Working Remotely Is Hard Enough Without Adding a Bad Boss Into the Mix — Here Are 8 Ways to Deal

a woman getting a headache from her demanding boss


Kimberli Lowe-MacAuley for FlexJobs
Kimberli Lowe-MacAuley for FlexJobs
May 19, 2024 at 8:37PM UTC
Have you had a fantastic boss in the past? Someone who ended up feeling like a combination of a mentor, cheerleader, confidant, and professional role model? They might not be someone you ever felt like becoming Facebook friends with, but you always knew they had your back at work. Maybe you worked harder for them because you didn’t want them to have to coach you on poor performance. However, you knew they would have without hesitation.
How do they compare to your current boss? Perhaps your current boss is nice enough, but they’re unorganized or hardly ever there. Maybe they’re not so lovely. Perhaps they’re a bully, or they’re passive-aggressive and demeaning.
Could they be an excellent fit for some other team members, but their communication style and work mannerisms are opposite yours? Any or all of these factors create a less-than-ideal work environment. How do you survive—let alone thrive—until you find a new position?

Dealing with a bad boss.

The first step in dealing with your less-than-ideal work-life is discovering if your boss is really awful or if they simply have a different communication and work style.

1. Step back to analyze.

Dealing with a poor manager can make your emotions run hot, so it’s best to try and take an analytical approach and organize your thoughts.
What is it precisely that is creating conflict? Do they appear to be showing favoritism? Perhaps they come from a work culture that embraces direct communication while you’re accustomed to a more diplomatic approach? How do they disseminate information and assign tasks? Are you feeling overworked or underworked? Create a list of situations or concerns that are causing the conflict.

2. Take a big-picture look.

Managers have demanding jobs, and it may help you work with your boss if you approach them with empathy. It’s hard, but try to assume positive intent.
If you were in their shoes, is there any possible reason for the situation? Could it be a miscommunication about your desire to take on new projects? Are they new at remote leadership, or do they have a new leader who requires more accountability from their direct reports? When you understand their motivation, you can often find ways to navigate toward a compromise or better working environment.

3. Don’t assume they know how you feel.

While some wrong behavior is evident and egregious, at other times, you and your boss may be struggling due to simple miscommunication. If you believe the latter to be the case, ask for some one-on-one time to discuss your challenges.
Figure out how your boss prefers to communicate and try to use that method. Then, prepare for your meeting by reviewing the list noted above and promising yourself that you’ll approach the discussion patiently, sticking to the facts. If the problems can be resolved through honest conversation, it’s the best possible scenario.

4. Overcommunicate what you’re doing.

If your boss is not experienced at working with a remote employee, or if they’re a bit of a control freak, it might be hard for them to adjust to managing someone who isn’t in the same room. Could it be that issues stem from them trying to control the projects? You might be someone who appreciates autonomy and the ability to work independently.
Perhaps you can create a schedule at the beginning of the week to let your boss know your anticipated timeline for completing different tasks. Staying ahead of their need to know could get you the desired freedom to work without feeling like they’re virtually looking over your shoulder.

5. Ensure everyone’s on the same page.

Use the phrase “just to clarify” with abandon. Rather than assume that you both understood the next step or the boundaries of the role, say, “I just want to clarify…” You’ll iron out any miscommunications before they even occur.
Often, your boss will appreciate your diligence in ensuring that the projects are completed according to their plan. You also might discover that they begin to communicate differently as they recognize where the miscommunications occur.

Dealing with a toxic boss.

What if your broad overview reveals that they’re really a horrible boss and, most likely, an awful human being? It would be best if you ratcheted up to job-protection mode.

1. Document everything.

Any problems you have that your boss causes aren’t likely to be witnessed or heard by another person since you’re not in the office. Keep detailed notes on all troublesome interactions. It’s the best way to protect yourself.
And while this is essential advice for anyone dealing with a miserable boss, it’s even more important for remote workers.

2. Report and escalate.

If you can’t talk to your boss about the problems you’re having, or their behavior is illegal or unethical, you must be prepared to report it to the right person in your organization. That might be their superior or someone in the human resources department. Find out who to talk to, and then approach that person with your documentation and other information.
Undoubtedly, this can be a scary step, especially if you aren’t in the office and don’t know many people there. But if you want to resolve the problem, it’s a step you may have to take.

3. Consider a transfer.

If all of these strategies don’t improve your boss’s behavior, it may be time to ask for a transfer to another department. But honestly, you might need to reassess. If a company allows a member of leadership to behave that way, do they genuinely mirror your values? It might be time to start planning your exit strategy.
No matter how much you need your job, you also need a role that enriches your life and creates an opportunity for growth. You want to find another one of those fantastic bosses—not one you’re merely trying to survive.
This article originally appeared in FlexJobs. FlexJobs is the leading career service specializing in flexible work, providing the largest database of vetted remote and flexible job listings. To support job seekers in all phases of their journey, FlexJobs offers a range of services including expert advice, job search events, and career coaching. FlexJobs also works with leading companies to recruit quality remote talent and optimize their remote and flexible workplace.

What’s your no. 1 piece of advice for remote workers dealing with a bad boss? Share your answer in the comments to help other Fairygodboss members!

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