Signs of a Manipulative Boss and How to Deal With One
By Tamekia Laursen

Got a case of the Monday blues? You’re not alone.

While you might not be the only one dreading the work week ahead, it’s a serious problem if your boss is the real reason behind your distress. Without a doubt, the presence of toxic coworkers is one of the most challenging (and uncomfortable) circumstances to overcome in the workplace. But the entire situation gets a lot more complicated when your boss is the one giving you grief.  

The real question is: Would you trust your boss more or a complete stranger? According to a Harvard Business Review survey, 58% of respondents indicated they would trust a stranger more than their employer. 

Dealing with a manipulative boss can seriously ruin your experience with a company, or even worse, your reputation. It’s important for you to spot the signs early on so you can avoid the potential negative implications it can have on your career. 

Not sure if you’re dealing with a manipulative boss? Here are five signs to look out for and how to deal with it effectively. 

Sign #1: Your boss engages in gossip

One of the most telling signs of a manipulative boss is one who gets involved in or even thrives on office drama. A good boss understands that the office is a place of business and keeps it professional at all times.

Try your absolute best to keep things professional. As tempting as it might be to vent your frustrations to a work colleague… don’t do it. Even if you’re just asking for a second opinion. Engaging in a bit of small talk might seem harmless at the time but it could really come back to haunt you. 

Truth is, you never know what anyone’s thinking. And as much as you think you get along with someone, it’s really easy for someone to twist your words so they can be used against you. When in doubt, just keep quiet. 

Sign #2: They make you feel inferior

A manipulative boss goes the extra mile to make you feel uncomfortable or even inferior, just because they can.

What’s important is that you see your worth. Regardless of how your boss treats you, it’s not indicative of your competence in your role by any means. As they say, the confident usually aren’t mean people. 

While you can’t control how your boss acts, you have full control over how you react. Stay confident in your abilities, and don’t let poor management skills get to you. 

Sign #3: You get blamed for situations beyond your control

Always getting blamed for something? A manipulative boss has an excuse for everything and somehow they’ll always find a way to blame you. 

At the end of the day, your boss is still your boss. Take everything with a grain of salt and be cautious in how you react to them. Ultimately, the last thing you want to do is tick them off. Try your best to not take things too personally.

That said, if your boss is using you as a scapegoat for something that could potentially ruin your reputation or even jeopardize your future with the company, say something! The key is to not overreact. Stay calm and collected in how you approach the situation. If necessary, reach out to Human Resources to see what your best option is. 

Sign #4: They go out of their way to make you miserable

It’s really important, for anyone really, to know when it’s time to move on from a situation that’s less than ideal. Your mental health and emotional well-being is always your first priority.

Leaving a toxic situation is one of the best things you can do for yourself. Of course, there are instances in life where you should tough things out, but working with a boss that makes you miserable on a daily basis is not one of them. Chances are you’ll end up somewhere that’s a much better culture fit and you’ll be treated with the respect you deserve.  

Sign #5: Your boss plays favorites 

Your boss has a list of favorites and they make it obvious you’re not one of them – what now? 

Don’t take it to heart! Remind yourself that it’s just another sign of lousy management skills, because a good boss is impartial and only focuses on your merits. While favoritism can be relatively harmless, if it becomes a hostile situation, it’s definitely in your best interests to look elsewhere for a better culture fit. 


Don't miss out on a thriving career.