Difficult Boss: How Bad Bosses Cause Stress

Written by: Vasundhara Shukla M. Phil – (Psychology)

Last updated date : March 06, 2023

We all must have had difficult bosses at least once in our careers. Difficult bosses don’t just affect an employee but can affect the whole work culture. Now with social media, we can hear about different people’s experiences. Recently, a U.S.-based start-up was in news for firing 900 employees on a zoom call. Everyone is observing unethical practices and problematic work culture in this time and age. In this article, we will talk about difficult bosses and how bad bosses cause stress.


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Chapter 1:

Characteristics of a Difficult Boss


When a boss is overly involved in the tasks and expects updates for every development happening in the task, he is micro-managing the employees. Micromanagement can negatively affect morale, engagement, and employee health. It causes unnecessary stress for employees and increases turnover.

Lacks Empathy

A boss who lacks empathy towards his co-workers and juniors will not be very effective in leading them as well. Employees need a boss who not only understands their issues but also predicts which problems they might face and work to reduce them. There are going to be problems and challenges which have to be dealt with but having an empathetic boss makes it easier on people’s mental health.

Does not Lead by Example

Good leaders lead by doing the tasks themselves to show the employees how he or she expects the work should be done.

Does Not Support the Employees

A difficult boss does not try to listen to the employees and try to find an appropriate solution. Rather, they leave the employee to fend for himself so the boss doesn’t have to take any responsibility.

Uses Employees for His or Her Success

A good leader keeps in mind the goal of the company as well as the expectations of the employees. He does not try to be selfish regarding his success and forget about other things. A difficult boss can be very narrow and self-centred in his vision.

Unclear Goal

Good bosses have a clear vision of what they want to accomplish and use each day to come closer to the goal. They make sure that these goals are clear to the employees as well to ensure all the efforts are in the same direction.

Takes Credit

Difficult bosses can cause stress because they tend to take credit for all the good work done by the employees without giving them their due. This is also highly disrespectful to the employees.

Ignores Feedback

A difficult boss does not pay attention to the feedback they get from others. And because of this, they do not gain awareness about their behavior which is causing problems in the workplace.

Chapter 2:

How Bad Bosses Cause Stress

Difficult bosses not only affect the workplace but there are many health risks associated with working for a bad boss. It has been found that people with bad bosses are more susceptible to depression, stress, and anxiety.

  • Higher stress- A boss who is difficult to be around can harm the employee’s mental health. And it has been found that in the long term this can lead to many health problems. Some studies say that employees take at least 22 months to recover from a bad boss.
  • Lower productivity- The impact is not just on the health of the employee but also on the health of the company. A difficult boss can cause lower productivity and losses. A healthy work culture leads to the success of the company.
  • Higher employee turnovers- More and more employees will have the intention to quit the workplace if their boss is unable to meet their needs.

Chapter 3:

Ways to Deal with a Difficult Boss

Understand the Problem

Before dealing with a bad boss, you have to find out if you are dealing with one. Try to reflect if issues are because of the boss or due to any other reasons. It becomes easier to handle difficult situations at work when you understand the reasons behind the difficult behavior.

Set Boundaries

If your boss calls you at odd hours and expects you to work overtime or cancel vacation plans to work then you might have to set boundaries. You can do so by saying a polite ‘no’.

Identify What Sets Him or Her Off

After you are sure that your superior is difficult to deal with, you have to find out what makes them angry or upset. By this, you can avoid the things that set them off and thereby avoid any unpleasant event.


You can talk to your boss about his or her behavior if things get too overwhelming. You can help them see what they are doing wrong by pointing out the difficulties faced by you during work. Take the initiative to tell them how you would like to be guided to work better.

Don’t Take the Blame for Something You Didn’t Do

Some difficult bosses can play the blame game when they feel they will face their bosses’ anger. They can blame employees which can affect their repute. Do not take the blame for things you did not do.

Move to Another Job

This is the resort to change your job as nothing is more important than your mental health.

Avoid Future Bad Bosses

When you are applying for a new company trying to find out about your manager and how he or she deals with the employees.

Further Reading

If the above suggestions don’t work, you can consider leaving your job for better opportunities that don’t impact your mental health in a negative way. A result of being in a toxic workplace is low self-esteem. Low self-esteem can also reduce your work quality and productivity.

A difficult boss can affect your self-confidence and esteem. Refer to our course ‘Low Self-Esteem‘ to improve it.


"Structured and engaging course" Joan

69 sections

6-Weeks Self-Paced

  • Educational Content
  • Quizzes
  • Self-reflection material
  • Suggestions & feedback
  • Worksheet, tips & tools to use

$9.00 $12.00

25% discount