Can You Manage Up With a Bad Boss?

“Take a sad song and make it better”


Bad bosses are ubiquitous. It seems the only comfort you can have while working for one is that you’re not alone. But don’t despair. There are few truly incorrigible office tyrants—most bad bosses behave badly episodically. And you (yes, you!) can help your boss improve. The best person to manage your boss … is you, because you know best exactly how your boss can be a better manager. It does take time and patience, however, like most things worth accomplishing.

It’s easiest to be reactive and just endure the childish antics, even if they’re occasional bouts. But you are an employee in whom your boss has invested company time and money. You have leverage, especially in this period of positive job growth. You can exercise your ability to mitigate the bad and encourage the good (even though “good” seems like a far off fantasy).

Bad bosses slip into childish behavior when things go wrong because their power or standing is at risk. They may feel insecure in their own position or engage in petty sandbox politics for a variety of reasons. They need to feel in control again, and you can help by diffusing certain situations and being the voice of reason.

When the alarm sounds, you must be able to quickly reach into your “manage up toolbox.” Know that in order for you to effect change there must be something in it for your boss. Think parental style discipline.

For the employees, managing up this way creates a win-win situation. You can help your manager overcome their unproductive tendencies, making your work life less stressful while improving potential for advancement. I offer helpful tips and a refreshment course on using that “manage up toolbox” in my new article on