Help! My boss is unprofessional, mean and possibly evil! What should I do?

I have spent the morning reading various people’s reactions to the election – some are elated and some express that they are fearful, anxious and even terrified about what is to come. The headliner in the New Yorker this morning was “An American Tragedy”. This is NOT a political piece, but I couldn’t help draw a connection between the country’s reactions to someone many feel is unfit to lead and how people tend to feel and react when they are working for someone they clash with. I’ve created resumes for hundreds of people and coached many who are looking for a job because they can’t stand their current boss. I’ve also worked with organizations and with managers who struggle with engaging their employees and leading rather than dictating. It’s not easy for anyone and the stress caused can be debilitating.

Typically when someone has a serious personality clash or even an ethical issue with a boss, I explore with them the possibility of just ending the relationship. It’s usually the likely outcome anyway and unless the boss does something illegal and is indicted or fired (or impeached), the likelihood of you winning a turf war with your boss is slim to none. For the sake of argument, though, let’s assume leaving is not an option and for the foreseeable future your boss isn’t going anywhere either. What can you do?


Many people are familiar with the Serenity Prayer, a battle cry for those in recovery and just plain good advice for everyone else, too. In the event that you can’t change something, your option is to accept it. Note, that acceptance does NOT mean liking something. It means ceasing to indulge in mental exercises wishing things were different, complaining and obsessing. It means settling in to the reality of your reality and figuring out how to operate.

Keep your side of the street clean

Someone who used to be a mentor told me often that poor leadership is no excuse for poor followership. What I understood this to mean is that it doesn’t really matter how your boss chooses to conduct his/or her affairs. Their actions and even their opinion of you is none of your business. What is your business is doing the best job you can on principle. Presumably the organization you are part of is one whose mission you value and whose success is intrinsically linked with your own. As well, you also have a sense of loyalty and integrity (or why else would the bad boss be under your skin so badly?). Failing to give your best because of your leader may give you a short-term surge of self-righteous satisfaction, but that is fleeting and will leave you feeling depressed and ashamed, and possibly vulnerable to termination for cause.

Have faith

“It always works out in the end. If it hasn’t worked out yet, then it’s not the end.” – Tracy McMillan.

I’d lay pretty good odds that if you look back over your life, the worst times have eventually passed, the pain has eased, and more than likely some good was even wrought out of challenging, if not devastating, times. This is easier to understand if you have a faith in a power greater than yourself, but even if you don’t, understand that things have a way of resolving themselves. When I was getting my coaching certification, one of the things an instructor suggested was to imagine all the people I struggled with the most sitting in a room with a “Carrie’s Team” T-Shirt. That’s right – they all in their own way helped me or taught me something I needed to know. For that, I am truly grateful to them.

Give away your resentment

This one is hands down the hardest. I suspect you won’t want to do it and for the sake of transparency I’ll admit that for me this step usually comes last and is done most reluctantly. There is something satisfying about holding onto a justified resentment. When someone has cheated or betrayed or bullied us, it is almost cathartic to hold onto it, talk about it with your allies, and even use it as an excuse for failing to do your best. And all that aside, you will feel better, advance farther in your career, and experience almost inexplicable success if you take this on. Choose to forgive and let it go. Divorce yourself from the negative emotion associated with your bad boss. The magic formula that was passed on to me was to ‘bless those who curse me’. Practically speaking, this means praying for (or stating a positive intention for, if you’re not prayerfully inclined) all the things you want for yourself for your bad boss. For example “I pray for success, prosperity, and wisdom for John.”. Don’t include suggestions of what they need to change..i.e. “I pray John stops being such a jerk”… just pray for all the best to happen for John. Let me emphasize this may make you want to vomit at first. It’s really hard. And if you do it every day for 14 days you will feel much differently. It’s not about reconciliation, it’s about freeing the hold John has on your emotions.

So there you have it. You’ll notice that none of these steps have to do with changing one hair on your bad boss’s head. It’s not about that. It’s about maintaining your dignity, humanity, and integrity in the face of what may seem devastatingly bad leadership. I’d love to hear your stories!

