Career Beware the Bosszilla

Most people have dealt with a difficult boss at some point in their careers. Here are some of their top complaints—and how to navigate them.

By Kathy Chu
PUBLISHED 01/05/2023 | 6 MINUTES

A difficult boss can make a job unbearable. They can turn a confident and capable employee into a blubbering mess. At the extreme, a difficult boss can even make a worker want to quit their job.

In a 2019 survey by leadership consulting firm DDI Consulting, 57% of employees said they have left a job because of their boss, while another one-third have considered it.

Many problems between employees and their bosses boil down to bad communication. With more people working at home during the pandemic, the potential for crossed signals is higher. 

“Because people are working remotely, they don’t have those chance encounters by the water cooler or when walking through the office,” explains Denise Fowler, founder of Career Happiness Coaching, based in the Washington, D.C.-metro area.

So, what are the most common complaints employees have about their bosses, and what should you do if they happen to you? Millie spoke to the experts to get the low-down.

My Boss Doesn’t Recognize My Work 

You’ve spent all night working on that presentation or maybe took calls during your vacation but haven’t gotten a word of thanks from your boss.

This lack of recognition—if it happens regularly—can damage the relationship between employees and their bosses, ultimately sapping workers’ motivation, career experts say.

One strategy to get the recognition you deserve is to keep a running list of your accomplishments. Check in with your boss regularly to make sure that they know what you’re doing—and to make sure that they’re satisfied with what you’re doing, says Melissa Carvalho, a New Jersey-based career coach and a former human resources professional for Fortune 500 industries, including staffing agencies. If you are remote, scheduling 15-minute biweekly or monthly video calls with your boss to touch base can help bridge that gap. 

My Boss Schedules Too Many Meetings

Meetings can help get everyone on the same page, but too many meetings can decrease productivity and result in missed deadlines. 

If all your time is taken up by meetings, prioritize. Determine if you absolutely need to attend a particular meeting. If so, come prepared with a written idea of what you want accomplished during the session. 

If the meeting is not essential, bow out gracefully by writing a professional email to your boss to let them know that you think what you’re working on takes priority. Avoid emotion and stick to the facts. Emphasize the importance of your project by bringing up any conversations you’ve had with management about it and its due dates.  

My Boss Micromanages

Leaders may micromanage because they want things done in a specific way or they may have a controlling personality. Micromanaging can also be a sign that your boss is facing pressure from their own superiors on a project, and that pressure is being transferred to you. 

To give yourself a head start on a project, talk to your boss about exactly what they want out of it and how they expect you to accomplish it. The more details you have, the better. 

If your boss feels that you are both aligned, they might take a step back and not be “on top of you or all over your work,” Carvalho says. 

My Boss Yells or Exhibits Other Unprofessional Behavior 

Fowler remembers a time when she was working at a nonprofit and her boss was so angry that she yelled and pointed her finger in Fowler’s face to make a point. 

Fowler’s coping strategy? “I imagined I had a glass dome over me so I wasn’t as affected by the negative energy,” she says. 

Imagining the barrier allowed Fowler to detach herself from the situation. If you find yourself in any circumstance where you feel wronged, take a deep breath and give yourself some time to process the situation. Try to understand why your boss acted the way they did and then try to arrange a time to talk to your boss about it in private. The key, according to Fowler, is to be calm, professional and unemotional.

If you discuss the situation with your boss but the behavior continues, it may be time to bring the issue to HR. You shouldn’t have to feel uncomfortable in your workplace, and HR can act as a mediator to help bring about a resolution, if necessary.

Kathy Chu is a California-based writer who has reported for The Wall Street Journal and USA TODAY and has written for many publications, including Newsday.

Millie content is licensed from Dotdash Meredith, publisher of Millie, Real Simple, InStyle, Investopedia, The Balance and more.


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