Cartoon showing people dealing with bad management at work. They have their heads down on their desks in despair and others are standing around clutching their heads stressed out.
Image: © IRStone/

How to cope with bad management at work

8 Aug 2023

To deal with a bad boss you’ll need patience, supportive colleagues and a lot of determination and focus.

The world of work can be a very unfair place at times. Most people at some point in their careers will have conflict with the people who are supposed to be their leaders. Whether a boss is incompetent, lazy, prone to micromanaging or takes a personal dislike to you, here are some tips on how to keep your cool when you’re dealing with them.

Pinpoint the problem

Is it just that you don’t like the management style? Is it that you think your boss or bosses are incompetent? Or are they micromanaging your every move?

Bad management can mean a lot of things, and sometimes what one person calls a bad boss is not another person’s idea of a bad boss. Think about the exact issue you have with management and why you have it as this will help you overcome it or at least understand it. Previously on, we featured a guide on how to identify a toxic boss and what to do.

Remain focused

If you are having issues with management in the workplace try not to let it interfere with how you approach your work. It’s easier said than done, but no matter how poorly you rate the manager you still want to take pride in your own work. If management is so bad that you can’t focus on your work, perhaps you should look for employment elsewhere where you might be happier and feel more supported.

Supportive colleagues

Most teams have a few different managers so if you don’t get along with one, you can seek out the leaders you do respect and admire. Working with people you respect and from whom you can learn can be enough to counteract the negative experiences with other managers. You can also help other colleagues who feel disillusioned by bad management by providing moral support and positive encouragement when they need it most.

Anticipate problems

Anticipation is a good skill to have for bad bosses at both ends of the spectrum, from the incompetent to the micromanaging, nit-picking sort. Where the former is concerned, you’ll need to be resilient enough to focus on your own job while knowing that the person or people above you might not always be doing theirs. And for micromanagers, it is useful to be able to come back to them with concrete reassurance that you know what you’re doing and you can be trusted to do it. In time, they will hopefully see that you are trustworthy and ease up a little bit.

Enforce clear boundaries

No matter how flat your organisation’s hierarchy is you will have at least one boss you’ll be reporting to. It’s a pretty big red flag if your boss wants to be your friend rather than your mentor – it speaks to a lack of responsibility and naivety on their part. Make it clear to your boss that you’re there to do your job not be a favourite or their best pal.

Handle with care

That said, sometimes it can help to know a little bit about your boss’s personality traits and circumstances – it can help you rationalise some of their bad behaviour. Dealing with bad management is always going to be fraught with difficulties because of the power dynamic, but it can work in your favour in the long run if you simply accept that your boss is not a great boss for you and you don’t get on with them. Be empathetic, be the bigger person and move on – whether that’s from the job and the boss is up to you.

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Blathnaid O’Dea
By Blathnaid O’Dea

Blathnaid O’Dea joined Silicon Republic in 2021 as Careers reporter, coming from a background in the Humanities. She likes people, pranking, pictures of puffins – and apparently alliteration.

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