How to Survive Working for a Boss You Hate

Working for the worst person on earth can feel like you’re living the worst life on the planet.  It is even more painful when in order to keep your job you have to keep working for the boss you hate.

If you have tried but cannot correct your relationship with your difficult boss, you can feel like you have nowhere to turn.

What can you do so that you can keep your sanity and still work for this person?

The key to bad boss survival is to relinquish the attempt to control that which you cannot. Instead empower yourself. Because if you can control nothing else, you can at least control yourself.

Here are a few Difficult Boss Survival Tips to boost your self empowerment and to take the focus from your difficult boss to your awesome job.

Tip#1: Reclaim Your Personal Power

Once you have decided that your boss drives you crazy, you simultaneously have decided to give your power away.

Your boss only controls your emotions if you let them.

The problem becomes that you quickly build evidence to support your case.

  • You can’t have a good day when your boss is in the office
  • Everything you do is clearly wrong according to your boss
  • You might as well not even come to work because your boss couldn’t care less anyway

The very person that you don’t like or respect is the same person that you look to for being liked and respected. And you give this difficult boss full power to affect your mood, your focus, and your total outlook.

It’s Time to Take Your Power Back!

Make your opinions your priority

If you care about how you feel, then you need to claim ownership of managing how you feel. 

Do not attach your personal self worth to the words, actions, and opinions received from your boss.  Instead, consider the feedback and weigh for yourself if it is useful or just plain garbage.

Unless you work for yourself, you will likely have another person responsible to review and make opinions about your work and about you as a worker. But that does not mean that the person fulfilling that responsibility is good at their job at all times.

So why would you blindly trust the opinion of your boss, especially if your boss is rude, inappropriate, or just plain difficult?

Now this is not to suggest that you ignore the very real reality of a terrible boss situation. But it is to suggest that you do not continuously ignore your need for a healthy and peaceful life.

And there is no way to gain peace from permitting someone else to constantly put you on your defensive. So empower yourself to place your opinion above all others. And reduce or even ignore the feedback that does not serve you.

Tip#2: Boost Your Positive Self-Talk

One form of self empowerment that can work wonders immediately and grow over time is to build a habit of positive self talk.

We each hold constant conversation with ourselves all the time. And we can be subject to making others feedback part of our playback in our mind. The last thing that you want to do is to make a difficult boss’s negativity a regular part of your feedback loop.

Instead of doubting yourself or wondering if what your boss says is true, focus your attention with reconfirming the best parts of you to you. One mechanism to train internal reinforcement is through the regular use of positive affirmations.

Using positive affirmations on a consistent basis can help to make front-of-mind statements that serve to emposer you versus deplete you. They can also serve to provide you a more positive and optimistic focus and at same time deter you from obsessing on the unwelcomed opinions of your boss.

Choosing the right positive affirmations is important because you want to aligned with what you are saying to yourself. False compliment or insincere hype just won’t do. But when you can regularly reflect to yourself what you know to be true of your strengths, you will very quickly dispel from your mind anyone telling you a lie about yourself.

A positive affirmation habit helps to boost self confidence, promote self empowerment, and engrain self love all while making your boss a more tolerable person to be around.

Tip#3: Increase Your Productivity at Work

You may not be in love with your boss but you may absolutely love your job.

Even if you are not at the peak of your performance, if you love what you do you can find joy in getting better and better at it.

Taking the time to build passion in your work and find ways to create improved quality, efficiency, and effectiveness in what you do can feel extremely rewarding. Often when you improve the work that you perform, you also improve the working experience of your team, your internal customers, and even your boss.

Having passion for your work and feeling proud of your performance can be a much-needed distraction from a boss who can seem to make any day miserable. Ironically as you continue to perform well in your role, it can reduce negativity from your boss or at least have them place their attention on something other than you.

Creative ways to find passion in your work

When you have been consumed with a bad boss’s bad behavior, you may not immediately be in the mental state of how to do your job better.

But once you have committed to creating a fresh start in your role, you may find that leaving your ugly past in the past makes you more ready than you would have realized.

To further build this momentum, you can dive right into one or more of these types of ideas:

  • Join or start a new project team for process improvement
  • Have lunch or connect purposely with other creative-thinking staff regularly
  • Give positive feedback to others who have implemented new processes or who have accomplished new achievements
  • Examine your process flow and find ways to perfect it that help you and your co-workers
  • Set micro-targets to be completed by midday or business close and track when you hit your goals
  • Clean, organize and refresh your workspace

Notice that every suggestion is not meant to explode your work-life and start again. Big or small, personal or interconnected, you have the ability to make changes to your work experience that can have a positive impact on how you feel about work.

The goal is to spark passion in your environment where there once was bitterness, disdain, and dread. Find your way to create a better work life than the one that you have been experiencing before.


As an added note, be sure to choose tasks and activities within your control and that do not cause conflict with your boss. The last thing you want is to build more negativity or animosity in your relationship. Focus on the tasks that will make you feel productive, invested, and happy and most of that help you shift your perspective and feelings about your job.

Tip#5: Invest More Time on Your Long-Term Career Goals

For you, your job may be more than just what pays the bills but also what provides you with growth toward your long-term professional goals.

This means that your time at work is an investment. And, ideally, you want to receive a return on your investment.

Distractions, emotional turmoil, and communication strain with your difficult boss can wreak havoc on your learning and progression at work. This is not and cannot be acceptable when you have much more to lose than your temper when dealing with your boss.

Remaining mindful and vigilant of your long-term goals can provide you with a more meaningful focus than worrying over your ill-tempered boss. View your situation as temporary and only a step toward the much more significant professional goals that you have for yourself.

