If Your Boss Says Any of These 7 Things, They're Taking Their Stress Out on You (and It's Not OK)

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As the world is adapting to what is now the “new normal,” Fairygodboss wants to be there for you every step of the way. Keep reading for timely advice and join our Navigating the New Normal group for continued support.

To say many of us are managing unprecedented levels of stress right now would be an understatement. Still, strong leadership means making an example of oneself — even one’s stress management techniques. 

While everyone has bad days, there are certain behaviors that aren’t OK and become even worse when acted out by a leader. If your boss is saying any of these things, they’re unduly taking their stress out on you — and it might be time to have a respectful conversation with them about how that affects your work. 

1. “I can’t believe you thought that would work.”

If your boss is blaming you or making fun of you for projects gone awry instead of requesting feedback on how the project can be better next time, they're taking their stress out on you. A good boss is comfortable being your fall guy in many cases and even if they can't take the blame for this one, they should be building you up, not tearing you down. It's OK to point out that you tried your best and make suggestions for how things can go well next time around. 

2. “You just need to figure it out.”

If your boss has dropped any semblance of support and begrudges you for asking questions, their stress is likely making them count the hours in a day in a not-so-nice way. It's their job to help you "figure it out." Even if they don't have time for an appointment with you, they should find a way to get you the resources you need to do your job. It's OK to make clear you need help. 

3. “Did you think this was well done?”

If your boss is expressing their frustration with your work with passive-aggressive comments, it's a clear sign their stress has hopped into the driver's seat. Constructive feedback — or at the very least, clear feedback — is what you need to do better next time. It's OK to stand up for your work then ask for it. 

4. “I can’t believe you’re taking a break right now.”

If your boss is begrudging you for taking your allotted breaks or PTO, they're letting their work stress seep into your personal life. It is OK to respect your own boundaries and rest when you need it.

5. “You need to step up your game like [insert colleague here].”

Comparison is the thief of joy — and of healthy working habits. If your boss is comparing you to your colleagues to get you to work better, they need to go back to Leadership 101. It's OK to feel bad when your boss makes a comment like this — just be sure to remind yourself you're your own person. You can remind them of that, too. 

6. “We’re all struggling right now, I don’t know what to tell you.”

If your boss is unwilling to help with your struggles at work — or at the very least, listen to them — they're letting their personal life get in the way of being a supportive leader. As a reminder: It's OK to come to your boss with feedback and suggestions for how they can help. 

7. “I can’t waste my time talking to you right now.” 

Good bosses make time for regular check ins, to give feedback and to answer questions. If your boss is unwilling to offer those things in a reasonable way — and especially if they're mean about it — their stress is seeping into their calendar. It's OK to  ask for those means of support.