SUMMARY POINTS

  • An asshole boss can mess up your physical and emotional health
  • Keep your distance and seek support from coworkers and HR
  • Change how you work and how you react to them to build your immunities
What’s the biggest reason why you dread going into work every day?

An asshole boss could be one of the biggest reasons.

You’ve probably heard variations on the saying that “People don’t leave jobs. They leave their managers.”

And, it’s so true.

According to a recent study from Woohoo Inc, nearly 20% of people had a bad workday almost every day. And for 40% of people, their boss was the main problem.

Now, there are ways to deal with asshole coworkers in the office but it’s not so easy to avoid an asshole boss. You’ve got to work directly with them every day.

There’s no avoiding them since you need their input, direction, and permission to move forward with your work.

Worse than that, they sometimes seem to take pleasure from making you miserable.

You constantly question what you could have done to deserve this shitty attitude. You’re racking your brains but you can’t come up with anything that triggered it.

The constant stress and anxiety are taking its toll.

You’re scared too.

Who knows what today will bring. If you’re lucky, you might make it through the day unscathed. But on a bad day, you feel trapped and helpless.

You’ve seriously thought about quitting. You even daydream about resigning and sticking it to your boss. 

But since you don’t have a backup plan right now, you’re gritting your teeth and trying to get through a rough day.

You’d give anything to feel happy or even just neutral while you’re at work.

You’ve been dealing with this shit for so long that you can’t even remember the last decently good day that you’ve had.

But the toxic situation is hurting your wellbeing.

This shit has gotta stop. Things need to change today. 

What An Asshole Boss Does To You

Working for an asshole boss does nothing for your health - both mental and physical.

The stress and fear take its toll with super serious consequences for some people.
When you’re struggling with a toxic boss, here’s how it can mess you up. 

1) Increases Risk Of Heart Attack

According to this study from Sweden, having a shitty boss can be a risk factor for heart disease and heart attacks. The longer you work with them, the higher the risk.

People who had worked for an asshole boss for at least 4 years were 64% more likely to get heart disease. Scary stuff, right?

Stress and fear are the main culprits. If your blood pressure is constantly up as a result of your boss’s antics, it can lead to heart disease.

And if you’re adopting unhealthy behaviors like eating junk food, smoking, drinking, etc. to help you cope with the situation, this can significantly increase the risk.

The main takeaway here?

Putting up with an asshole boss is bad news for heart health. In fact, it could be killing you. 

2) Screws Up Your Sleep

An asshole boss can seriously disrupt your sleep cycles, especially if they’re communicating at all hours of the night. Think emails or texts at 11 pm (or later) with an immediate reply expected, even if it isn’t urgent.

Even if you’re not being micromanaged like this, just the stress of working for a toxic boss can keep you awake at night. All sorts of worries and anxieties race around in your head and keep you from getting a good night’s rest.

This study published in the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology found a link between a toxic work environment and insomnia. No surprise there.

Sleep is our body’s main way of recovering and healing - whether it’s sore muscles from exercise or mental strains from work.

And, living with little sleep can affect your health because your body isn’t getting the time it needs to recover. You’re more at risk of conditions such as diabetes and heart disease.

It’s not good for your work either. Not getting enough sleep can impair your judgement, focus and thought clarity. All of these can affect your productivity and increase the chances of you falling asleep at your desk due to lack of sleep.

3) Drains You Mentally And Physically

Just making it through a day at work can make you feel like you’ve been hit by a train. You’re completely exhausted and when you get home, all you wanna do is vege out on the couch and decompress.

And when you’re this drained, you only have enough energy to microwave food or order up fast food. Which in turn, makes you feel worse later on.

Aside from the health effects, it’s not good for your work either.

When you feel unsure of how to act or what to do next, it can ruin your focus and productivity. According to this study, mental fatigue is a major factor in cognitive impairment.

4) Causes Depression

Feeling unhappy at work can be highly demoralizing. And research from the UK has indicated it can lead to depression, especially if you have a toxic boss.

People were asked to answer questions about their wellbeing, their boss and whether bullying was present in their workplace.

Those that had a boss with narcissistic or sociopathic personalities rated their wellbeing as poor and were more likely to be clinically depressed.

It creates an unending cycle of depression that is almost impossible to break free from.

How to Tell If Your Boss Is An Asshole

How do you tell if your boss is irrationally difficult?

According to this study from Binghamton University, bad bosses tend to be either dysfunctional or toxic.

