Identifying 11 Abusive Boss Signs and 13 Ways to Deal with Them

Written By Assma Riaz

A bad boss will always affect your mental and physical health by creating a toxic workplace. An abusive boss is even worse!

A study suggests that 80% of people quit their jobs because of abusive bosses.

Defining the line between a healthy and abusive relationship with the boss is challenging.

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13 Work-Able Ways For How To Deal With An Abusive Boss

An abusive boss might be verbally abusive or show physical abuse, alas!

Some of the abuse can be so serious that it demands legal action. This article helps you to identify the abusive boss and suggests ways to deal with it.

Let’s just sink in!

1. Identify The Obvious And Illegal Abuse

Before getting to know how to deal with an abusive boss, cross-check is it abuse?

Some types of abuse got forbidden by laws, like sexual harassment or discrimination.

How To Deal With An Abusive Boss
Identify The Obvious And Illegal Abuse

Protecting yourself from abuse requires you to acknowledge abuse when it happens.

Know that excusing abuse would only increase the abuse. So ignoring abuse and relating it to the workplace culture is not a good idea!

2. Talk To Your Boss To Deal With Him

If you had a good relationship with your boss before, you should talk to him. Start a face-to-face conversation and let the cat out of the box!

You can request a meeting with your boss when he is in the right senses. Tell your boss that you’re trying your best to make things work out. But it doesn’t seem to be working.

Confront Your Boss To See Why He Behaves That Way
Talk To Your Boss To Deal With Him

If there’s anything I’m missing, please let me know; I’m open to your suggestions.

But using different names for calling me out really discourages me. You need to stop it.

Addressing an abusive person is anxiety in itself. Nonetheless, you should try it to see the consequences.

3. How To Deal With An Abusive Boss – Send An Email

If in-person conversation gives you severe anxiety, you can skip to another option. That is sending an email to deal with this unpleasant situation.

Remember that this email can get to HR in case if the case proceeds. So try to show respect but be discreet about the facts.

If you can include examples, it would be best in your favor. When you write about insults, these seem unacceptable at any cost.

4. Inspect Your Health While Dealing With Someone Abusive

Abuse results in stress, whether it’s in personal life or at the workplace. It can leave severe effects on your health and make it deteriorate.

Sometimes abuse can result in depression, tension, and heart diseases.

Check Your Health While Dealing With An Abusive Boss
Inspect Your Health While Dealing With Someone Abusive

Noticing a decline in your health is alarming, but hold on! You can still take control of this situation.

Some signs are high blood pressure and nausea before you start your workweek.

5. How To Deal With An Abusive Boss – Document The Incidents

Keep a record of all these abusive incidents that have been happening to you.

Take notes of the date and time when the incident occurred. Also, make sure to document the actions and words of your boss.

If anyone was there during the incident as a witness, you could write their names too.

How To Deal With Abusive Boss
How To Deal With An Abusive Boss – Document The Incidents

You can also write the after-effects of these incidents. If you felt in a certain way after the incident, and if it affected your work, note that.

Such notes will help you when confronting your boss or filing a complaint in HR.

Keep copies of the doctor’s record describing the health effects of this abuse.

6. Talk About The Problem – Keep Your Emotions At Side

If you tried discussing the matter with your boss and nothing changed.

Consider, for example, you asked your boss questions about the job, and he called you an idiot.

For sure, you aren’t okay with it, and that’s alright.

Exclude Your Emotions While Talking To Your Coworkers
Talk About The Problem – Keep Your Emotions At Side

Find a team member you can confide in. it’s better to talk to someone who has worked or still working under him.

Tips from such a person would let you better deal with this situation. But remember to keep your emotions aside while talking about it.

If you seem to be emotional, people will interpret you as a weak and hostile person.

Let your emotions cool down. Please don’t make it a gossip session or a situation of team vs. boss.

7. Examine It From Your Boss’s Perspective

If your boss yells at all employees, rethink what made him do so? Maybe he stresses that he is letting out on you and others.

Some people yell at employees because of their mean nature. But maybe your boss gets stressed at work or at home.

If your boss is coming off as too intense, it’s because of an undeniable pressure to succeed.

Try to look at the other side of the picture and empathize with your boss. It can change the situation entirely!

8. How To Deal With An Abusive Boss – Actively Listen To Your Boss

Listen carefully to your boss’s words. When he makes a point, repeat and rephrase that thing in your mind to have a better insight.

