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ASK HR: How do I deal with a rude boss?

Friday August 17 2018

I find my boss overbearing and impolite.

I find my boss overbearing and impolite. PHOTO | FILE 

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Q. I find my boss overbearing and impolite. She addresses us with self-importance and even rudely sometimes. There are times when I have felt like talking back to her, but always restrained myself for the sake of my job. I am now tired of being treated disrespectfully. How can I get her to change her behaviour without drawing her wrath?

Supervisors who, knowingly or not, characterise discourtesy and arrogance at the workplace undermine productivity by fanning the disengagement of their teams.

Having to deal with disrespectful bosses in addition to the normal challenges of handling value adding business responsibilities unplugs employees’ willingness to give their best, yet it is possible to bring respect even in difficult workplace circumstances.

In some cases, limited or lack of self-awareness may account for situations where as a result of their poor attitude, bosses pull the rug from under their own feet.

Those who, on the other hand, deliberately adopt an overbearing style of supervision might consider it an effective means of obtaining results yet it almost certainly proves counterproductive in the long run. Supervisors who appreciate their crucial role in nurturing their teams’ engagement quantify their behaviour in the currency of their businesses.

Have you spoken to your HR colleagues about the matter? How is your boss treated by her line manager? And does her line manager know how your boss treats her team? How are your organisation’s customers treated? If you have them, how do you treat your direct reports? Do you have an upcoming performance review meeting? If none is scheduled, consider asking for one during which you seek feedback on your performance and request to share feedback with your boss concerning how you perceive her approach and how it affects you. You might get further by raising the matter as your perception, not as an indictment; you want to invite self-awareness, not reprisal. Whether or not your boss acknowledges your feedback, she will take note.


While sharing feedback with your boss respectfully is not inoculation against her poor attitude, it may kindle the possibility of achieving desirable change. However, if the suffocating atmosphere persists, make preparations to vote with your feet and learn how not to treat your own teams from this situation. It is usually those who inhale self-importance that risk hallucinating about owning the license to demean others.