Work for a Tyrant

Unfortunately, bad bosses are fairly common in the workplace and you may end up working for a few during your career. Dealing with a tyrannical boss doesn’t have to be traumatic, though. Tyrannical supervisors may be insecure or incompetent, or they may simply not understand what it takes to support and motivate employees.[1] In this article, we'll show you how to react to your boss in negative situations and survive their overbearing behavior. Ultimately, however, if your boss refuses to change or treat you humanely, you may need to look for different work elsewhere.


Working to Accommodate Your Boss

  1. Perform as a model employee. By not slipping up and continuing to perform your job duties as perfectly as you can, you leave the tyrant as little room as possible to complain about your work.[2] Be punctual, work accurately, don’t call in sick, double-check your work and strive for the company’s overall good.
    • Try to anticipate your supervisor’s needs and comply with all requests.
    • Also give your boss positive reinforcement when they demonstrate successful communication and management. Say something like, “I appreciate you being so accommodating when I had to push my big project back by a few days to take on some new work.”[3]
  2. Communicate with your boss. Make an attempt to discuss your feelings with your boss, in a way that can be constructive rather than critical. Practice your key points ahead of time. During the discussion with your boss, remain calm, stay positive and encourage an improved relationship.[4]
    • Express yourself in a way that is non-threatening, not critical and cannot be construed as whining.
    • Try saying something like, “Sometimes I feel as though my work doesn’t satisfy you, or it’s consistently inadequate. Is there something I could fix overall, or steps I could take to address this?”
    • Also bring up points like: “Some of the ways you speak to me and treat me [include a specific example] make me feel as though I’m not a valued member of the office. Is there a way we can focus more on the positive aspects of the work I’m doing?”
  3. Avoid reacting in an emotional way. Although a boss who is cruel can easily make you feel upset, reacting emotionally won't help the situation. If your boss bullies you or puts you down in front of others, try not to react or let your boss see that they're getting to you. Remain professional at all times and focus on doing your job to the best of your ability.
  4. See things from your boss’s perspective. It may turn out that tyrannical behavior and office mismanagement simply stem from a breakdown of communication. Listen to your boss to gain insight to their side of the story.[5]
    • When communicating with your boss, ask clarifying questions so that you can both be clear about exactly what they expect you to accomplish.
    • Reminding your boss of all your current responsibilities may help them to realize that some of their demands are overbearing.
    • Also consider whether your boss's behavior is a product of their cultural background. In some cultures, an overbearing or authoritative posture is considered desirable.

Resisting Your Boss’s Tyrannical Behavior

  1. Keep track of your boss’s tyrannical behavior. By documenting outrageous outbursts or requests, you have some track record to refer to if you’re ever in a position to defend yourself or to file a complaint against your boss. Keep all emails or memos from your boss which document their overbearing management.
    • Keep a tape recorder or smartphone handy. No boss likes to have bad behavior on record. Just say, “You don’t mind if I record this so we have an accurate record of what’s being said, do you?”
    • If your boss’s tyrannical behavior continues, you can show this list of their behavior to HR or to a senior manager in the company.
    • Some states require both parties to consent to recording while others do not. Make sure to check the laws in your state if you think you may need to use the recordings for proof of your boss's behavior.[6]
  2. Rally support from other colleagues or peers. It will benefit you to have a support team in the office, and odds are that you are not the only employee who has run across your boss’s tyrannical behavior. Identify other employees who seem to catch the brunt of your boss’s actions and support each other.[7]
    • If you have a mentor at your company, honest discussions with them may help provide support for you during your boss’s reign.[8]
    • However, be cautious about who you choose to confide in about your boss. Some employees looking for the next step up the ladder of success may use your negative comments against you.
  3. Talk to Human Resources (HR). If your boss’s tyrannical, oppressive behavior does not improve and they are not willing to listen to your appeals, it’s time to talk to HR. Give the HR representative a thorough list of your boss’s objectionable behaviors, and see if there’s any way they can help you.[9]
    • If you’re concerned that HR may not see your side of the problem, explain to them that your boss’s tyrannical behavior cuts down on your productivity and performance.[10]
    • Never tolerate cases of belittlement, sexual harassment, or sexist or racist treatment in the office. Report these incidents to HR immediately.
  4. Maintain your morale. Keep a positive attitude and remind yourself that your boss is the one who has the problem. Don’t allow your boss dampen your good spirits or make you feel bad about yourself.
    • Also pass this positivity on to your boss. Flag your successes at work and let your boss know, so they can be aware of your productivity.[11]
    • No boss or job is worth losing mental health or self-esteem over.

Looking for Work Elsewhere

  1. Consider if the job is worth keeping. Regardless of how much you try to work with your tyrannical boss, or document their unfair behavior, at a certain point you may decide that it’s easier to simply leave the office or company.[12]
    • If you enjoy the workplace aside from your tyrant boss, talk to a member of the senior management or HR—it may be possible for you to be transferred to a different position within the same organization. [13]
  2. Look for work elsewhere. For your own peace of mind and your own enjoyment in the workplace, it may be a smart decision to consider changing your place of employment. Use your networking contacts to locate similar positions in other companies.
    • Be discreet during your job search. If your boss discovers that you are searching for a new job, they could make life much more difficult for you.
  3. Explain your tyrant boss to new employers. This issue will certainly come up in interviews, when you are asked why you quit your previous job, or when you’re asked to explain how you relate to supervisors in the workplace. Rather than getting into details about your former tyrant boss, keep your comments broad and brief.[14]
    • For example, if asked why you left your previous company, simply say, “My last manager and I had deeply seated disagreements about getting things done at work, and I thought I could best address the situation by moving on.”[15]