How to Deal With Your Hostile Boss

When I was in University, I remember a particularly dreadful summer internship, where one of my bosses would ignore my questions and belittle me in front of anyone at every chance. I remember being brought to tears every Sunday night, dreading my Monday morning at the office.

Waking up every morning to go to work in itself can be a tricky endeavor. But dealing with a hostile boss made my time excruciating. Thankfully, this experience helped teach how to deal with a challenging work environment and exposed me to the ugly side of the corporate environment. Here are some possible solutions on dealing with your own passive aggressive or rude manager.

Try to keep your emotions in check.

When dealing with a boss that is rude, aggressive or even dismissive can really hurt your feelings. But try to keep your eyes dry and don’t let your boss know how much this is upsetting you. To quote Kelly Cutrone’s memoir, “If you have to cry, go outside”. Showing your vulnerability in front of a hostile boss might further harm the already tumultuous professional relationships.

Take personal breaks.

Try to find a way to deal with the environment. Take your full lunch break, go for a walk in the afternoon. Try to create a defense mechanism such as taking a walk or going to the washroom when you feel like your boss is on attack mode. Also remind yourself that it is not likely a personal attack, it can often be projection of your boss’s frustration or unhappiness in their own situation. Barney from How I Met Your Mother, calls it“the chain of screaming”. 

Be diplomatic.

Sit down and schedule a one-on-one meeting with your boss and give them a slight heads-up that you are interested in talking to them about some of your concerns you have. When you speak to your boss, remember that you need to stay calm and reference specific instances that you have felt hurt or troubled by. Do not be angry or raise your voice. Try not to deliberately blame their behavior, but present them with some of the facts and how they behaved and how it affected your work.

Ignore them.

Don’t avoid them when they speak to you, but try to ‘go to a happy place’ when they try to bully or belittle you. I know this is easier said then done, but it’s best to keep smiling and deliver on your work. The best revenge is being successful.

Look for support.

After speaking to your manager. How do you balance what you need from them and protecting yourself from… well, them? Look for support from other people in your company. Try not to speak openly about your relationship or challenges with your boss with co-workers, but look for mentors and friendly people in your office that might be able to shield you, or assist you in any situations that can tame your boss.


Life is too short to work with people who make you feel horrible about yourself. So weigh all your options and see if the situation is rectifiable. If not, start looking for a place that will treat you with the respect you deserve.   


Tags: career, horrible boss, how to deal with a hostile boss, how to deal with difficult boss, how to deal with stress, work, work life

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