It shows that you are respectful and carefully listen to what your boss says.

How To Deal With An Abusive Boss
How To Deal With An Abusive Boss – Actively Listen To Your Boss

Unclear and vague commands can make it difficult anyhow.

But you can ask the boss to repeat his point and clarify.

Use this rule when you initiate a discussion by highlighting a hidden message from your boss.

It shows your responsibility for making workplace relationships peaceful.

9. Try To Find The Common Grounds Between You And Your Boss

Improving your work relationship requires both you and your boss to cooperate. Find some common grounds to make things work out.

Working together, under the same roof, you both must have common goals and experiences.

You might share a common stressor with your boss, like an approaching deadline.

Offer your help to your boss by saying that I know this project is stressful for us.

10. Cope With Your Bad Boss By Practicing Engaged Difference

If nothing of the above works, try to rise above these unpleasant situations.

You need to be indifferent towards your own emotions to let them pass.

Deal With Your Abusive Boss By Keeping Space
Cope With Your Bad Boss By Practicing Engaged Difference

Distancing yourself from the unpleasant perspectives of work can really help at times.

So you can try to practice engaged difference. Seek meditation to change your attitude and emotions at work towards a positive side.

11. How To Deal With An Abusive Boss – Try To Work Around Your Boss

Don’t give your boss opportunities to act out. You can do this by preparing beforehand to deal with consequences.

It’s advisable to communicate via email as much as you can to avoid in-person contact.

Be ready by thinking that your boss won’t like the work and ask for revisions.

It’s a good way to prepare for the upcoming revisions rather than starting an argument.

12. Consider A Bit Of Upward Hostility

Employees engaged in passive-aggressive behavior are happier at work. However, it’s not recommended to show passive-aggressive behavior.

Show Your Boss That You Have Got The Guts
Consider A Bit Of Upward Hostility

Because acting out at work can put your reputation at stake.

The purpose of this point is to be strong and show your boss that you’ve got a backbone.

13. How To Deal With An Abusive Boss – Take A Legal Action

If you have an abusive boss, ask yourself if the situation is bendable or it’s time to find a new job.

Keep in mind that you have skills and experience that lead you to get the current job.

So you’re able to find a better option somewhere else.

However, if you’re unable to find a job, ask your state to provide you with unemployment benefits.

11 Abusive Boss Signs In The Workplace

No one deserves an abusive boss, so make sure to work with the right one. Here are some abusive boss signs enlisted that tell about your boss. If this is the case, you should leave as soon as you can.

Avoid staying for too long as it will just worsen the situation and damage your peace.

1. He Disregards You Whenever Gets A Chance:

Showing such kind of behavior is unacceptable in any way. One of the abusive boss signs is they demean you in front of everyone else.

Yet, he has no right to yell at you before other people or behind closed doors.

Abusive Bosses Show Disgust Towards You
He Disregards You Whenever Gets A Chance

But this is how it is. It’s the most obvious sign you are working for an abusive boss.

Your boss might be degrading you just because it gives him a sense of superiority. And that’s because he has deep-rooted insecurities.

2. He Grins His Teeth When You’re Around:

Everything you do feels to be wrong. And your abusive boss will always criticize you for the work you do. 

Abusive bosses do this often, treat you with disdain, yet keeps you around. He’ll be tapping his desk or snapping his fingers.

And he can’t handle anger. So being cold, using non-verbal or hostile sarcasm is his way of getting frustration out.

Soon you’ll realize that your boss is trying to make you doubt yourself.

3. Abusive Boss Signs – You’re The Villain In This Story:

You must be thinking that talking to your boss in a one-on-one meeting can be helpful. And it might solve the problem. But it isn’t going to happen.

When you do so, your abusive boss doesn’t respond positively. And he might put all the blame for his mistakes and feelings on you.

Abusive Boss Signs
Abusive Boss Signs – You’re The Villain In This Story

An abusive boss tries his best to put you or others in the place of a villain. Creating miscommunication and frustration is their favorite thing to do.

So he blames others yet portrays that he is the one getting blamed. And if your conversation with your boss didn’t go well, then it’s time to look for a new one.

4. There’s A Question Mark On Your Efforts:

An abusive boss will belittle your opinions and makes you think that you aren’t enough.

And your ideas get questioned to the extent that you begin to doubt your worth. They might do it in person or in front of your coworkers.

