Horrible bosses

We all dread it happening to us – we get an awful boss that we just can’t live with. But we’re more likely to put up and shut up as we become desperate to hang on to our jobs.

We’re also less likely to take the plunge and look for a new job. Is this making us more vulnerable in the workplace and what do you do if you have a horrible boss? 




In the Horrible Bosses movie, three guys face three bosses who are awful in very different ways. And it’s actually a good representation of some of the problems you could face in your own job. In a recent survey, 4 in 10 workers said that their manager's behaviour increases their stress levels, with over a third claiming they do not enjoy their job because of their boss. The main thing to remember is you’re not powerless in these situations and you do have the right to a harassment-free workplace.

The maneater

In Horrible Bosses, Jennifer Aniston plays an out-of-control sexual predator who has set her sights on her assistant and won’t take no for an answer. And although in the movie this leads to a number of funny scenes, in real life sexual harassment is a very serious issue that can be difficult for employees to talk about.

In the UK, you have a legal right under the Sex Discrimination Act not to be sexually harassed by your boss or colleagues. This covers things like comments about the way you look that you find demeaning, indecent remarks, questions about your sex life, sexual discrimination and sexual demands.

If you’re experiencing this and have to leave your job then you can file for unfair dismissal or you can try and deal with the problem directly by going to your HR department. Alternatively, you can get free advice from the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS).

The psycho

This is probably one of the most common horrible bosses, and is played by Kevin Spacey in the movie. You know the type, domineering, slave-driving control freaks who lord it over their employees. Being micro-managed can be really damaging to your self-esteem and, if it’s uncalled for, it can really undermine you in the workplace.

But what can you do when your boss claims he or she is just a ‘strong manager’. Well the important thing is you are protected by law from "offensive, intimidating, malicious or insulting behaviour, abuse or misuse of power through means intended to undermine, humiliate, denigrate or injure the recipient". But what does this mean exactly?

Well, it covers everything from constant criticism despite good performances, being shouted at, forced to do mundane tasks and being persistently picked on, through to having promotions blocked and being overloaded by work. If this sounds like it applies to you then make sure you speak in confidence to your HR department to try and find a resolution, and if you’re not comfortable doing this then contact ACAS for free legal advice.

The tool

Colin Farrell is almost unrecognisable as ‘the tool’ in Horrible Bosses, playing a sleazy, incompetent ass who is running the company – and its employees – into the ground. And these can be tricky to deal with if their only fault is incompetence, despite the fact it can make your work life unbearable.

The key is to stay calm and be patient. Dumb-ass managers are very common because lots of companies promote people for the wrong reasons. You need to focus on your own performance and ensure you do the best job you can – and try to let your boss’s boss see that. If the incompetence moves into bullying then you have grounds to address it, but if not you may just have to wait it out.

See if your colleagues feel the same way and, if it’s causing serious problems with your workloads, you can all get together and ask for an informal chat with someone higher up in the company or in HR to address your concerns. Just be sure that you have logged all the incidents and it doesn’t descend into a bitching session as that will only make you look bad.

If all else fails

If you are starting to feel it’s not worth it, hate your job because of your boss or just can’t be dealing with lengthy legal processes then you shouldn’t be afraid of getting a new job.

Despite the recession and subsequent economic problems, it could be worth getting your CV up to scratch and starting to look around for a new job. Also check that your boss is giving you the right salary with our totaljobs salary checker. Sometimes all you need is a change of scenery.


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