10 Courageous Ways To Deal With A Bad Manager

10 Courageous Ways To Deal With A Bad Manager

Good people do not leave bad companies, they leave bad managers.

Don’t believe the above axiom?

Ask around. I guarantee most of the people you know will have left roles due to the relationship with their manager.

Health and well-being is a big reason. Studies show that a bad manager increases your chance of a heart attack by up to 50%!

The number one relationship you have at work is the relationship between you and your manager.

Leadership studies also suggest Managers lack some of the most sought leadership qualities. Communication skills are top of the list for most employees.

Most managers are not fired due to results linked to numbers on a spreadsheet. They are fired due to people issues.

Poor people skills, conflict and in the worst cases bullying and harassment lead to career ending.

The number one relationship you have at work is the relationship between you and your manager.

There are lots of great Managers and I hope you are working for one now. If you do then I’m sure you will know a friend or colleague who does not. Please share this with them.

There are strategies that can help.

If you dread waking up and coming into work you have options.

It will take some courage on your part, but there is a way forward.

I want to share with you ten strategies to help deal with a bad manager.

Are They Really That Bad?

Remember when you started leading people? You got some stuff right but you sucked at a ton of stuff.

You might still suck at some stuff but you improved and got a hell of a lot better. Right?

We have a tendency to look for evidence that supports our thoughts and feelings.

If your Manager is new to the role or recently new they will be going through the same thing. They suck at a lot of stuff and will be aware how much they suck – even if they are trying to hide it.

If they have the experience they could have a behaviour blind spot, or going through a rough time.

It is easy to conclude that someone is a bad manager due to handful of incidents.

We have a tendency to look for evidence that supports our thoughts and feelings.

When we do this we develop our own blind spots and miss the good things they do.

Aim for balance and look for the good stuff to achieve a solid perspective.

What Is Your Boss’ Why?

You know what your boss does and you might know how they do it.

Do you know why they do what they do?

Knowing a person’s why is important.

It helps you understand their motivation and what gets them out of bed in a morning.

If your Manager has not shared this with you then ask them.

What they have to say may surprise you and you may see them in a new light.

If they seem reluctant then tell them what your why is and the importance of this. You could also offer to set up a meeting with your peers to talk about their why. Sell it as a shared learning experience and team building opportunity

Your manager’s why may be completely different to your own. This is fine and be ready for this to be the case. The purpose is not to find overlap (great if this happens). The purpose is to find out more about them and what motivates them.

In doing so you get a peek into their world. Listen out for the following:

  • What gets them excited?
  • What type of work interests them?
  • What keeps them awake at night?

This leads me to my next point and one you may not like.

How Can You Help?

If you have a bad manager pro-actively helping them is going to feel uncomfortable.

Aim to think of them as a client or customer, and not your manager.

If you were in a difficult client or customer relationship you would still aim to help them, right?

If you set out to battle a bad manager or withdraw altogether guess who you are going to hurt the most?

That’s right. You.

This becomes a bigger issue if your manager delivers results or is good at managing up to their boss.

Don’t become the problem, become part of the solution.

The way you become part of the solution is by helping them to be successful.

See, told you it might feel uncomfortable.

If you spend time trying to undermine a bad manager or expose them you are setting yourself up for a huge fall.

I know it is frustrating and counter intuitive. Don’t be the person everyone remembers for trying to pull down their manager and failing.

bad manager

Courage Under Fire

Imagine a member of your team feels like you do at the moment and you are the cause of how they feel. What would you want?

You would want to know, right?

You would want them to take a brave step forward and say something.

You may not agree with everything they say but some of it will hit home and resonate. Why? Because you would want to do something about it. You would want to make it better and heal the relationship.

If they are just getting it wrong, as opposed to being malicious, they will attempt to fix it – I promise you.

You have an opportunity to do the same thing with a bad manager.

I know, I know, it is a scary thing to feedback weak spots to your manager.

The thing is, if you don’t do nothing what happens?

Everything continues as normal and there is a danger it actually gets worse.

Give your manager an opportunity to do something about your opinion.

The feedback may not change anything but doing nothing is not a solution.

If they are just getting it wrong, as opposed to being malicious, they will attempt to fix it – I promise you.

Imagine if the feedback is not just a fix but it is transformational.

Imagine your manager had no idea the impact they were having on you and others.

Imagine their horror at realising how you were feeling. Imagine a true decision is made to use the feedback and improve. Actions which will make your daily working life and others more positive.

You can be the catalyst for that change. First, you have to speak up.

Choose Your Moment

Several years ago I was encouraged to give feedback to a senior manager.

A general view was held that the senior manager favoured one team more than the team I was working in.

This view was supported (in the minds of my peers) by the amount of time spent with them. This was down to the incentives offered to them and the other rewards available to them.

Both teams pretty much did the same work so it was understandable that my peers felt under valued.

I looked around the room at my peers. It was the first time many of them had seen someone hung drawn and quartered.

I had worked with this senior manager before and this is why they were keen for me to represent their views.

‘It will be good for your development!’ they said. What they meant to say was ‘We fear providing this feedback and as you have worked with this person before, you should do it.’

The mistake I made was the moment and setting I chose to give the feedback.

In hindsight the feedback should have been face to face and in private.

I provided the feedback on a conference call. Involved was the team I worked in and the team perceived to be getting all the benefits. The call had about 25 people dialing in.

The feedback I provided was based on specific examples. The way I delivered the message was non confrontational.

Talking everyone through some of the examples I was interrupted by the senior manager.

