My Sucky Boss

I have a boss from Hell. She is intelligent, lazy, randomly critical, and a world-class scape-goater. I have had a long and, until now, distinguished career. I have never received anything less than Excellent to Outstanding Annual Reviews, until now. A few co-workers, employees with the company longer than myself, have told me horror stories of the careers she has trashed through deflecting blame from herself. There is little I can do right now, because I am an older worker and the economy in my area still sucks.

I’m sure others have faced a similar work environment with a crummy supervisor who undermines one’s self-confidence and contributes to a dismal work environment. I would appreciate any words of wisdom anyone might have.

(A lot of this is based on not having the faintest clue what you do for a living.)

Work over her head. Not blatantly, but subtly. Be in meetings with the higher-ups when your stuff is being discussed. Put your name on everything you can. Every now and then, accidentally e-mail a presentation or a product or whatever to her supervisor with a note like “The revisions you asked for.” (For extra spice, include your original version so they can see the pointless and arbitrary changes she wanted made.) Make it as clear as possible to everyone around you what you do and what she does (both your peers and hers), without being judgmental.

Document, document, document. Save every e-mail, every IM, every scrap of paper you ever get. Put it in a big ol’ box at home labeled “Why I’m Not An Idiot Despite What She Thinks.”
Get clearly defined job objectives right from the outset. Demand meetings with her every month to review those objectives and your progress. Write your own evaluation, or at least something that will exactly fit in the form your company uses, and present it to her around the time it’s due. Make sure you get a copy of your actual evaluation before it’s in your file. If it isn’t good enough, present her with a well-thought-out and completely impartial bullet-by-bullet counterpoint to everything she got wrong, and a new copy of an appropriately good evaluation. If she won’t change it to your satisfaction, tell her you’re going to see her supervisor. Then go see the supervisor when you tell her you’re going to.

Most important of all, don’t let it affect your self-confidence. Never, ever think, “Gosh, maybe she’s right and I did screw that up.” Even if you did that one time, it’s still her fault for letting it get through.

Say, you don’t work in my department, do you? As a change of pace, though, my boss throws in “takes credit for stuff other people have done” and “won’t treat people beneath her with human respect” as well. For extra credit, she supplies the extremely rare “too afraid to do her job” too.

The rest of us in the department are already taking stankow’s advice–meeting with her superiors as often as possible, and keeping everything she sends us, especially the terribly-written proposals we have to re-write and she takes credit for. As for self-confidence, we know she’s the screw-up. The thing that saps us is knowing that nothing is going to be done about her–her superiors know what’s going on but are either too nice or too afraid to do anything. Grrr.

I guess what I’ve got to look forward to is…it can’t get worse. I think.


Thanks for your advice. It is very sound, and I intend to review it regularly, both for moral support and direction.


Thanks for your comments and advice. It really helps to hear how others have dealt with difficult situations.

Personally, I would be very careful about going over her head. Many (most?) sucky bosses are paranoid about this sort of thing for various reasons. Generally speaking, they are afraid (with good reason) that if there is contact between their subordinates and superiors outside of their control, the superiors will start to realize that Sucky-Boss is indeed a sucky-boss. And don’t forget that your boss can often screw you without you even realizing it.

For what it’s worth, here’s what I suggest:

Assuming that quitting is not an option, I would first try and find a way to make myself indispensible to the company. If you’re the only one who understands some complicated but critical piece of machinery; if you write an annual report on some esoteric subject for a company bigshot; if you organize some critical event (and only you know who the key contacts are); or heck, if you’re the only one with health insurance claim forms (I once knew of someone in this position), you are much less vulnerable to Sucky-Boss.

Next, you need to get yourself transferred away from Sucky-Boss. Don’t tell anyone the real reason why you want to get away from her. That won’t get you anywhere. Instead, manufacture some credible excuse to go to a different area - you want to learn a new skill, or maybe it’s for medical reasons. If you’ve made yourself indispensible, chances are a reasonable-sounding request will be granted.

Last, put together an exit strategy. Because let’s face reality - when you’re working for a company, you are always at the mercy of some sucky-boss. If you develop your skills and resources to the point where you can make it on your own, you will find sucky bosses to be a lot less annoying. You will almost hope to get canned.

Short story: you need to make the company dependant on you, and to make yourself independent of the company. If they need you, but you don’t need them, you are in fat city.


I can’t code worth a damn, But I still win.

Ok! I give up!

Would a moderator please make that go away?
(walks away hanging her head in shame)


Unless you are, yourself, a sucky boss, you have no reason to walk away in shame. Part of the point of my venting in this thread was out of frustration with people being put-down or putting themselves down!