How Do You Deal With A Vindictive Boss?

‘How to Deal With Vindictive Bosses’ is a matter which I am regularly asked to write about.

Vindictive bosses can make going to work feel like hell: they can try to get us out of the company we work for, simply because they don’t like or can’t control us; or, if they are extremely vindictive, they can use their influence to prevent us from getting jobs elsewhere once we have left.

I have definitely experienced the first two issues, and to be honest there is not really a lot you can do, other than suck it up and try and outlast them. Do your best, makes sure that others see you doing your best and try and give your boss no opportunity to criticise you.

This last part can be difficult, we are not all perfect, and Vindictive Bosses can blow even the smallest error into a full-scale international incident.

In the companies where I had issues I often thought about going to HR to raise the issue, but it looked in both companies as if HR was set up to protect the bosses rather than the employees.

One of my colleagues who experienced the same issues as myself, approached HR to raise the issue, and he ended up leaving with a financial settlement, but this was small comfort for losing a job he really liked, and I know I wouldn’t have liked to have been dependent on a reference from HR to get a new role.

One boss I worked for, I actually overheard him say to one of my colleagues, ‘and be warned if you choose to leave, then know that my reach is very, very long and I will make it impossible for you to work again in this country or for any of the leading consultancies’.

If you end up in this situation I would suggest that you look to find someone who knows your work, who has a fair opinion of you and ask them to be a reference for you. There are always people in our companies who will provide this, or go back to a previous boss and ask them to provide the reference.

Also, I would look to use services such as LinkedIn to get yourself recommendations to build a broad picture of your skills and expertise, personally, I have over 100 recommendations, and whilst you might not accept 1 or 2 good write-ups, when you have over 100 then, there must be some substance to the positive messages that are being written.

If you don’t have this, then I would suggest being honest with your new firm, or with the headhunter.

Tell them that ‘people generally leave bosses, not firms’ and that’s definitely true in your case, and that you would prefer not to use him as a reference under these circumstances.

In my case, I had the opportunity to use the many recommendations I had, and also to provide another person as a reference, from a previous firm and this was accepted by my new potential employer.

Vindictive bosses are an issue, I have tried confronting them, but this never works, it just seems to make them more vindictive.

I would love to have a better answer to this than I do, but unfortunately in all my experiences, the only time it worked out for the best was when the vindictive boss left the company.

I did work for one Boss on contract, he brought me in to find out why Testing was way behind schedule. After 4 weeks of analysis, it turned out that the bottom line was he was not prepared to purchase the required Testing Equipment, so this was why testing wasn’t working.

He called me into his office to give him my report.

Which I did, he read it, and then he looked at me and said ‘ok I’m going to ask you one more time why we are not making progress in Testing, and if your answer is because of me, then you’re fired!’

What could I say, I had done all the analysis and everything pointed at him as the root cause.

So I just smiled and said ‘I’ll show myself out’.

I could have changed my answer, but to be honest, he wasn’t a boss that I wanted to work for. I’d only been here 4 weeks and he was already threatening me with the sack, even though I had done good work and the facts were correct.

I would also suggest that prior to joining a company, you do some research into who your Boss will be and if he has a reputation for being a Vindictive Boss, and if he does then don’t take the job.

Vindictive Bosses tend to leave a trail, and sometimes we ignore this because we want that new job too badly.

I know this is probably not the answer people are looking for here, but in my experience, it is what it is.

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