Could your family and friends be getting sick of hearing you complain about your boss? Do you find yourself making regular post-work proclamations like: “You’ll never believe what he did,” or “you’ll never guess what she said”?

We all need to vent sometimes. It helps. It brings clarity and ushers in support. But you stand to lose your audience if daily gripes about your boss have become your main way of coping. That’s not real problem-solving.

If there’s someone in your professional life who is making work miserable, and you find yourself routinely thinking, talking or worrying about that person outside of business hours, it may be time to start asking yourself some questions about job fit.

If your boss is bullying you, that’s a dysfunctional relationship. It’s unfortunate. There may be a lot that you really enjoyed about your workplace and your job before that obstacle interfered with fit for you. While there may still be comfort in the familiarity of your role, how well does that really serve you?

Sometimes, it can be hard to think straight when you’re working for a bully boss. Here are some things to consider as you contemplate the next steps.

The joy leadership

Good leaders foster a sense of belonging among those on their team. They create a culture of productive communication, where each team member feels heard and valued. Good leaders recognize their team members’ talents as precious assets and help to further develop those vital resources. In that climate, employees are well-positioned to take on new challenges and continue evolving professionally. This is a win-win for the employer and employees.

You deserve to work in a culture where you can thrive. Why stay in one that makes you feel unsafe, uncomfortable and stressed? Why spend your leisure hours worrying and complaining?

Sure, taking the risk and pursuing a new role can seem daunting, but aren’t the concessions you’re making to maintain your current role daunting as well?  While a job search may shake things up, that outpouring of energy represents productive pain. In other words, it’s the kind of discomfort that lends itself to real problem-solving. That stands to lead you to a better, healthier situation.     

What does it mean to be a bully boss? 

According to the Workplace Bullying Institute, 60.4 million Americans are impacted by workplace bullying; 61 percent of those who enact bullying behaviors at work hold leadership roles.

The institute defines this behavior:  

Workplace bullying is repeated, health-harming mistreatment of one or more persons (the targets) by one or more perpetrators. It is abusive conduct that is:

  • Threatening, humiliating, or intimidating, or
  • Work interference — sabotage — which prevents work from getting done, or
  • Verbal abuse

If this is what you’re experiencing in your workplace, you don’t need to stick it out. Working for a bully doesn’t earn you grit or props. It’s harmful, and it wastes your talent and your time.

As you think through how to dislodge yourself, consider getting assistance from a professional. A counselor or career coach can help you think through this and plan your next chapter.

Make a commitment to solving this problem with a professional, rather than just venting about it with your personal network. Commit to making real change. You deserve that.    

The institute calls bullying an “American epidemic.” If a bully is targeting you, know that you are not alone and that this is not your fault. Your manager owes you better leadership.

You have the power

This is a great time to be a job seeker. NPR recently reported a 3.7% jobless rate, the lowest unemployment rate since 1969. Savvy leaders know this, and they careful strategize about how to hold onto their talent.

Since you are not being stewarded by your management team, that makes you a free agent in a robust economy. It’s not a bad place to find yourself.

Resist the urge to feel trapped by this situation. Instead, recognize your power, and put your effort into finding a position that suits you. Use what you learned in your current role to inform your next search so that you don’t fall into another bully leadership trap.

A savvy interviewee

Undoubtedly, you’ve learned some things about what you’re looking for in your next leadership team. Work those into your interview protocol as you pursue a new role. These are some ways that you might refine your process:

  • Do your homework: Diligently research each company where you interview. Check Glassdoor, and read feedback submitted by former employees and interviewees. Use that as a basis to inform your questions for your interviewers.
  • Often, interviewees get to meet with peer interviewers. These interviewers inhabit positions that work alongside the open position. Prepare questions about leadership, culture and professional development for those meetings. It can be helpful to hear answers to those vital questions from those at various levels within the company.
  • Look at your network. Do you have any connections who may know any of the people with whom you’re meeting? I’m always amazed at how small the professional world actually is; our networks are always a robust source for information.
  • Ask thoughtful and well-prepared questions of all your interviewers, including questions about professional culture. Ask the management team about their leadership strategy. Remember: you’re interviewing them just as they are interviewing you.   

Find your fit

Author and business consultant Marcus Buckingham famously remarked: “People leave managers, not companies.” If you’re at the point where what you dislike about your boss outweighs what you like about your job, then it’s time to quit your bad boss. 


  • John Ryan

    Managing Director

    TRANSEARCH International

    John is Global Practice Leader for Power, Renewable Energy, and Cleantech and US Regional Vice President for TRANSEARCH International. With a career that began in 1989, John has worked with over 250 public and private companies. He has led numerous C-suite, Vice President and director level search across North America for public and privately held companies. He has also worked closely with private equity firms, supporting them with critical portfolio company needs. He has also provided executive coaching and leadership assessment services. John holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Linguistics from the University of Chicago. He speaks Japanese and conversational German. Although he grew up in Boston, he and his family call Chicago home. For fun, he restores and races classic and performance cars. Specializations: