4 signs you just don’t like your boss

You might think you don’t need to be told when you don’t like your boss, but sometimes managers become such an ingrained part of our work lives that you might not even realize when a personal dislike is impacting the relationship – and along with it, your happiness at your job.

Here are four typical signs that you just don’t like your manager – and what you can do about it.

1. You’re much, much happier when your boss is on vacation or traveling. It’s normal to enjoy the times when your boss is away; after all, a boss’s absence will often result in less work, fewer interruptions, and lower stress. But when you’re only happy when your boss is away, it’s a bad sign about the relationship.

2. You avoid talking with your boss, even when you need to. Do you find yourself putting off important conversations with your manager or avoiding them altogether, even when you know that you really should be touching base with her? People frequently do that when they dislike a manager, since they find the conversations so unpleasant. This is something to guard against, though, because it can result in you doing a worse job, not getting important input, or leaving your boss out of the loop when you shouldn’t.

3. You’re disappointed when your manager is included in meetings or when she joins a conversation you’re in. If you have a sinking feeling when your boss joins your conversation in the break way or when you see her name on a meeting invite list, you probably don’t have a great relationship. Most people don’t want their managers included in every conversation they’re involved in, but if the relationship is healthy, you shouldn’t be devastated to see her included.

4. Everything she does annoys you. Sometimes when you’re aggravated with someone, everything about them starts to annoy you, even things that wouldn’t even register if someone else did them. If you find yourself thinking, “I can’t believe that she ate a candy bar in that meeting” or “What nerve to have a conversation right outside my doorway,” you’re probably at this stage.

What you can do about it

So what can you do if you find yourself saddled with a boss who gets under your skin?

Well, for starters, get clarity in your mind about what the problems are. Do you dislike her management style? Is she a jerk who criticizes people publicly and can’t be pleased? Do you just not click? Getting clarity about the problems might sound obvious, but often people let their dislike build to the point that they can’t even quite tell exactly what they object to.

Then, decide whether you can change anything about the situation. For instance, if you can’t stand the way your boss micromanages your work and doesn’t seem to trust you, you might be able to broach the issue with her, asking if she’d be willing to experiment with giving you more autonomy. Or, if you realize that your dislike is more personality-based and not about anything she’s doing wrong as a manager, you might resolve to look for the good in her and try to give her the benefit of the doubt for a while, to see if that changes anything about how you feel. Or, in some cases, you might realize that there’s nothing you can do that will make the situation palatable to you. But even that – although it sounds dismal – is useful, because if you know you can’t change the situation, you’ll be better equipped for the next step, which brings us to…

Ultimately, you’ll need to decide whether you can do your job reasonably effectively and happily, despite your dislike of your boss. If you conclude that you can’t, there’s no shame in that – not everyone works well with everyone else. But if that’s the case for you, you’re better off coming to terms with it and deciding how you’ll proceed, rather than just staying miserable. That might mean that you work toward a transfer, or decide to job search outside of your company – but once you have a plan of action for moving away from the situation, you’ll probably find your boss easier to handle.

{ 35 comments… read them below }

  1. Clever Name*

    Interesting. I had a boss who I personally disliked but who also was a poor manager, and it was honestly hard to separate the two. The things that I disliked about him personally were also things that made him bad at his job (poor work ethic, lying, blaming others for his mistakes, lack of boundaries, etc.). I think in general, people prefer to work with people they like.

    1. PeppermintBark*

      That’s where I’m at with my direct manager. He’s not the worst manager, but he could definitely be more effective. However the reasons he’s not as effective are mostly due to his personality – defensive, reactionary, and talks too much – so it’s been really difficult for me to find the words to give him feedback on his management style without coming across as “you just need to change your personality.” Doubly so since I report to him, and don’t want to get on his bad side.

    2. Jen RO*

      I’m in the same place, except in my case it’s a direct report… and the things I don’t like are also things that affect his work. I guess I’m lucky in that I *can* influence his behaviors, which you can’t really do with a manager!

  2. Dovahkiin*

    I’ve had bosses who I’ve not really gelled with personally who I’ve admired for their rockstar work success, and I’ve been pretty happy to perform well for them and take professional lessons even though if we were ever in a room together alone and told to talk about something other than work, we’d have nothing to say.
    And on the other side, I’ve had bosses try really, really hard to be my friend (inviting themselves over to my house -eek!) and really not liked working them, in a professional and personal capacity.

    1. Sara S.*

      Your first example really describes my situation with my current boss. I respect her professionally, I think she’s great at her job, and I’ve learned a lot from her. But the times when we’re, say, on a plane or in a car together can turn super awkward, because we don’t have a single common interest. I think we both try to make a personal connection, but we just have such vastly different personalities. It’s really my first time having a manager that I haven’t either despised or considered a friend…I’m still deciding how I feel about it.

    2. Kyrielle*

      Yep. And I’ve had bosses whom I really liked on a personal level, they’d make great buddies, but working for them was…well, I’ve been lucky, it wasn’t horrid but they were so not my best boss ever.

    3. Kathryn*

      One of the things I really admire about the C level I report up to (have reported to directly, currently not, might do so again) is their ability to joyfully connect with different people. On paper, we have zero common interests. But they were able to see that I need some social involvement to work at full productivity, so they found stuff I was interested in that we could share. I don’t know that close friends is on the table in all cases, but friendly professionalism with the ability to create some happy, non work related chatter with everyone appears to be one of their skills.

      I’ve learned lots of things from working with them, but I really want to develop this skill.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        I really like your description here. I have met people like this- friendly professionals- they treat everyone with the about the same level of friendliness. But with your old boss that you are talking about, he’s got a couple other things going on. He is able to keep track of who does what well, so he can plug those people into those slots. And he is also interested in growing people, probably because if you grow your people then in turn your company grows. But sincerity and ethics also come into play here. There has to be trust in place.
        Yeah, I agree, watch people like him, anyone could learn a lot.

  3. L*

    I think this article applies to peers, too. There is one coworker of mine whose every action, no matter how insignificant, annoys me. Recently I’ve been taking issue with the fact that literally every email he sends to me starts with “Hey Jane”. I can’t even logically explain why the word “hey” bothers me so much.

    1. Amy*

      I know exactly what you’re talking about! I had a manager who I didn’t dislike, but who I never really got along with, who always started all of her emails with “Hey,” and it really, really rubbed me the wrong way, but for no reason. I’m still trying to figure that one out.

      1. Artemesia*

        Hey to attract attention was considered very rude when I was young. I had a professor react very hostily when I opened an interaction with him that way. I think, since ‘hey’ is sort of substituted for ‘hi’ and ‘how’s it going’ informally now, it has lost a bit of that gloss — but for many people ‘hey’ is still a very rude way to attract someone’s attention.

        And of course as the old saying goes ‘if you like someone you don’t mind that they dump their dinner in your lap, but if you don’t like them, you are enraged by the way they hold their fork.’

    2. Not So NewReader*

      Maybe it’s not the “hey” but the words that follow it. My husband would say something like, “aw, crap” and I knew whatever came next was consistently NOT good AT all. So, “aw, crap” would cause me to brace myself and I did not even know what was wrong yet.

      Some people seem to have go-to words or phrases for certain types of situations. In an extreme example, I had a family member that would say “I don’t feel right”. And when ever this person said that, it was a 911 call. This person never used that sentence any other time.

      Back to your “hey, Jane” example, that phrase sounds benign- just an average thing. But if the words that follow are similar to “the sky is falling” or “the planet just stopped revolving” the contrast is stark – benign intro followed by news of a catastrophe. I’d find that bothersome, too. Why does this keep happening, I would want to know. The real problem could be that coworker does not anticipate problems well and leaves everything until it is a five alarm fire before he recognizes something is wrong.

      Just an example here, of course. Try to look for patterns that come after the “hey, Jane”.

      1. Jen RO*

        My my coworker’s case, “hey Jane” is usually followed by “help me with this thing I could do myself but I am insecure and/or always say I want to learn new things but I can’t actually be bothered making the effort, oh woe is me”. It got to the point where I flinched whenever I saw someone move at the desk in front of me – even when she was on long term leave and someone else was using the desk!