So blaming you for all the problems at work is also an abusive boss sign. Meanwhile, he credits himself for every good thing happening at the workplace.

If you aren’t working for long hours, your abusive boss will question your commitment to the job.

However, if you don’t put in much effort, you must be fearful of getting fired.

5. Abusive Boss Signs – Hides It Behind A Cunning Smile:

Abusive bosses hide their toxic nature behind the curtain of a calm, pleasant nature.

They Will Deceive You With Their Friendly Nature
Abusive Boss Signs – Hides It Behind A Cunning Smile

And they use friendliness to troll other people at the workplace. So you might find your boss friendly and charming while smoking with you.

But the reality behind it is something else. And the purpose is to manipulate other people as they lack empathy and wellness.

6. Shields Himself As If It’s A War:

When you talk to your abusive boss, he will avoid looking directly into your eyes. He’ll focus on his computer or shuffle through the papers.

Well, it’s a good sign that tells your boss gets threatened by you. And he feels insecure because of his capabilities.

When a boss feels that you are better than them, you end up in a power struggle.

7. Threatens You Every Now And Then:

Is your boss intimidating you? Does he often threaten to fire you? If yes, then he is being abusive and using power to have control.

Abusive Boss Signs
Threatens You Every Now And Then

And the worse he can do is threaten to harm you physically.

Other than threatening gestures, intimidating can be in the form of towering over you. So he may even try to invade your personal space and give you stern looks.

8. Abusive Boss Signs – Initiates A Falsehood About You:

Abusive people can go to any lengths to make others look bad. And you might find your boss gossiping with others about your work, health, or even personal life.

Abusive Boss Loves To Spread Around A False Word
Abusive Boss Signs – Initiates A Falsehood About You

Your abusive boss can go to the extent of lying about you to destroy your reputation.

And they do this to justify the unfair treatment they are giving you.

9. Abusive Boss Signs – You Don’t Have A Personal Space:

Some bosses even spy on their employees and try to stalk them. Your boss might be doing the same. If your boss is abusive, he might try to listen to your private conversations.

You can expect an abusive person to go to any extent. And your boss might tamper with your personal belongings and work equipment.

So look out for your boss when you are out of your office. He will try to poke around your office.

And he is trying to find something for ammunition to use against you.

10. Undermining Your Work Is A Sign:

Abusive bosses set deadlines that are impossible to meet. And the purpose is to put you towards a failure.

So he keeps on changing the project guidelines regularly. As it increases the workload as well as the chances of failure.

They Set Unrealistic Deadlines And Then Undermine The Work
Undermining Your Work Is A Sign

Your boss won’t give you the necessary information related to the project. So this withholding of information causes your projects to be incomplete and late.

And he sabotages your success and undermines your work to satisfy their ego.

Another tactic used by your boss is a refusal to provide any feedback.

11. Doesn’t Know The True Meaning Of Leadership:

A thing that drives the employees crazy is a boss who doesn’t lead by example.

It’s pretty troubling to feel inspired by a person who doesn’t walk the talk. And you can’t take the job seriously unless the person setting standards not follows.

So if your boss is doing the same, it’s time to leave this job.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Do You Protect Yourself From An Abusive Boss?

Set boundaries around you and stay at a safe distance from your abusive boss. Remember that human resources might not have your back. It's your responsibility to protect yourself. If everything fails, try to find a new job.

What Constitutes An Abusive Boss?

An abusive boss knows the art of belittling employees and encourages unhealthy competition. He knows how to create an unhealthy and stressful work environment.

How Do You Deal With A Disrespectful Boss?

Dealing with a rude boss isn't that much difficult. You can ask him why he's behaving that way. Respond in low, kind, and positive behavior. Learn and adapt to your environment.

How Do You Outsmart A Toxic Boss?

First of all, differentiate between a demanding boss and a bully. See if you're the only target, then make yourself protected. Seek support from coworkers. Expose the wrong side of your boss. Get emotional support to quit if you need to.


It sucks to work under an abusive boss. No matter what’s the basis for your relationship, you don’t deserve to bear an abusive boss.

Your boss has no right to abuse you even if you made a mistake or messed up at work.

No doubt it’s advisable not to take your abusive boss personally. But it won’t always work.

Always remember that you have options. But if these options don’t seem right to you, quit the job and look for a new one.

Let us know your thoughts by dropping a comment in the comment section below.

Last Updated on 2 hours by

Assma Riaz

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