How To Handle A Boss That Hates You (With Examples)

By Ryan Morris - Feb. 28, 2021
Articles In Life At Work Guide

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As general statements go, “my boss hates me” seems pretty similar to “I hate my boss.”

After all, both statements tend to just act as shorthand for a poor relationship between a manager and their employee.

The meaning of “I hate my boss” can be translated as anything from “Work is stressful right now and I’m blaming it on my boss” to: “My boss really does suck.”

However, the meaning of “my boss hates me” is typically crystal clear.

If you think your boss hates you, then there’s a very good chance they’re actively trying to either fire you or get you to quit on your own.

This is a stressful and often anxiety-inducing situation to find yourself in, but fear not:

These phases aren’t always permanent, and there may be something you can do to break the ice that’s formed in your relationship with your manager.

We have a few suggestions for how to manage or subdue your boss’s negative behavior, along with a few tips about what to do if this negativity can’t be resolved.

What Do You Mean When You Say “My Boss Hates Me”

Typically speaking, when you have a bad relationship with your boss or manager, the way that relationship manifests itself happens in one of two ways. Either your boss is currently giving you too much attention, or they’re giving you almost none at all.

So when you ask yourself “how is my boss treating me differently than before,” which answer do you give yourself:

  • “I’m being ignored”

  • “I’m being micromanaged”

We’ll go over what both of these look like in more detail and give advice for dealing with each situation.

Sign #1: You’re Being Ignored

You’re being left out of critical meetings. Events that were once required attendance for you are now being canceled or picked up again at times that aren’t convenient for you.

If you manage to find yourself in a meeting at all, your contributions are either put down or else ignored completely.

Your boss doesn’t check up on you as often. It’s not that they’re saying anything bad about you necessarily, but they no longer give you any meaningful feedback, although they’re still heaping praise on the people around you.

When you’re getting assignments at all, they’re often not quite as mission-critical as those you’re used to carrying out.

If this sounds familiar to you, you’re on the “lack of attention” end of the spectrum. Your boss, for one reason or another, no longer values you or your contributions to the team. They no longer trust in your ability to do your work correctly or consistently.

Your boss may not want to fire you just yet, but they definitely don’t feel like you’re contributing much — at best, they probably wouldn’t care if you decided to leave the company, and at worst, this might be exactly the outcome they’re hoping that their ignoring of you will create.

What to Do if You You’re Being Ignored

The biggest problem with not receiving any feedback is that it means that you no longer have any metric by which to judge your boss’s opinion of your work. The first thing you need to do is figure out why you’re being denied this feedback in the first place.

It’s important at this point to consider that your boss might be totally justified in treating you the way that they have been if you’ve been getting behind on your duties or turning in subpar work.

Maybe your sales numbers been particularly low lately or you’ve just failed to learn and grow as quickly as your coworkers around you.

If you’re in any of these situations, it’s important at this point to either ask for help or — if your performance is just because you’ve been slacking off — to finally start working at your full capacity.

In either case, you want to get in touch with your boss as soon as you can and talk to them about the situation.

Tell them that you’re aware that your performance hasn’t been up to snuff lately, and then either ask them about what you can do to improve things from there or tell them your own plan for how you’re going to do so.

Your boss will certainly be receptive to a conversation like this, with two possible exceptions:

  1. You’ve been in this situation before and already made these kinds of promises with no results

  2. Your boss is a bad person or simply a bad manager and has either no interest in helping you improve or no ability to help you do so

In the case of these exceptions, you’re going to have to do some extracurricular work to figure out what you’re doing wrong and how to solve the issue.

If you believe you are in fact doing your work to the best of your ability and that your boss just isn’t seeing it that way, then that means your boss is having issues with you for personal reasons — in which case, it’s up to you to figure out how to repair that relationship, even if the rift is totally your boss’s fault.

Human beings are fragile and emotional, and power dynamics complicate relationships that might otherwise be easy to navigate. If you’re having trouble connecting with your boss, try to think about what might have led to the situation.

  • Do the two of you have very little in common?

  • Do your personalities or work styles clash in an unfortunate way?

  • Or did you accidentally step on your boss’s toes in some way, maybe by questioning their authority at an inopportune time or making them look stupid in front of other employees?

Assuming that you can think of anything you might have done (or not done) that might have resulted in your boss becoming a little chilly with you, think about how you can fix things.

If the problem is that you don’t have a lot in common, try talking to them a little more in a small talk kind of way. Look as hard as possible for any connection you can make with them.

It doesn’t have to be a strong connection. Just find anything that makes you more than just another faceless name on a pink slip, enough that your boss can empathize with you.

Alternatively, if the issue is that you’ve managed to offend your boss, the problem becomes a little trickier. Apologizing might be good if you can approach it correctly, but it’s also possible that you can just come off as a know-it-all and anger your boss further.

A better option is to find opportunities to show your boss the respect that they feel like they were denied earlier.

That might require eating a little crow, but if the alternative is losing your job, that might not be such a bad sacrifice to make.

It doesn’t have to be much — just give them an opportunity to share in your success a little bit, or ask for their opinion on problems you’re running into during your work.

Don’t make yourself look stupid, because that’s bad for whole other reasons, but if you can make your boss feel like you need and respect their input, it could go a long way toward improving your relationship with them.

Sign #2: You’re Being Micromanaged

On the other end of the spectrum, you might find that being in hot water with your boss means receiving a level of attention from them that you’ve never had before.

They’re in your office every other minute checking up on you, asking how your progress is coming along, perhaps even to an extent that they’re interfering with you actually completing your duties.