Dysfunctional is like Dilbert’s boss.

Toxic is like Ebenezer Scrooge.

The former is largely down to poor leadership or being shitty at their job and there’s no malice in their actions. Sometimes, they’re just fucking clueless executives.

But the latter group is far more dangerous. These are the toxic bosses that love to cause hurt and stress. These are the assholes.

These signs are a surefire way to tell if your boss is a Grade A asshole. 

1) They Leave You Drained

Want to know the biggest sign that your boss is an asshole?

According to Robert Sutton, a professor of organizational behavior at Stanford University, a workplace asshole is "someone who leaves you feeling demeaned, de-energized, and disrespected."

In other words, they make you feel shitty, mentally and physically drained and completely unvalued. You practically feel less human.

An asshole boss cares nothing for your feelings. They’ll put you down, yell at you, get abusive and might even throw some threats your way too.

They might be passive-aggressive too, which can leave you second-guessing yourself. This is a tricky one to deal with as reacting can often come across as though you’re “touchy” or “sensitive”.

You haven’t done anything to deserve it either. You’re not behind on your work or turning out substandard projects. They’re just a jerk with no people skills. 

2) They Micromanage The Shit Out Of You

You know you’re perfectly capable of doing your work independently but your boss’s behavior doesn’t reflect it.

They absolutely distrust you and anything you do.

You can’t go 10 minutes without a check-in on your progress and every decision, broadcast email and group meeting has to be run past your boss for blessing and approval.

It really slows down your progress. And, progress at work is one of the keys to happiness in life.

So, when your pace is as slow as a snail going through molasses because of all the micromanagement, it brings you down mentally and emotionally. If you’re experiencing this now, here’s the secret to dealing with control freak bosses.

Micromanagement is tedious and stressful and the pressure of being managed this way can lead to the health problems we’ve already talked about. 

3) They’re Demeaning As Hell

Some asshole bosses can be cruel and disrespectful as fuck.

They yell at you and belittle you. Pretty much everything they say is designed to hurt and humiliate.

Maybe they also give you the shitty jobs that no-one else wants to do.

Or maybe they trash talk about your co-workers when they’re not around and you can be damn sure they do the same to you when your back is turned. It creates a drama-filled workplace where navigating office politics becomes your second job.

And don’t even think about having a different opinion to them because in their eyes, they’re never wrong.

In a nutshell, they make you feel inferior or completely worthless, not just as an employee but as a person too. 

4) They Never Compliment, Only Criticize 

When was the last time your boss said something positive about your work?

Yup, that’s what we thought.

With an asshole boss, you’ll be racking your brains to come up with anything even remotely recent.

However, they’re quick to call you out on the smalllest mistake (even if it’s not your fault) but there’s nothing but crickets when a compliment is called for.

It’s like that last Powerpoint you slaved over to get everything just right. You devoted extra hours into the evenings and maybe on the weekend to get this done.

There was nothing out of place, no missing data, all the content was spot on, the formatting was clean and error-free and yet, they’ll point out that the storyline or message doesn’t flow smoothly like it was your fault.

The frustrating part?

They’re the ones that came up with the story logic to begin with!

That’s pure 100% asshole right there.

Their criticism can also cross the line into being personal and offensive. It’s like they can’t offer any critique without being an absolute jackass. 

5) They Only Care About Themselves

Given the choice of doing what’s best for the company, supporting the team or generally helping others, an asshole boss is more likely to pass on any of those options and instead, figure out ways to further their own image, ego and political position within the company.

When there’s a cross-departmental project with multiple stakeholders, they’ll do what they can to get ahead at the expense of others. To them, it’s a zero-sum game.

Throwing others “under the bus” while jockeying for more limelight is one of their hallmark tactics to position themselves as a corporate hero in the eyes of executive management.

And, don’t ever expect them to show up at the annual community volunteering event, unless they can be the top honcho barking out the orders and hogging all the glory without doing any of the actual work.

How To Resolve The Situation Externally

With some toxic bosses, you can get respite from the situation by addressing external factors.

Changing how you interact with a bad boss can make a difference and can improve the chances of things getting better.

Here are some practical steps you can take to deal with an asshole boss while you’re at work. 

1) Try Calm Confrontation

Going in all guns blazing won’t get you very far with an asshole. Most likely, they’ll just drag you down to their level.

Plus, you don’t want to play in their game, especially when they’re really good at it. You’ll just get your ass whooped.

You need to take a slightly different approach.

