Why bad bosses truly do ruin lives

Updated: Dec 19, 2020

We all have a story,  you know the one, where you haven’t liked or gotten on with a manager, where they’ve upset you, or where they just haven’t treated you fairly.


But that’s OK, you put on a stiff upper lip and just get on with it, right?!  But what happens when you just can’t do it any longer? What happens when this manager makes your life a living hell? When they basically . . . . ruin your life?

According to a study by BambooHR, 44% of employee said they leave because of their boss.  The top three characteristics of their boss that made them leave are:  management style (37%), condescending attitude (30%) and mean or had a bad temper (30%).

Looking at this data I have a strong, and sad, feeling that I may not be alone when saying that I’ve been in this situation. That I’ve had, as we say in our book, a “bad boss who’s ruined my life”. And since work doesn’t end when you walk out the door at the end of the work day, it’s also ruined the lives of others, our families. Well at least it almost did, until I decided to take control and leave this bad situation.

I remember exactly the day when I made the decision to leave. I’d come home after another horrible day at work, where my boss had made me feel inadequate and incompetent, and decided to take a quick walk around the block to pull myself together before I began cooking dinner and spending time with the family.  I quickly said hello, announced that I’d be right back, and began walking around the block, sobbing as I went along.


About 5 minutes into the walk my daughter, who was 11 at the time, came running up beside me to ask if I was OK, as she was concerned about me as I had left the house so abruptly. She put her arms around me and told me that everything would be OK and that if I was unhappy that I should leave, and that the family would be fine even if I didn’t have a job and we didn’t have any money. As I listened to my sweet and sensitive daughter, I thought to myself, what kind of mother and role model was I being to her?  

So I decided that enough was enough, that I needed to show my daughter that I was indeed strong and confident and that I wasn’t (and she shouldn’t) have to put up with such a painful situation. And so I walked away from a job and company that I loved, and from my bad boss.

I wanted to share this story for a few reasons.  

  1. The first is so that others know that they’re not alone if they find themselves into this situation.  

  2. The second is to say that you do have a part to play, and control over the situation, and that it’s important to act on it before it does indeed ruin your life and the lives of others. I know at the time it seemed that I had absolutely no control, feeling like I was living in either a disaster or horror film, with everything being a blur happening around and to me. But that is so not true, I did have control. I could have found a way to get help, either through my boss or through someone else, speaking up for the challenges I was having and finding help and a way to get out of the mess. And I could have left, which as I said is what I ultimately did. I know this is hard to do, for if you’re like me and you don’t like giving up, giving up is sometimes all that you can and should do.

  3. My final reason for sharing this, and this is confession time, is to say that I’ve been on the other side of this, so the one who was the bad boss. At the time I didn’t realize it, but that’s no excuse, I still did it. I wanted to admit this for I believe that many managers may find themselves in this same situation, not understanding or realizing the impact they have on their employees. I certainly did not at the time, and I’m sure that my bad boss did not as well as I hid much of what I was going through from them. I believe this because I’m confident that no manager ever goes to work thinking, “what can I do to ruin the lives of my employees?”.

If we gave managers more understanding and more support in being a better, a more compassionate and empathetic boss, I’m confident that they would have a more positive impact on the lives of their employees.

To help with this, here are links to two amazing videos from two amazing women – Brené Brown on empathy vs sympathy and Kim Scott on Radical Candor.  


I’d highly suggest weaving them into any and all of your development programs. So with that, I want to wish you all the best in being the best boss you can be, developing the best bosses at your company, and to send my sincere apologies to the people that I negatively impacted while I was still learning these very important lessons.

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