Unlike the other section, you’re receiving plenty of feedback — unfortunately, it’s entirely of the negative variety, and no matter what you do to improve your work, you just can’t seem to get any positive reinforcement from your boss.

This might just be the way that your boss operates, or maybe they’re stressed out and acting like this toward everyone in their office. But if this happens to be a new behavior for your boss, and if this behavior is only being directed at you, then watch out.

If all this is true, they want you to leave the company, and they’re not just going to sit back and wait for it to happen.

Either they’re working to make your life a living hell so that you decide to quit on your own, or else they’re busy building their case (stocking up negative performance review after another) to defend themselves once they finally decide to fire you.

Whether you’re receiving no attention or far too much, you’re definitely in danger of suddenly becoming jobless if you find yourself on either side of this coin.

But your relationship with your boss is like any other relationship in that it can be repaired if you take the right steps and have just a bit of luck on your side.

What to Do if You’re Being Micromanaged

A few of the tips from the previous section can be applied to a situation where your boss is micromanaging you, so long as that relationship is still salvageable.

But the main thing is that if your boss is already micromanaging you, the only real tactic you can take is to try to actually do the work that they have lost their faith in your ability to carry out.

You’re getting plenty of feedback, after all, so put it to use. If you can figure out what you’re doing wrong and take the appropriate steps to fix the situation, a reasonable boss should at that point back off.

They should start giving you more and more positive feedback until gradually giving you back your autonomy and giving you more mission-critical responsibilities again.

If this happens to you, congratulations. Your boss was micromanaging you for a reason. It was a test, and you passed.

But there’s also the possibility that your boss just has it out for you, in which case there’s nothing at all you can do.

They don’t care if you’re doing the work correctly — they’re just trying to create a paper trail of negative performance reviews (or whatever your work uses to track employee performance) in order to justify the decision they’ve already made to either fire you or lay you off.

The relationship can’t be fixed at this point — it’s already highly combative and corroded beyond repair.

When all else fails and you’re stuck with a boss that doesn’t want you around, start discretely looking into transferring to another department or begin looking for a new job.

Tips for Repairing the Relationship With Your Boss

If you’re unsure about what your boss’ problem with you is, you can try using any of these tips below to repair the relationship with your boss:

  • Get a second opinion. Talk to a coworker you trust and see if they’re also picking up on the bad vibes. It’s easy to get into your head about some offhand comment your boss made or read into a bad mood that has nothing to do with you.

    An objective (or at least outside) opinion of the situation can help dispel your negative perception of the relationship. Or it can confirm the fact that your boss doesn’t seem to like you. This trusted coworker might be able to explain why or at least get you thinking about the situation from a different angle.

  • Mirror the favorites. Personality mirroring is a thing that works if you don’t over-do it and come off as a total phony. But instead of mirroring your boss, mirror those that he seems to pick out as favorites all the time. Identify what your boss values in their contributions and try to incorporate that into your workflow.

  • Work harder. This one’s only true if you really have been slacking. Put that extra hour in, help your coworkers out often and happily, and start tracking your productivity. Your boss may not notice right away, but consistent effort is something she should pick up on eventually.

    If she doesn’t, at least you can say you tried. Plus, that extra work might translate into some juicy accomplishments for your resume and cover letter, once you start looking for a new job.

  • Be friendly. This goes along with working harder; as long as you can say you tried to do everything to mend the relationship, you won’t feel as bad about it. Be polite, say hello, and listen actively if you get a chance at a conversation.

    This tip holds true even if you decide to quit. Write a professional resignation letter, give plenty of notice, and avoid telling your boss what you really think of him. Even when you’re applying for new jobs, speak about your former boss in as positive tones as you can muster.

    “Difference of opinion/style” is a good euphemism to describe why your relationship wasn’t perfect, if an interviewer asks.

  • Quit or change departments. Okay, this isn’t a tip for repairing your relationship with your boss, but always remember that quitting is an option. If you work at a large enough company, you might also be able to transfer to another department or team.

    Ask yourself how bad your boss is and how much interaction you have to have with her. If your job is otherwise enjoyable and your coworkers are great, then maybe having a lousy boss is manageable.

    But if the thought of seeing your boss gives you anxiety, and you have to see him multiple times a day, then it might be a sign it’s time to start looking for a new job.

If Your Boss Is Abusive or Discriminatory

So far we’ve been covering soured relationships. But at a certain point, your boss’ behavior might cross the line to seriously inappropriate or even illegal.

Start by talking to your company’s HR team, but always remember that HR exists to protect the company. Still, they’re a good first step if you don’t want to take serious action and are just looking for a meaningful change in your boss’ behavior.

Be sure to document any bad behavior that you can, or at least note the time and place and any witnesses present. You don’t want it to seem like you’re just coming to HR to bitch about your boss. They’re much more likely to take you seriously if you can present proof of your boss acting inappropriately towards you.

If that doesn’t work and you feel you’re being discriminated against, you can file a complaint with the EEOC. Workplace discrimination based on factors like race, sex, religion, and national origin is illegal and enforced by the EEOC.

Once you file a complaint, you’ll probably have to quit and possibly involve yourself with follow-up inquiries, so consider this carefully beforehand.

Final Thoughts

Dealing with a boss that hates you can be a job in itself. But if the relationship is salvageable and the other parts of your job are good, it’s worth the effort to understand and fix whatever’s going on.

If the situation can’t be saved, don’t feel bad about quitting. “Bad boss” is near the top of the list of reasons people quit their jobs, so you won’t be the first (or the last).

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Ryan Morris

Ryan Morris was a writer for the Zippia Advice blog who tried to make the job process a little more entertaining for all those involved. He obtained his BA and Masters from Appalachian State University.

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