  4. C Average*

    Thanks for this.

    When I had this revelation a few months back, it was life-changing. I’d been trying to come up with specific objections to my boss, and I honestly didn’t have anything super relevant, at least not from a workplace perspective.

    We have different ideas of what’s fun. We have different concepts of appropriate boundaries. We have different taste in almost every possible area. If we got stuck in an airport together (the proverbial Airport Test tech companies supposedly employ in their hiring process), we’d probably run out of mutually satisfying conversation in under five minutes. If the matrix of our organization hadn’t brought us together, we would almost surely never have crossed paths, and we would certainly never have pursued a friendship or even a casual acquaintance.

    I’ve had a number of bosses like this, actually, and it’s never been a problem before. But this particular boss wants to be friends with her direct reports, and that created some dissonance. Once I realized that all our issues stemmed from my basic disinterest in being HER friend and her basic interest in being MY friend, I could create the boundaries I needed to work effectively with her.

    This has meant no social media connections between us, no socializing outside of work unless it’s designated work-related team-building sort of stuff that everyone attends, and minimal personal chit-chat. I’m so much happier when I only have to interact with her in a boss/report framework, and I think even she’s gradually coming to realize that it’s the framework I need to be effective on this particular team.

    (I think she still socializes with the rest of the team and is connected to them on social media, and they chat amongst themselves a lot more than I do. I realize that on some level, this probably puts me at a professional disadvantage. But in my mind the advantage–having boundaries that are comfortable to me–makes me happier and more productive and a better employee, and it probably balances out.)

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Oh boy, does this resonate with me. Bosses that come to work in search of friends because they have no life outside of work. ugh.
      I remember telling one boss that I don’t need more friends, what I really need is a good and fair boss, so I can keep working and keep food on my table. I have no idea why bosses think that “boss” is LESS than “friend”. It’s apples and oranges. These are two totally different roles we play in people’s lives.
      I kind of liken it to parent vs friend. It’s two very different roles. (Although bosses are not our parents. They do have a unique role that they must hold to.)

    2. Bea W*

      I’ve never heard of the airport test, but not having more than 5 minutes of mutually satisfying conversation is fine with me. If I’m settling into an airport lounge for the long haul, I go find a place to eat, read, and entertain myself. Entertaining my traveling companions isn’t high on my list. If they can’t roll with the delays, I’m going to quickly lose them.

  5. Snork Maiden*

    The real question is, is bitch-eating-candy-bar more worse or less worse than bitch-eating-crackers?

    1. Jill of All Trades*

      Less, because candy bar temporarily increased happy chemicals, and crackers dry out your mouth and give zero happy chemicals. Bitch eating candy bar has hope of a better day?

  6. Al Pal*

    The timing of this post couldn’t be more perfect. I work for a small company and the owner of the company is my direct boss. I have had managers and bosses in the past that i didn’t personally like, but they were awesome at their job. But currently, (bad) personality aside, he is a really not a great boss. Unproductive, dishonest, and immoral are just the tip of the iceberg. The crappy part is, I actually enjoy what I do. But I’ve gotten to the point where I know he’s not going to change and the way the company is run isn’t going to change so the best thing for me to do is go elsewhere.

    1. Clever Name*

      Yeah, that’s what happened to me at my job with the boss I didn’t like. Even though I really liked the work, I eventually left because working for him was just awful. There were other reasons I left (I didn’t have enough work to do, and I wanted to work more in a different but related area), but my boss was the main one. Fortunately I was able to be really picky about which jobs I applied to, and I eventually found a job with a great company that I really really enjoy.

    2. Anon Accountant*

      I think we worked together! Dishonest, immoral, unethical, and surprising the boss was never led out in matching silver bracelets? Always pointed fingers at subordinates when things went south? I think we had the same boss.

    3. Nice Boss*

      I love the arrogance of some employee’s! He’s unproductive is he?
      He set up the business or bought it and whether it sinks or swims is on his mind the whole of the time. He’s likely risked his house, his family, his capital to get where he is so perhaps he is entitled to work the way he does. He’s not doing what you’re doing which is hanging on the coat tails of other people for their monthly wage.