A calm and polite but firm acknowledgment of their behavior and your lack of tolerance going forward can be a gamechanger.

It depends on why your asshole boss behaves this way but sometimes, it can prompt a change in attitude when they realize that you can’t be pushed around as easily as they would like.

This is an easy first step to start addressing the situation and if it gets you nowhere, you can then move onto other tactics. 

2) Minimize Interaction As Much As Possible

Didn’t get anywhere with polite confrontation?

The next step is to limit face-to-face contact with your boss as much as you can.

Email whenever you can and keep conversations short and to-the-point. Don’t let emotions get into the dialogue. Keep it factual and non-personal.

If you’re getting tons of emails, replying to them as soon as they come in can send your resentment spiraling. Delaying your response to cover several emails avoids this. Take more time in replying, especially if it’s rude emails.

Keeping your distance is critical since assholes like to see your reaction to their behavior. It’s almost like they get off on it.

When you’re limiting your interactions with them, this doesn’t happen so much. 

3) Get Validation And Support From Colleagues

You’re not the only one suffering because of your asshole boss. If you can team up with others and take your case to upper management, it’s more likely to be taken seriously.

It’s harder to dismiss a series of cases, rather than just one.

You and your colleagues can keep separate diaries detailing everything your jerk boss has done.

Document and date every bullying action, demeaning remark and show of disrespect.

If you need to present evidence of your boss’s actions, it’s all there in the diary from multiple people.

This is when you can take it to the next level with HR, which leads us to the next point below.

4) Get HR Involved 

It won’t be long before workplace bullying will be treated on the same level as sexual harassment. And, when companies start having to pay-out hefty fines, this is when HR and legal begins to have the upper hand and greater power to control asshole bosses.

However, it all begins with you and your coworkers documenting the facts, and just the facts, to HR. Without the group's input, HR can’t do much. They need the evidence and the visibility from those that are in the environment to take action.

When it’s not just you but many others that share the same sentiment about your asshole boss, then HR has a much more solid footing on which they can enforce behavioral changes.

If it’s truly only you and nobody else has an issue with your boss, then it’s time for some introspection and an honest evaluation of the working relationship you have and what can be done mutually to smooth things out.

5) Transfer To Another Group Or Line Up A New Job

If you’ve tried all the above options and nothing improves the situation, start looking for a new position within the company.

Looking for other positions within your own company has a huge benefit over looking externally. You’re already “on the inside” and can see or find out what that other department, group and manager is like.

When you’re seeking positions outside of the company, you’re going in blind and you run the risk of jumping into the same kind of situation (or maybe even worse), just with another asshole boss of a different variety.

If you go down this road, make sure you have that other job lined up with an official offer in hand before you quit.

Just remember that when you feel like quitting your job, take a step back and reassess things because there are ways to resolve and/or minimize the pain before making a snap decision and jumping ship.

In this short 4-minute video, Stanford professor Bob Sutton talks about how you can avoid assholes at work. It emphasizes some of the same points we mentioned above.

VIDEO: Techniques to Avoid Toxic People
YOUTUBE: Stanford eCorner
LENGTH: 3:54
Summary points:
  • Being physically farther away from assholes helps
  • Slowing the pace of interactions lessens the pain
  • Sometimes hiding from them works too

How To Resolve The Situation Internally

Sometimes, the solution can come from within you, rather than external factors.

Even if you can’t do much to change the situation from a practical standpoint, you can alter the way you react to it and how it affects you. This can reduce the physical and emotional impact on your wellbeing.

This is a common principle of meditation and one that you can put to practical use here. While you can’t control or change your asshole boss, you have 100% control of how you react to him/her.

Here are some important internal tactics that you can put to use today.

1) Change Your Perspective

Reframing your perspective of the situation and changing your mindset can make you more resilient.

Reimagining your boss as a comedy figure can be powerful for this.

This is Dilbert’s principle method to deal with this boss.

Being able to internally laugh at them can diffuse the negative emotions you’re feeling, even if it’s only in your mind or away from work.

Suddenly, they’ll seem pathetic rather than terrifying.

Now you’ve got a reason to smile.

Or alternatively, pretend that you’re a scientist observing a new species of animal - bossimus assholis.

Every time you see your boss, it’s like you’re looking through the microscope into the petri dish and seeing first hand all the odd weird behaviors that it’s expressing. And, actually see it as a thing of wonderment.

