Home Mental Health & Well-Being Managing Your Stress as an Employee with a Bad Boss

Managing Your Stress as an Employee with a Bad Boss

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As an employee, your productivity, efficiency, creativity, and so many other things depend largely on your mental well-being. However, a variety of factors at the workplace can leave your mental health in shambles– and a bad boss is certainly one of them!

Thankfully, there are several ways to navigate this kind of stress, so read on to learn a few ways to cope with it and find inner peace.

Bad bosses and how they cause stress to employees

A bad boss can be a recipe for stress, anxiety, low morale, and everything in between. Some signs you could be dealing with such a boss may include micromanagement, disrespect to you (or other employees), lack of communication, blaming and criticising staff, or lack of support when you need it most as an employee.

And as exciting as it may sound to quit your job and start your own business, there are always challenges to deal with: from the lack of resources to potentially violating your employment agreement.  

You might also look for a job elsewhere, but it’s never certain how long it will take to find one, plus the next boss might be equally bad if not worse. This leaves many employees with one daunting yet often rewarding solution – coping with the stress.

Here are some tips to cope with stress when you have a bad boss:

Know you’re not alone

Workplace stress is more common than most people know, and it affects millions of people globally from time to time. While it might not eliminate the root cause of the stress, simply knowing that you’re not alone may perhaps provide a sense of comfort.

According to the US Department Of Labor’s OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration), over 80% of American workers experience work-related stress, with more than 50% citing that work stress affects their life away from work.

Often, a significant amount of this stress will come from a bad boss, if not a mean colleague, and other factors such as job dissatisfaction. In the toughest times, having a support system is paramount to helping deal with work-related stress.

Know when to consult a local employment lawyer

As an employee with a bad boss, you may feel overwhelmed and powerless in the workplace. Knowing when to consult an experienced local employment lawyer is key to protecting your rights from any potential violations of labour law.

If you work in California or its neighbouring parts in the south, for instance, talking to an experienced employment attorney in Orange County could be your solution. They can offer you confidential advice about your rights as an employee, and advise you accordingly on how to best handle your concerns without getting into trouble.

Decorated labour attorneys are usually well equipped to offer advice on any legal action where necessary – should either party violate federal or state laws regarding labour issues and safety regulations.

For example, if you believe that you’re being discriminated against based on gender or race, such an attorney can provide guidance on how best to pursue claims under relevant legislation without fear of prejudice or retaliation from your boss.

Identify and emancipate yourself from stressful situations

Working under a bad boss can be outright difficult, and it’s important to recognise the signs that you’re becoming overwhelmed. But when dealing with a boss who stresses you out, it’s crucial to avoid being the source or participant of the stress according to HBR’s Tom Chamoro, business psychology professor and CIO of ManpowerGroup.

Being aware of your environment helps you to spot potential dangers; both in terms of your physical safety as well as mental well-being.

Therefore, it’s essential to identify when particular situations are making you particularly anxious or distressed. If this happens regularly within certain team meetings, for example, take practical steps such as leaving earlier, redirecting conversations appropriately, or perhaps even avoiding those circumstances entirely if possible.

Once identified, taking appropriate action can help you gain more control over moments like these while at work. It can in turn empower you with the ability to engage positively at work without fear of retribution.

Establish boundaries to protect your mental health

Many bad bosses think they have the right to cross boundaries, making unreasonable demands or punishing employees for not meeting them. To protect yourself and your mental health, it’s important to set strong and clear boundaries both professionally and personally when it comes to interactions with your manager.

Make sure that you always maintain a respectful attitude regardless of how unprofessional he or she may be towards you. This could mean refusing certain requests respectfully but firmly and providing reasoning without getting into personal attacks. Setting boundaries can help avoid uncomfortable and stressful situations with your boss, which in turn can help streamline the relationship and prevent future stress.

Maintain a positive mindset in the midst of negativity

It’s not easy to remain positive when dealing with a difficult boss, but an optimistic and resilient state of mind is key for managing stress in the long run. With surveys indicating an increase in suicidal thoughts among employees due to stress, having a positive mindset is inarguably crucial.

Instead of focusing on all that is or could go wrong, it’s best to think about how you can make small improvements now, or ways to prepare for success in the future. Some tips you may consider include:

  • Keeping yourself motivated even when others around you may lack enthusiasm.
  • Cultivate self-confidence by believing in your capabilities and ability to achieve your goals.
  • Talk to people who encourage productive thinking.
  • Take up calming activities such as exercise or mindfulness.
  • This way, you can propagate mental strength, which you can always draw upon to help you deal with workplace stress.

Consider communicating your grievances with HR 

Finally, if you’re struggling under a bad boss, communicating your issues with Human Resources can be beneficial in the long run. This means clearly communicating grievances without making negative accusations against the person in question.

If your employer has proper internal conflict resolution policies in place, this might as well be the silver bullet you need to say goodbye to workplace stress. Especially with all the parties involved (at some point) included in the conversation, solutions, and remedies are easy to get to.

If there is evidence of bullying or harassment, make sure to document it as much as possible with detailed accounts of events. And if unable to address issues directly with HR due to staffing levels, you can consider utilising internal channels; such as anonymous telephone helplines where available.

Final thoughts

In the truest of thoughts, the workplace is hardly ever a stress-free environment – at least not entirely, and not every day. But if much of your stress is coming from a bad boss, the above tips can go a long way in helping you manage it, or even eliminate it entirely.


Robert Haynes, a psychology graduate from the University of Hertfordshire, has a keen interest in the fields of mental health, wellness, and lifestyle.

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