Work with a jerk? Stacey has great, hands-on tips for managing your workplace happiness — even when your boss is a total jerk.

Sure, everyone has an occasional bad day at work. But what should you do if every day is a bad day due to your jerk boss? My advice: take a step back to navigate which components to the relationship you can control instead of feeling powerless. For example:

1 . Your personal actions and reactions. Assess the situation. Are there certain times that your boss seems triggered? Maybe it’s the end of the month during inventory, or maybe the jerk surfaces whenever you’re a few minutes late to your shift. Does your boss go into jerk mode anytime their boss comes into town?

If you see trends, talk to your boss and offer solutions. Could you start your shift 10 minutes later and be consistently on time? (Or perhaps more simple — could you set your alarm 10 minutes earlier to arrive on time?) Could you volunteer to help with inventory or a specific portion of it? Is there something you can do to take some of the stress of the situation off your boss? If you address the situation with a possible solution, even a jerk might give your idea the time of day.

2.  Your interactions with other people. Is your boss’s jerkiness actually a response to your interactions with them? Do you treat your boss differently than you treat other coworkers? If you’re always laughing with coworkers and then abruptly stop every time your boss comes by, could your boss simply believe you don’t like them? 

While it’s never fun to self-introspect in search of your own weaknesses, step back from the situation and try to see yourself as the jerk boss views you. You may find a reason why your boss treats you in a specific way, which could be the first step towards improving things.

3.  Your choice to stay or go. The reality of most jerk-boss situations is that you have the power of choice — you can choose to continue to work with someone who just doesn’t fit your style, or you can choose to leave if the situation becomes overwhelmingly miserable. If you decide to leave but need a little time to line up the next job, you’ll still want to look at #1 and #2 to see how to make your time with your jerk boss more bearable.

No one wants to be in a work situation that requires them to walk on eggshells, become someone they’re not, or watch every single thing they do. But sometimes tweaking your own actions and performances can make all the difference between dreading work versus looking forward to work.

As a final tip, be sure you know the signs of a boss who’s either harassing you or retaliating against you. If you have any questions about the motives of your boss, make an appointment with your HR rep to discuss the situation in private and in confidence. Just like your boss was hired because of the value they provide to the company, so were you — and everyone wants both of you to succeed at your jobs.

jerk boss

When working with a jerk boss, you’re not completely powerless.

Stacey Gibson, Director of Human Resources

Author Stacey Gibson, Director of Human Resources

Stacey is a certified Professional in HR (PHR) and the reason her clients would never consider leaving When not at work, you can hear her at one of her children’s sporting events -- she’s the one whistling louder than the refs.

More posts by Stacey Gibson, Director of Human Resources