I had a Horrible Boss, just recently. I work on contract, so I am lucky enough to have a finite period of time with The Boss on any given project. Once it ends, so does my relationship with them. I could go on and explain the type of psychological manipulation and emotional abuse that is so common amongst Horrible Bosses, but we can compare notes another day.
For now, let’s talk about survival mode.
1. Keep smiling.
There is nothing more infuriating to someone who is trying to destroy your soul than seeing that you don’t give a shit. (Then promptly go cry alone in the bathroom, that’s totally normal).
2. Be above reproach.
Do your job, and do it so well that when they give you shit for whatever is going wrong in their own head, you know it’s not about you. If you start doubting yourself, you’re a goner.
3. Don’t gossip about it.
Refer to #1: don’t tell everyone about how awful it is to work for The Boss. They can surely see it, they are not blind. If you start complaining, you just end up sounding like a whiny baby. Nobody likes a baby. If you need to vent, call your mom. She will be on your side (unless your mom is your horrible boss in which case, do yourself a favour and just find another life).
4. A tried and true technique of Horrible Bosses is to simply ignore you.
Then yell at random when you’re not next to them. Don’t let that get you down! Pretend they are not ignoring you. Do your job as though they were acting normally. A lot of effort goes into ignoring someone. Make them work for their torment.
5. Get in their face with your kindness.
This is a tricky one. You have to toe the line between being severely kind and not sucking up. Horrible Bosses feed on the blood of people who suck up, so don’t be that guy. Instead, be kind but firm. For instance, if they yell for a coffee and you don’t immediately conjure one out of thin air and they snap irrationally, smile firmly and say “no problem, coming right up”. Don’t offer coffee to a horrible boss before they ask for it, it’s just not worth it. They will metaphorically pour it all over your face. (Or sometimes for real).
6. Develop a mantra.
“This is not about me”, “I am loved”, “I am strong”, “I am Beyonce not Solange”… whatever. Find something you can repeat to yourself that won’t make you feel like the end nugget of a long shit. And when they vomit verbal assaults your way, you have a safe place for your mind.
7. Do not trust or believe your Horrible Boss.
This is of tantamount importance. Horrible Bosses are often kind, reel you in and try to make you trust them, and just when you think everything will be fine—WHAM. They go medieval. They then chip away at your self-esteem and watch you implode. And then they’re nice again. No good can come of this. Don’t trust them when they’re nice, but also don’t believe them when they tell you you’re useless, slow, lazy, arrogant, selfish, a lost cause, etc.
8. If you care about your job, don’t give up.
If this job is a career you care about, plan ahead. Focus on what you want. The Horrible Boss is just an obstacle you can surely climb over eventually. There’s a greater purpose. However, if you don’t care about your job, get out. Now. Preferably with a big fuck you on the way out.
9. Remind yourself that you’re not saving lives.
Sometimes it’s so easy to get wrapped up in your anguish that you forget to keep a little perspective. Your Horrible Boss is not the center of the universe, and everything will be fine. There is a caveat, however. If you’re ACTUALLY saving lives then everyone has a right to be horrible because it’s a pretty heavy cross to bear.
10. Be positive.
When looking back, your Horrible Boss will be nothing but a blip on your radar, baby. This experience, if anything, will provide you with a wealth of interesting stories, thicker skin, and maybe an article.
Disclaimer: when in the line of fire, it’s hard to implement one—let alone TEN—of these tips. I will concede. Sometimes you just want to curl up and watch Grey’s Anatomy on repeat because they just UNDERSTAND your pain. But don’t give up! Remember your mantra and maybe just once spit in their coffee. (k don’t. but also do. *kidding*)