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A Psychologist's Thoughts on Clinical Practice, Behavior, and Life

How to Survive a Terrible Boss

I once knew a young woman ("Ellen") who, while attending college, worked as a secretary for a media company. This was back in those days when all executives had an assistant. Her boss was the archetype of a terrible boss, screaming so often that no one could tolerate working with him for long. But his behavior didn't bother Ellen. She simply tuned out his railing and, before leaving the job, was asked to educate her replacement on how to cope with him.

The survivor of a painful childhood, Ellen had fled her family, living in her car for a while. One of her teachers, after learning this, took in Ellen as a boarder until she graduated. This teacher became the good parent that Ellen had lacked. Which is to say that people have differing abilities to tune out nasty bosses.

My advice in such situations. if complaining to the Human Relations Department isn't feasible, is: (1) If possible, to leave a job that arouses psychosomatic symptoms (as, headache, neck ache, stomach problem); (2) To try to tune out the boss' behavior, remembering that not every comment deserves a reply and that not answering can indicate the greater strength.
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