My doctor told me, “I’ve run every test I can on you. The next step is to cut you open.” He determined that I was ill from stress. Stress brought on by a bad manager.

How bad was it? I remember standing in the basement of a hospital after going for some tests and crying because I didn’t want to go to work that day. In hindsight I can’t believe I let her get to me but I did learn from the experience.

There are manuals, books, seminars and plain common about how to manage people, yet bad managers continue to make employees’ lives hell. Not difficult, hell.

In my article, Why Your Employees Are Leaving, one of the reasons listed was bad managers. This struck a chord with a lot of readers who wrote of their experiences with awful managers. Friends began to tell me about their manager experiences.

Karen, was unable to get the afternoon off to attend a mutual friend’s funeral. Our friend had died suddenly and the arrangements were made quickly due to her religious beliefs. Karen went to her manager to ask for the afternoon only to be told that they “couldn’t spare her.”

Karen says, “We weren’t busy.”  She didn’t stay at the company for very long after that.

Katrina C. told me this tale, “ I had a manager who used to sneak up behind me to scare me. He left and was replaced with a manager who gave me daily feedback on my performance to the point I questioned everything I did. When he left, my new manager was a cruel woman who openly mocked me and then had me fired so she could give her friend my job.”

There are many, many other stories about horrible managers but the question is, how do you deal with a bad manager? The first thing is to realize that you probably can’t change him or her, unfortunately but you can minimize the influence on your work and your health.

Get a Job Description

Make sure you get a job description in writing and approved by you, Human Resources and your manager. Before you sign anything, ensure that it lists everything you do and is detailed and specific. If there is any vague or unclear language, make sure it is cleared up so your manager can’t use it to give you “other duties as assigned.”

Document Everything

This includes your wins and your losses. That way, when a bad manager confronts you with a real or perceived complaint, you have the documentation to support you. Always document the problem, your actions, the solution if there is one, and how it affected the company. Document all concrete example such as numbers, sales leads or other measurable accomplishments.

Back Up Everything

Your documentation and other information should be accessible on a system that isn’t your work computer or your company’s network. That way you will still have everything should you be suddenly let go from your job.

Don’t Respond in Kind

The thing with bad managers is the temptation to sink to their behaviour. Try not to be snarky, sarcastic or facetious when speaking with them. They will only use that behaviour to justify their actions towards you. It’s going to be hard and yes, sometimes taking the high road sucks. Use your documentation to prove your point.


Thanks to websites like LinkedIn and other social media platforms it’s easy to keep an active network. Quietly put the word out that you’re looking but only do that with people you trust so word doesn’t get back to your manager.

Watch What You Tell His/Her Boss

Remember, they either hired or promoted your manager so they may not want to hear that their decision was a poor one. Instead, if you get the chance to talk to your boss’ boss, try pointing out your manager’s good actions (if any) in the hope of encouraging that behaviour.


It’s the last resort but sometimes you just can’t deal with a bad manager. If nothing works and your manager is impossible, then it’s time to look for another job. Not the ideal situation but sometimes the only resort is a drastic one.