How to Handle a Horrible Boss

Make the most out of a mean manager.

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Lindsay Olson
In movies like Horrible Bosses and The Devil Wears Prada, we get the chance to laugh at the fools unfortunate enough to have to work for slave drivers. But bad bosses are a reality for many workers. Here's how to make the most out of a bad situation.

Get to the Root of the Issue

It can feel like your boss is singling you out with her verbal assaults, but if you step back and take a look, you might see the picture differently. Beverly D. Flaxington, bestselling author of books like Understanding Other People: The Five Secrets to Human Behavior, suggests: "Adopt an air of Interested Observer watching your boss. Notice his/her style and communication approach."

You might realize that your manager only treats you and others poorly when her own boss meets with her, or that she simply has difficulty in communicating.

Determine What Bothers You

"What is it that is driving you nuts?" asks Mary Hladio, founder and president of Ember Carriers Leadership Group. "Write it down, sit with it for a few days, and then review it to rank the list of offenses from the worst to the least."

Hladio suggests choosing the top three things that your boss does that upset you, and working with a coach or mentor to develop coping strategies. You can't change your boss, she says, but you can change how you respond.

Center Yourself

Rather than stressing out about all the unnecessary work your boss is piling up on you, work to find a way to keep your calm at work. "Use a trigger to get you into a neutral frame of mind," suggests Caroline Ceniza-Levine, founding partner of SixFigureStart. "This might be as simple as thinking the phrase, 'Thank you.' Gratitude has a calming force."

Ceniza-Levine also says taking three deep breaths to help restore calm.

Getting out of bed in the morning can be daunting if you know your day will be filled with accusations and raised voices. But try to see the silver lining: this won't be forever. Flaxington says you should prepare yourself before you go in to work. "Do meditation, get some exercise, listen to music you like, etc.," she says. "Instead of spending your morning in dread, do something that brings you up and makes you feel good before you even go into your workplace."

Talk to Your Boss

Scary as it may seem, addressing the issue head-on may be your best solution. Make the purpose of your conversation to let your boss know her behavior has you feeling like you can't live up to her expectations, and that you want to find common ground so that you can continue to work together without incident. Tearing up or yelling won't help your situation. "Keep your emotions out of conversations with them and only talk about results and facts,"says Jaime Catmull, strategic partnerships manager for ConsumerTrack, Inc.

You might find your boss isn't even aware of what she's doing. In that case, it should be easy to agree on guidelines ("you don't raise your voice at me," or "we'll agree on realistic deadlines for my work."). If your efforts are less successful, it may be time to seek work elsewhere.

Find a New Job

While this isn't always an option, you can at least start looking for a new job quietly while you suffer on in silence. Consider this job as training for a better position. "Rather than waste any more time trying to better your workplace, focus on bettering your career," says Ceniza-Levine. Eke the good you can out of your current job, and prepare yourself to move on to other things.

When you've got a horrible boss, the key is finding a way to live with the situation or to improve it. Don't just take the abuse. Stand up for yourself and work to find a solution that will lower your blood pressure and keep your boss happy.

Lindsay Olson is a founding partner and public relations recruiter with Paradigm Staffing and Hoojobs.com, a niche job board for public relations, communications, and social media jobs. She blogs at LindsayOlson.com, where she discusses recruiting and job search issues.