2) Accept That You Can’t Control An Asshole Boss 

Getting upset at something you can’t control is pointless. It’s like getting angry at the weather or rush hour traffic. It does no good and only makes you feel shittier.

It’s the same with an asshole boss. For the most part, they’ll carry on acting in the same way no matter what you do or say.

What you can change is your reaction to them.

Trying to change them is a waste of time and energy. They won’t ever change 180 degrees to be your work BFF, no matter how nice you are.

And if they sense weakness, they could become more of an asshole.

All you can do is try to make life as bearable as possible. 

3) Don’t Sink To Their Level, Be Better Than That

All the stress, fear and frustration of dealing with an asshole boss can spill over and it’s tempting to throw it right back at them.

Trouble is, it’s likely to make the situation much worse.

You have to realize that asshole bosses often struggle with ego, power and respect issues. Being passive-aggressive or acting sarcastic to them will only add fuel to the fire.

Believe it or not, their behavior and attitude can get worse. It may seem like that’s impossible right now but trust us, most asshole bosses can go up another gear.

The key here is to not stoop to their low level and get them even more riled up.

And, the best way to do that is to be calm, cool and unfazed by their rants, threats and bullying behaviors.

Be a giant immovable rock that can weather any kind of storm they try to throw at you.

4) Look For & Celebrate “Small Wins”

Anytime you can take back even a little bit of control on an asshole boss is a win to savor.

Celebrating small wins is like the antidote to their virus.

Treat every win, no matter how small or insignificant, like a homerun or touchdown and you’ll be amazed at how much it really helps keep your positivity going.

Didn’t react to their latest rant, even though you were really tempted to fight fire with fire?

Do a mini fist pump at your desk to celebrate your self-restraint.

Managed to maintain physical distance between you and your boss all morning?

Give yourself a mental high-five, “Yeah, baby!”

Stayed calm and collected during the last round of email missiles?

Reward yourself with a mini one-minute meditation.

No matter how small it is, any little victory is worth acknowledging and rewarding yourself to build up your good vibes and maintain positivity.

5) Emotionally Detach Yourself 

Working for an asshole boss can be soul-crushing for your emotional and mental wellbeing.

Detaching yourself emotionally from the toxicity reduces its impact on your physical and mental wellbeing. It can keep you sane and free up energy that usually gets drained.

Detaching yourself can be super hard at first. Your boss’s behavior and how it makes you feel means you’re emotionally invested in the situation right now to the point that it’s not healthy.

One thing to keep in mind?

However personal their attacks may feel, it isn’t about you specifically. The reality is that it’s more of a reflection of themselves and their insecurities.

Here’s the trick for dealing with this.

Imagine you’re studying the psychology of assholes, just like Professor Bob Sutton at Stanford University.

You and Professor Sutton are looking through a one-way glass into an observation room and saying to yourselves, “Wow, this one’s a perfect candidate - like one in a million. We need to keep them alive to see what other bat shit crazy things they say and do.”

It’s a way to distance yourself from the emotions since you can feel like a casual observer of classic asshole behavior. 

6) Do Simple Meditations 

If you’re not familiar with or haven’t meditated before, it can be really easy to dismiss this method as a way to deal with asshole bosses.

In actuality, meditation is one of the best ways to manage all the mental anguish and chaos the world dumps on us.

Meditation is all about just calming the mind and unplugging from the world for a few minutes to take a mental breather.

You can do this right now by just closing your eyes, breathing slowly and letting your mind slow down.

If you need more help on this, check out this ultimate newbie’s guide to meditating at work. It’s a primer and starter’s guide for beginners.

Start Taking Back Control Today

Dealing with an asshole boss is a constant source of stress, anxiety and fear.

You never know how they’ll react or how many hoops you’ll have to jump through just to keep them from berating you every damn hour. It makes your work life a fucking nightmare - one that frequently makes you want to pack up and walk out.

It sucks but it’s not about you.

Your boss has serious issues but you don’t have to put up and shut up.

If you can’t resolve the situation through internal or external tactics, lining up an escape route could give you the relief you need. But it doesn’t need to go that far.

You’ll often see positive results from changing your mindset or taking practical steps to tackle your boss’s behavior. And those initial positive results will create the momentum to turn the tide.

You have more power than you think.

We all underestimate ourselves on our abilities. It’s time to change that.

All it takes is a few small wins to start building up your asshole immunities and then, with time and practice, none of their shit will phase you one bit.

And at that point, guess what?

You’ve won.

Feel Better,
[Cubicle|Therapy]

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