‘Let me stop you right there. What you think is happening is not happening. There is foundation to any of these claims. We will not be speaking about this issue again.’


I looked around the room at my peers. It was the first time many of them had seen someone hung drawn and quartered.

If I had chosen to do this face to face and in private, just the two of us, it may have resulted in a more productive conversation.

Instead, I embarrassed this person and they chose to shut it down.

My relationship with them was never the same again.

Choose your moment wisely.

Stick or Twist?

You don’t always inherit a bad manager.

Sometimes you apply for a role and walk into the new relationship blind to what may be ahead.

If you move jobs then you have to do your research.

Find out as much as you can about the culture within the team. Find out how the Manager operates. Find out what happens when the teams go into crisis mode.

If you are moving internally then the research is easy to do.

You can speak to people in those teams and ask people around the business.

A bit harder to do if you are a potential new employee, but not impossible.

LinkedIn can give valuable insight, if your potential new manager is a member.

If you don’t know what LinkedIn is then the best way to describe it is a Facebook for people at work. Instead of posting cute pictures of babies you post or like inspiring articles (like this one).

It will also allow you to send messages to people in other businesses. You could send a message to a member of the team and ask them questions about the business and the team.

They could be uncomfortable being critical of their Manager to a stranger. You will still be able to glean some info and understand the culture and the priorities of the business.

If you are feeling super confident them invite them for a coffee and meet them face to face. Much better than interpreting something on e-mail or messenger. Plus, unless they think you are recording them, you may get a more candid view.

Other routes into analysing may come in the form of friends and websites like glass door. Think of glass door as a Trip Advisor for employees.

bad manager

Know the Triggers

When your manager is stressed, what situations cause this?

Whatever the triggers you have an opportunity to adapt and avoid.

Even if you inherently disagree with the behaviour to the triggers you have to adapt.

If your manager is a stickler for deadlines, regardless of circumstance, you need to make sure you deliver on time.

If your manager dislikes lateness then you need to get up a little earlier and set your schedule so.

As I write and review this particular point it strikes me that you don’t just have to do this with a bad manager, it is recommended for all managers!

Don’t Become A Sloppy Joe

Your Manager is bad at what they do, so you become bad at what you do and allow your standards to slip.


If they are late all the time, or constantly on Facebook, or making personal calls, or breaking promises, or…

So what?

How does this equate to you turning up and letting your team mates down?

It doesn’t so don’t allow it.

Today you will be a success. Not in spite of your Manager but because of your desire and drive to better than you are now.

Absolutely acknowledge that your manager is rude/lazy/aggressive (whatever the issue is). Don’t become smothered by this otherwise it will dominate you.

Live the life you want to lead. Focus on your why and hold yourself accountable to your why.

If you have shared your frustrations with others at work (you definitely have) then tell them your plan to rise above it.

Ask them to hold you accountable. Ask them to throw the book at you if you start to sink into the depths of negativity and bitching.

Today you will be a success. Not in spite of your Manager but because of your desire and drive to better than you are now.

Keep a Diary

There are bad bosses – they mean well, you like them as a person but they may not be a good fit for the job.

Then there are bad bosses – they are selfish, they are rude, they bully and harass and are generally just unpleasant to be around.

If they fall into the latter group document their behaviour is an option available to you.

It may come to a crunch moment and the diary will be your bullet proof vest. It will protect you and your peers and evidence what has happened.

If the behaviour is so offensive and damaging it may be time to have a conversation with HR.

If it gets to this point the examples have to show facts. You may have written about how it made you feel, but HR will want cold and hard facts to begin with. The feelings and impact will follow.

I understand that taking action like this can be scary. No one should have to put up with damaging behaviour for a prolonged period. Documenting instances can be a powerful way of inspiring action.

bad manager

Saying Goodbye

If you are unfortunate enough to work for a bad Manager it may be time to say goodbye.

It should not come to this but your health and well-being is more important.

The only way to fix the situation is by moving on to another team within the business. Another solution is moving to a different business altogether.

You don’t want to move, right? You have made a lot of friends here and you have worked your way up. Why should you have to move because of someone else’s behaviour?

Let’s say this Manager is definitely not going to change. What does the next twelve months look like?

Exactly. They look horrible.

If you can’t attempt any of the above, the worst thing you could do is nothing.

Start asking friends and family what opportunities are coming up.

Don’t quit your current role until you have found something new. The only exception to this is if your health is in rapid decline due to your Managers behaviour.

Any role you move to is often the result of a relationship you have. They make an introduction or recommendation and you are much more likely to be successful as a result.

This is why so many companies have a recommend a friend scheme. You are less likely to introduce or recommend someone if you believe they will be bad at their job.

If you choose to move make sure you have followed the advice in Stick or Twist. You want to avoid history repeating itself.

It Can Happen For You

Bad Managers exist due to any number of reasons.

The important thing to remember is you don’t have to suffer and endure.

You have options. Conversations can take place, there are strategies you can use to help you.

Talking to your Manager about how you feel and the impact they have on you should be enough.

They will recoil in horror, realising the blind spot they have and work fast to fix it.

I have seen this happen and been part of a team where feedback led to transformation. It was beautiful, surprising and taught me a lot

It can happen and it can happen for you.

Go speak to them. Now.

Believe and Take Action

Top Posts & Pages

Recent Posts

Recent Comments




Ian Ruane

Subscribe to Blog via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 1 other subscriber

ianruane@gmail.com Written by:

Be First to Comment

Leave a Reply