Defend Yourself Against a Bad Boss

One reason bad bosses get away with inappropriate behavior is because there is no trail of evidence. The spoken word can always be denied, and if it comes down to your word against your bad boss's word, your bad boss wins. But when you have documentation that clearly indicates your boss's intention, then your boss becomes responsible and accountable.


  1. Get a copy of your job description as soon as you are hired, or as soon as you think of it, and keep it for future reference.
  2. Get a list of your goals as soon as you are hired, including specific measurements of expected accomplishment, and keep it for future reference.
  3. Get a copy of all company policies that pertain to your employment, including a code of conduct. These are usually provided when you are hired; if not, ask for them. If you are union, ask your union representative for a copy of your union contract.
  4. Keep a copy of every document your employer asks you to sign.
  5. Do not sign any document that contains statements with which you disagree.
  6. Get in writing any new directions your boss gives you that differ from the duties in your job description and goals. If your boss refuses to write these directions, write a memo to your boss including the new directions and explain the way in which the new directions conflict with your job description, and ask if your understanding is an accurate reflection of the new instructions s/he gave you.
  7. Write the details of all discussions you have with your boss if you suspect something may be inappropriate. Share these notes with your boss in memos, asking if you have understood correctly. Be sure to include time and date of the discussion.
  8. Date and sign all written memos to your boss.
  9. Seek internal help. If your boss continues to provide inappropriate directions, copy an HR manager on future memos to your boss in which you ask for clarification.
  10. Ask for proof. If you are accused of having done something inappropriate, ask to see evidence and do not discuss the matter until evidence is provided. Just say the charge is incorrect and there is nothing to discuss unless there is tangible evidence — not just someone's word.
  11. Contact your union. If you are accused of having done something inappropriate and you belong to a union, contact your union representative immediately and ask for their participation in any future meetings regarding the charge. If you are in management or have no union, continue to deny the charge and refuse to discuss the situation until tangible evidence is provided.
  12. Avoid having your boss create a written record of false accusations against you. If there is a written record of the charge, do not sign it under any circumstances. If you are coerced into signing, write on the document that you disagree with its content, but DO NOT SIGN.
  13. Do not involve your colleagues in the issue — they may be forced to side against you or be placed in an awkward position that threatens their employment.
  14. Seek help from the EEOC. If you think you are being discriminated against, contact the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in your area (see link below).
  15. Store all of your written documentation in a safe place away from your work location.
  16. Update your resume and begin a job search so you will be prepared just in case the situation becomes intolerable or your employment is terminated for false reasons.
  17. Talk with friends and family outside of work but do not overburden them by repeating the same issues day after day if you are not doing anything to improve your situation.
  18. Meet with a private, independent counselor or religious leader to discuss the issue if friends and family become impatient with you.
  19. Maintain healthy lifestyle habits to avoid developing a stress-related illness. Eat a balanced diet, exercise regularly and avoid consuming addictive substances.


  • Exclude personal issues and opinions from the discussion.
  • Keep all of your comments focused on doing a good job for your employer.


  • People usually don't quit jobs, they quit managers. You may want to seriously consider transferring to another department.
  • A bad boss will probably not like your action of writing down the directions he or she gives you orally and may tell you to stop. Explain that you need to write directions down to make sure you understand them correctly, to be able to refer back to them if you have questions later, and to add them to your list of goals and accomplishments.
  • Unless something illegal or potentially costly for the company has happened managers will usually support other managers. If you're new to the company you may want to start looking for something else. If you've been there for years, use caution before escalating to your boss's boss or the HR department--they are more inclined to support the company that employs them. Keep good documentation to support your claims and contact external organizations if it looks like internal alternative may make your situation worse.

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