Dealing With a Bad Boss: Should You Leave Your Job or Try To Make It Work?

Bored woman in self isolation laying on the sofa.
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From the Great Resignation and the gig economy to the rise of remote work and quiet quitting, the post-pandemic worker has gained new leverage, new confidence and new alternatives to bad bosses.

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Dragging yourself to a job you don’t like only to deal with a boss you like even less has been part of daily life for generations of Americans. But today’s professionally disaffected are more inclined to quit when the going gets tough.

The fact that they even have that option might seem like a major victory for the country’s labor force, but does it actually benefit the individual worker to quit their way out of a lousy boss’s clutches?

The answer, of course, is that it depends on the boss, the job and the individual.

Know the Signs of a Boss Worth Leaving

Every supervisor has a different management style and every employee has different sensitivities. Before you decide to stay or leave, it’s important to understand the difference between a truly toxic boss and one whose personality just doesn’t jive with yours or exceeds your tolerance for frustration.

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Experts from the career and job-placement site Lensa told GOBankingRates to look out for these signs of a toxic boss that most people would be better off leaving behind. A toxic boss:

  • Doesn’t see you as an equal, but instead views you as being below them, treating you and your colleagues differently according to your status within the company.
  • Cannot accept criticism when something goes wrong and will deflect by blaming others, failing to recognize their role in the situation.
  • Is too concerned with meeting their own goals to show concern for your and your colleagues’ needs.
  • Might shout at you, insult you or be passive-aggressive for no reason.
  • Might expect you to work long hours without extra pay, offload their personal lives on you and contact you frivolously outside of office hours.

If your bad boss doesn’t fit the bill, ask yourself the following questions before putting in your two-week notice.

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Are You Getting Anything Out of It Besides a Paycheck?

You might be inclined to stick with a boss you can’t stand because the money is great or because you can’t afford to quit. But keep in mind, your paycheck is only part of your compensation.

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“The line in the sand — whether to stay or to go — can be defined by what you are gaining in terms of marketability or skill development,” said Andie Viele, president of the attorney recruiting and career firm Viele Consulting Group. “If you have access to work that is drastically expediting skill development, or otherwise gives you access to important variables you otherwise would not have, then stick it out. A year is a good rule of thumb to reach before making a change, regardless.”

Do You Love the Company But Not Your Supervisor?

If you enjoyed your job before a management change, or if you’re thrilled to work for the company as a whole but just can’t tolerate your supervisor for one more day, remember that your manager is just one person.

“You are working for the organization and not your boss,” said Smita D. Jain, executive coach and TEDx speaker. “Bosses are temporary, but the company is permanent. If you like the company’s culture and work in general, but are dealing with a bad boss, then examine all your internal options before deciding to change your job. Explore changing your team, department or location to change your work environment. Only if all internal options fail and/or you are stuck with the toxic boss for an inordinate period of time should you change jobs. Opt for it as a last resort and not your first.”

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Do You Have a Better Job With a Better Boss Lined Up?

If you are committed to telling your current boss to take a hike, be prepared — the fulfillment you get from that glorious moment might be fleeting. If you’re going to quit, quit with a plan — and preferably a new job — in place.

“Leaving a lousy boss now may be a counterproductive play because winning a new job while unemployed is difficult,” said Maureen Farmer, CEO and founder of Westgate Executive Branding and Career Consulting Inc. “The more senior the position being sought, the longer a transition will take to execute, so plan the exit strategy now while remaining emotionally neutral to the behavior of the boss.”

Farmer suggests seeking employee-assistance services like a counselor, therapist or psychologist for coping during the exit process. But most importantly, keep your emotions and your intentions close to your vest as you plan your escape, no matter how strong the urge to lash out may be.

“Professional references will be required for the new job offer,” said Farmer. “Therefore, it’s essential to maintain positive relationships in the current role when possible. Never slander the lousy boss, however warranted. The exit process — looking, interviewing and closing job offers — can take a few months. Taking care of physical and emotional health is paramount because it will help to cope with the current situation while maintaining a healthy emotional outlook when speaking with prospective employers.”

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About the Author

Andrew Lisa has been writing professionally since 2001. An award-winning writer, Andrew was formerly one of the youngest nationally distributed columnists for the largest newspaper syndicate in the country, the Gannett News Service. He worked as the business section editor for amNewYork, the most widely distributed newspaper in Manhattan, and worked as a copy editor for TheStreet.com, a financial publication in the heart of Wall Street's investment community in New York City.
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