like to have employees turn against him.

He was brought in to manage a team of eight administrators - even though he had no management experience and all of his new reports were older than him.

"It was stupid of me to go for the job and it was equally stupid of them to offer me the job," he says.

Mr Whatson says that a number of his team had gone for the job and they did not like the fact that it had been offered to him.

"They never really saw me as a manager - because I was younger than them, they saw me as a bit of an imposter," he says.

Mr Whatson knew his team had taken against him when he returned from his lunch break during the festive period to find that they had gone out for a Christmas meal without him.

He said it wasn't really "a happy ending story" and one that he didn't cope with very well.

He handed in his notice after eight months.

From employee to thief

But companies risk losing a lot more than just employees if staff don't get on with their managers.

Frustration between employees and management can lead to criminal behaviour, according to Prof Rosalind Searle, an expert in organisational trust at the University of Glasgow.

"If you don't deal with frustration it can turn to anger - when people are willing to retaliate - and then contempt when they may even go rogue," she says.

"If an employee feels there has been an injustice, they may try to resolve it in a more nefarious way," Prof Searle warns.

They may steal from the business if they think they are being underpaid or alter their working hours in response to being asked to do something they believe is unreasonable, she says.

For Craig, he found himself spending more and more time in the gym or the pub "just trying to forget things".

He has since moved on to a job he prefers, but he still remembers how work can become a "place of torture".

His old boss told him that at another workplace he would have been fired.

He now knows that's not true.