3 Choices In Dealing With Abrasive Bosses

Nick is a hardworking, forward-thinking employee.  He has tried for almost four years to get along with his abrasive boss.  Despite repeated efforts to work collaboratively, he was met with condescension, micro-managing, and disrespect.  A good day at work was when he didn’t have to interact with his boss or his boss took a day off. Those days were a welcome reprieve from the cloud of tension in the work culture and the stress of the knowing the next demeaning comment could come at any time.  Nick has never had performance or conduct problems out of his fifteen year professional work history. He is now considering applying to a different department in order to get away from working with his current boss.


Can you relate to Nick?


While it is perfectly understandable for Nick to leave to get away from his abrasive boss, below are three choices to consider in whether to stay or move on to a different job when faced with a difficult work situation due to an abrasive boss.


Stay – 

Some people stay in abusive work conditions and endure.  Although they are acutely aware of the abrasive behavior of their boss or co-workers, they stay because they don’t feel they have another option.  Perhaps they feel trapped because they are the primary bread-winner or need health insurance. Over time, they lose self-confidence and develop health-related problems due to internalizing the stress.  They often choose not to do anything to improve the situation out of fear of some type of retaliation such as job loss.


Leave – 


Each person has to decide when to leave a difficult work situation, when enough is enough.  A key consideration in making this decision is recognizing there is no perfect job or boss.  Even if you leave, you take ‘you’ with you.  If you choose to leave, make sure you ponder the question of “what is my opportunity for growth because of the situation I am in?”   Guaranteed if you have not looked at your own self-growth opportunities and made attempts to change how you respond while detaching from the behavior of others, you may go to a different job but face similar challenges.


Work Through –  


As difficult as it can be to work with a boss who exhibits characteristics of abrasivebehavior, the working through option isn’t about changing the other person.  Rather it is about considering your own self-growth opportunities by focusing on changing you instead of others.  While this option may seem like the most difficult, if it is approached with a mindset of taking control of your attitude and recognition of what you can and cannot change, it can be empowering.


For example, even though you know in theory you can’t change others, it is difficult to put a working through mindset into practice when you encounter a challenging person day in and day out.  On the days when you are ridiculed and put down in front of co-workers, the working through mindset is seeing your boss as an opportunity to not take things personally and standing up for yourself.  Standing up for yourself may mean different things depending on your situation.  It may mean you don’t say a word, rather developing a mindset that you aren’t going to let the behavior of others get to you.  Other times, standing up for yourself may mean speaking up and letting things go if your idea or point of view isn’t accepted.


There are at least two benefits to “working through” a difficult work situation.  One, you will gain greater self-awareness and emotional intelligence as a result of this experience.  Two, the possibility that over time because of your attitude, it could start a positive ripple effect on others.  While there is no guarantee this will happen, sometimes when abrasive bosses see they can’t intimidate co-workers they back off.  Typically if their behavior is not addressed from upper management, they may find someone else to focus on.


Nick’s decision –


Nick chose to leave his employment.  The tipping point came when his boss took credit for one of his projects, that he had enough and started looking to transfer out of his boss’s department.  He chose to move on knowing he had done all that he could to improve his work culture by taking responsibility for his own actions.   In addition, he recognized how his boss had similarities to his father.  By staying, as long as he had, he consciously worked through the emotional aspect of an issue from his upbringing that his boss triggered in him.  He chose to leave without bitterness and actually felt sadness for his boss who just like his father could not see the negative impact of his behavior on others.



Make the Conscious Choice to consider your opportunities for growth when faced with abrasive bosses before deciding to stay, leave, or work through.

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