Carrie Maldonado is the founder of Today’s Leadership Solutions, a Seattle-based consulting firm focused on helping organizations, leaders and job seekers to identify workplace solutions that work.  As a certified executive coach, organizational development expert and resume writer, Carrie consults with small to medium sized businesses on OD, human resources and recruiting solutions in addition to providing career coaching to managers and executives in transition. Carrie can be reached for consultation at


5 managerial shortcuts guaranteed to make your life miserable

If you’re like most managers, you’ve probably at one point in your career thought “I’d love my job if it weren’t for the people messing everything up”.  I’ve never met a manager who didn’t at one time or another wish that s/he didn’t have to deal with people any more.  All managers get anxiety when their people are not performing, but the great leaders are the ones who channel that anxiety into helping people improve rather than make themselves feel better by unloading on their subordinates.   There are countless books about how to be a better manager and implementing the ideas in them will help. Regardless, there are still some common pitfalls managers engage in that may seem like shortcuts at the time, but end up causing unnecessary time and energy dealing with ‘people problems’.  So here are some common offenders


1)      Not taking the time to understand your own strengths, weaknesses and idiosyncrasies

I’ve spoken previously about common traits of entrepreneurs.  Chances are if you are a manager or leader then you were a great individual contributor with high capacity and are achievement oriented.  You also are comfortable with if not desirous of holding positions of authority.  But what’s it really like to work for you?  Do you like to micro-manage every little detail, or are you more comfortable with a 30,000 level update?  Please take the time to know your own strengths and weaknesses and hire people who complement you.  It is rarely necessary to hire your clone, so please avoid the temptation to fill your office with people just like you.  It rarely works well.

2)      Not developing good behavioral interview questions to use on each potential new employee

The best predictor of future behavior is past behavior.  I have not been exposed to an argument to the contrary (and there are many, to be fair) that has swayed me from this tactic.  While I understand the theory behind situational questions (What would you do if…) I remain unconvinced of their predictive validity.  If I need someone who can manage difficult clients, I would much rather hear about the most difficult client relationship they managed and how it was resolved than their thoughts on an imaginary situation.  Yes, a terrible answer to a situational question can weed out the horrible applicants, but I prefer to think of interviewing as ‘mining for greatness’ rather than ‘weeding out bad eggs’.

3)      Not having an ‘expectation’ discussion with new team members

This is the ‘culture talk’ and ideally happens before someone joins your team.  It goes along with point one and requires you understand how things really need to work in your department or company.  For example, if you want to create a culture of accountability, don’t ever assume this goes without saying.  In fact NOTHING should go without saying.  Spell out what this is and how it looks.  For example:  ‘Ours is a culture of accountability.  We reward people for owing up to their mistakes and taking action to resolve them.  We encourage risk taking and understand that we all learn from mistakes.  Finger pointing and blame laying are not compatible with this goal and are not tolerated.’  Believe it or not, this can be communicated in a way that is motivating and exciting and not negative.  It just takes passion and sincerity.

4)      Not having regular one-on-ones with subordinates

No managers have time for one-on-ones.  They are all too busy.  You are too busy too.  You are also too busy for ‘gotta minutes’, replacing staff who leave because their career paths aren’t clear and who don’t feel you care about them.  Like it or not, the newest generation of workers wants and needs this and won’t stay around long if they don’t get it.  Even the GenXers and Babyboomers do better with one-on-one time so make sure it happens with all your staff.

5)      Coaching in public and praising in private

Surprisingly, there are still leaders who don’t get this.  Never, ever, ever, criticize, denigrate, humiliate, correct, constructively criticize or any other euphemism for calling out your subordinate in front of his/her peers, subordinates, customers or anyone else.  This is never a good idea, is never called for and will lose you loyalty faster than anything else.  You should, on the other hand praise lavishly in public. 

Of course it is possible to do the above five things well and still experience performance problems but I would wager heavily that you will have much fewer performance problems and by being disciplined at executing the above five you will be much more equipped to deal with any issues that do arise.   At the end of the day, a good manager is well served to remember to be clear and concise about expectations, respectful of others’ time and to be practice the golden rule.