Help, I Hate My Boss! A Collegiette's Guide to Coping with a Bad Boss

The Ticking Time Bomb
“My former supervisor was literally, a ticking time bomb. She was almost always in a foul mood — hollering, being sarcastic, just going full-out ballistic sometimes! It put everyone in the work place on edge and even scared a customer or two. For a while, none of us really knew what to do about the situation.”
— Candace, sophomore from Saint Anselm College

The first thing you need to do is determine what is upsetting your boss. She could be stressed about work-related problems or she could be going through personal issues. Whatever the situation, ask yourself if you are doing anything to exacerbate the problem — at the end of the day, though you might not be able to change how others are, you have control over your own actions. Even if you feel like your boss’s anger is uncalled for, never, ever snap back at her. Communication is key — ask your boss if there is anything you can be doing differently, and be sure to let her know that you are always available should she need an extra hand. If you’re doing everything you can but your boss has not changed, the best thing you can do is learn how to read her mood and reactions, Candace says. You will know whether she is in a better mood after her first sip of coffee in the morning or at the end of the working day when she’s packing her bag to head home. There are times when you shouldn’t try to talk to your boss, pitch an idea, or otherwise bother her. When she’s preoccupied with ten different conference calls, it’s probably not the time to pitch your six-month improvement plan or to ask for that vacation. This is something that you will learn over time on a day-to-day basis, Candace says, but in the end, you’ll get the hang of how — and when — to communicate effectively.

The Perfectionist
“I think the worst boss I ever had was the editor from my journalism internship over the summer. She was a perfectionist and just expected too much of us in too short of time! She would assign us articles due sometimes only minutes before their deadline. Myself and a few other interns would stay several hours past 5 p.m. This was an internship through my school, which meant I was expected to work a full 40-hour work week, but certainly not over-time.”
— Julia, sophomore from the University of New Hampshire

Some bosses may be so busy thinking about the big picture that they forget the scope of the smaller details. To deal with a boss who might have unreasonable or downright unrealistic expectations, Julia says it’s important to speak up and make your boss aware of the problem. “I recorded my workload over a period of a work week and approached her, saying ‘Look, I’m concerned about not making deadline. Maybe you can help me,’” she says. Explain to your boss that shorter deadlines not only affect the quality of your work, but can also be impossible to meet regardless of time management. “My boss didn’t even realize the extent of the workload she was giving me,” Julia says. Your boss isn’t just there to tell you what to do — she’s there to help you, too, so let her know if you’re struggling! Communication is key — being honest with her will make both your jobs easier as well as maximize efficiency in the workplace.
The Credit-Taker
“I had a supervisor at the office that took a lot of credit for what was my team’s work. It made us feel kind of invisible.”
— Andrea, senior from Northwestern University

Observe how the company functions as a whole — when your boss is taking credit for the team’s work, it may be standard for her to serve as a representative of the team. Often times, recognition may also come in a more formal and professional manner at the conclusion of the project. If this doesn’t seem to be the custom and your boss is not giving credit where credit is due, Andrea advises an alternative that avoids confronting your boss altogether, because, after all, this isn’t your company. “What I did was I took advantage of my company’s employee-recognition program. When our team finished a project, we nominated it for recognition.” Doing this gives you and your co-workers proper recognition. If your company doesn’t have such a program, revert to the Golden Rule. In meetings or presentations, give credit to your boss and co-workers to set an example of how you would like to be recognized.