Professional development is learned well beyond a classroom

If you can find your way to achieve your goals despite your terrible boss, you may find this skill to be even more significant and practical than the ones you have set out to learn.

There are many soft skills that you can obtain by working through tough situations with a difficult boss. 

Plus, today it is your boss.  At your next job, it could be your co-worker. After that, it could be the leader of your department, division, or company that makes life at work more than a little bit miserable.

See these challenges as opportunities to fine-tune your skills and to prepare you for dealing with any situation you walk into. 

Which courses could you practically teach just because you had to navigate through working with your difficult boss now:

  • Conflict Management
  • Dealing with Difficult People
  • Managing Emotions
  • Effective Communication Skills
  • How to Lead Up

After a year with your boss, you may feel like you definitely deserve a reward or at least have earned a certificate!

And while you may not have wanted to be subjected to learning these skills against your will, they can still serve you in and outside of work. 

Find your way to let the burdens with your boss become your blessings and you may become better for it in more ways than you first realized.

Tip#6: Focus on the Positive

Your boss may seem all bad, but maybe there are a few positive features that you can find if you change your focus.

This is not an invitation to fool yourself about the realities of your boss’s bad behavior. But it is an opportunity to soften the disdain that you feel for your boss if only for your own benefit.

Carrying regular negativity toward your boss can slant your vision and cause you to start to see everything wrong, even when it’s not there. This preoccupation can start to make the scope of your problem bigger and bigger and consume your focus on anything else.  

Seeing your boss in balance can provide you relief in-between the times when you truly have a negative interaction and when you don’t. Softening your gaze can relieve your own tension and stress and pause your negative disposition.  This break from your negative reality can be just what’s needed when you start to feel that you cannot go on like this anymore.

It is important to remember that your boss is just a person. In their imperfection as a human being, they will make mistakes, act out of turn, and may project their negativity onto others without thought.

This alone, however, does not mean they have no other attributes to share.

Signs your difficult boss is not all bad

Your boss may be an excellent team member but a terrible leader.  They may possess strong expertise in writing but have no clue how to speak to people. It is possible that they can be great with numbers but lack people skills. You may be surprised to learn that they are an exceptional parent, friend, or teammate out of work but become a whole different person when facing the pressures at the job.

Look for the humanity in your boss as a way to understand them better.  You may not accept the treatment you receive but you may at least become aware of the different parts that make up their character.

This may help you to remove your emotional attachment to their negative behavior towards you.  It may also help to create different emotional pathways toward them when focusing on the better parts of them.

Intentionally looking for the best in your boss may lead to you stumbling across common interests, passions, or ideas. As a result, you may develop a different type of connection with your boss. Freeing yourself from the negative focus on your boss may open up a channel for positive experiences to come in.

Important Bonus Tip

While there can be a purpose in making the best out of a bad situation, there are times when poor leadership relationships are more complex.

You have to be clear and honest with yourself about your relationship with your boss.  And when emotions are involved the core problem can be difficult to decipher.

  • Is your boss truly micro-managing you because of a character flaw or is there a significant, stressful, and high-pressure project underway that your boss is meant to lead to 100% perfection?
  • Are you subjected daily to hostility and aggression or did your boss lose their temper once or twice having a bad day?
  • Have you been unjustly targeted and mistreated by your boss or have you been regularly underperforming, coming in late, and backing up the process flow amongst your team?

Sometimes the reason why we feel bothered by our boss is because we have not bothered to take an honest look at ourselves. Or expect far more understanding, compassion, and second chances than what a business can handle giving, let alone your boss.

Taking accountability for yourself, your behavior and performance, and the reality that your boss has a job to do can introduce a new prospective and different opportunities to correct the problem of a difficult boss.

Knowing when it’s more than just a difficult boss

On the other hand, sometimes we deal with a bad situation much longer than what we should. You may be in this situation if you have ongoingly been dealing with unwarranted hostility, aggressive words and posturing, gaslighting, and belittling by your superior.

Know the difference between a tough boss and a bad boss creating a hostile work environment:

  • Name calling, sarcastic innuendos, and public belittling especially related to your gender, race, or ethnic background is never okay
  • Lack of boundaries where you feel like your body is unsafe, closeness has sexual overtones, or you cannot have privacy even when using the restroom should not be considered normal
  • Being threatened to be put in an unfavorable job, lose your pay, denied access to a promotion, or other impact to your career or financial well-being is not acceptable behavior

Look at your situation as objectively as you can to ensure that what you may have classified as uncomfortable but normal is way beyond normal.

Sometimes a bad boss is really a bad boss that needs serious intervention. It may take quite a bit of courage but for your own well-being you may need to report the situation to a higher-level leader or your human resources department. In extreme situations even outside legal counsel or the authorities may need to get involved. And in the most dire yet unresolved situations, you may need to quit.

Trust your gut and your judgment. Ask yourself if you would be okay if what is happening to you were happening to someone that you love. What would you advise someone else to do?

If the treatment that you have been subject to is far from acceptable to happen at work, make the best decision for what serves you in the best way right away.  


Dealing with a boss that you hate can make coming to work every day a job in itself. Find your way to take control of your work experience and place your focus on what serves you best. 

Your boss is not the only person who has an impact on you and your work experience.  Take control of what you can do to direct your attention and engagement with your work and with others.  See the opportunity in creating meaning and enjoyment in your job.

Your boss may be easy to hate but making your job easy to love can make the total experience worth having.

If you have tried all the tips and tricks and still can’t take another day, it may be time to find another job.  Here are some resources to help you along the way.

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And if you need a little help refreshing your resume, download our free guide Tools for the Best Resume Rebuild Ever.

When all else fails a planned exit may be your most effective solution.

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