      When you’ve been out there and employed several to hundreds of people maybe you can talk about unproductivity. Maybe when you’ve risked everything you’ve got to go out there and give other people paychecks at the end of the month you’ll be a bit more qualified to have that opinion.

      Has it ever occured to you he has to be immoral, dishonest or not brilliant in the way you imagine because that’s how he’s keeping this business running and you in a job? Maybe you are a little naive about the way business works. Is this the first time you’ve actually a worked for an OWNER? believe me it’s a different ball game to working with a corporate manager boss because things are 100% more real. The corporate manager boss goes home and knows he has a job the next day, it’s not quite so secure for the OWNER.

      It’s sickening to hear all these people on here whine my boss is awful, my boss is nasty, my boss is incompetent and stupid – well if you’re so clever and amazing and perfect why aren’t you in a management position? It’s really easy to critizise from the touchline – try being out there and walking a mile in a boss’s shoes, especially when some employee’s self worth doesn’t match reality.

  7. AnotherHRPro*

    For most of my career I have been lucky. I’ve only had one boss that I just could not stand. Even if I had a “bad manager” I generally am able to find good qualities about the person and am able to focus on their strengths. But with this one manager, EVERY SINGLE THING THEY DID drove me crazy. I chalk it up to a personality conflict. From a distance (I haven’t worked for her for years but we are now “peers” and I occasionally have to interact with her) I can see her strengths and understand she isn’t actually “evil” but at the time I couldn’t be objective. Worst year of my entire career!!!

  8. Barefoot Librarian*

    Emphatic yes to all four. I’m trying to see the good aspects of this person though…I swear I am. I’m keenly aware that unless we come to some kind of positive place in our professional relationship then my work life will be misery. Disliking them as much as I do is hurting me more than it’s hurting them. I just have no experience at all with NOT getting along with a boss.

  9. Ann O'Nemity*

    The worst for me is when I like my boss’s personality but I don’t like their management style/abilities. I end up forgiving and overlooking a lot of crap. And I stay in the job longer than I should, even when it’s not great for my career. If it’s a boss that I don’t like at all, it’s easier to leave.

  10. bob*

    Wow 3.5/4 is probably a bad sign. It’s like the sun shines brighter when my lead isn’t in the office.

  11. RO*

    My favorite bosses were the ones who managed first and let the friendship come second and over time as they definitely did wonders for my careers.

  12. RFWL*

    Oh I had all of these with my nightmare boss who I despised on a personal and professional level so much that my stomach clenched up upon seeing him every day. Of course I had to sit right outside his office because how else was he going to be able to micromanage me? Even when I transferred to another boss and asked to be moved closer to that boss the request was denied. It sucked.. for years.

    On paper we appeared to have similar interests, but something about his personality was so off, in addition to an extremely poor managerial style, that getting away from him for any amount of time was my sole objective most days. I can’t imagine what my productivity was like for the company when I would take long walks to other buildings just to get away from the feeling of oppression of him sitting behind me, lurking, even though I wasn’t assigned to him anymore. Yes, it was that bad.

    Eventually I had to quit and leave the company all together, and while I am very, very, very far away from this person in a whole new industry and country even, there are plenty of days when I worry I will eventually end up in a situation like that again. When is that PTSD post coming? :)

  13. Jackiall*

    I don’t like my supervisor because she has lied in order to not make herself look bad. She has no clue what’s going on. She doesn’t listen to other people’s ideas. I have more education than she does. She makes things FAR more complicated than they should be. She has no sense of big picture. We have to resolve problems for her and then she gets mad that we did stuff independently that she should have attended to. She micromanages at random. Her communication skills are awful. And every once in awhile she tells me to go get a file for her like I am some kind of lackey. Also, she didn’t give me the raise I deserved, so now I am making only a hundred dollars a year more than a woman that has been in the same position as me a year less and who I trained who still asks me questions. The whole department is messed up in that they don’t replace people who leave. So the woman in the cubical next to me is doing three jobs, including assisting with her former supervisor’s duties. Sigh..I just wanted to be a writer or a wedding planner when I grew up…

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