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How Do I Report a Bad Boss?

By K. Kinsella
Updated May 16, 2024
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Unhappy employees sometimes attempt to improve their employment experience by reporting their boss to higher authorities or supervisors within the company. Definitions of bad bosses vary based upon cultural norms, workplace laws and employee's perceptions. Many people think of a bad boss as being an individual who bullies employees or acts in an aggressive or unprofessional manner. Other people think of a bad boss as an manager who lacks the requisite skills to take on a managerial role. Many firms have some kind of mechanism in place that enables employees to make senior management aware of issues related to unprofessional or incompetent managers but senior managers are not always receptive to such reports.

Major firms often have internal human resources (HR) department and HR personnel are usually tasked with resolving inter-personal conflicts between managers and employees. Some firms have employee hotlines through which staff can report bad bosses who act unethically or violate company policies. Large companies often make employee complaint forms available to workers, and staff can use these forms to detail their grievances against their bosses. HR personnel review complaint forms to determine whether the complaints have merit. The complaints of poor performing employees who have faced justified criticism from their bosses are usually dismissed by HR personnel.

In the absence of an HR department, employees can file grievances with senior management. This often involves contacting the direct manager of the bad boss. Reporting bosses in some firms can prove difficult because many large companies have a chain-of-command philosophy which means that employees can only raise issues with senior management after first addressing the issue with the immediate boss.

There are laws in many countries that are intended to prevent workplace bullying that takes the form of discrimination. A bad boss who discriminates against employees on the basis of factors such as race, gender or religion can face fines or penalties. Employee's normally have to file complaints at the local labor office or in court with the help of an employment lawyer. Company's can also face legal issues and fines for failing to take action against managers who discriminate against employees. Consequently, HR personnel usually take employee complaints seriously because unresolved bullying complaints often end up in law suits.

Employee's should attempt to resolve workplace issues directly with the bad boss who is the root of the problem. Some managers do not consider how their words and actions are interpreted by their employees. Such individuals will sometimes willingly change their behavior if and when concerns are raised by unhappy employees. In other instances, managers react with hostility to criticism from employees and fear of retaliation can cause some bullied or concerned workers to remain silent about the shortcomings of a bad boss. In the absence of protection from laws or company rules, employees are often best advised to seek employment elsewhere.

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Discussion Comments

By browncoat — On Dec 21, 2013

@umbra21 - Unfortunately, in some places, all you can do is try to find a different job. Complaining might just make your situation worse. I would investigate what has happened to other people in similar situations in your area who complained about similar problems.

I think people should do what they can to fight bad working situations and injustice in general, but I also think they should take care of themselves and their families. Don't destroy yourself over something like this.

By umbra21 — On Dec 21, 2013

@pastanaga - I think very few people would go so far as to complain to someone above their boss about their boss unless there was a serious problem. This is not an easy thing to do and it is risky, because without proof of real harm being done, there is no reason for them to take your word over the person who has worked their way into management and has probably been with the company longer than you.

But if there is something happening that has legal ramifications you should definitely complain and not suffer in silence. If you're being sexually harassed, for example. Because if nothing else, you need to speak up about it so that if you do take it to court the company won't be able to say "this is the first we've heard about it."

Always keep records of your complaints and make sure you don't do them on a whim. Plan them out and have strategies in place no matter what the outcome might be.

By pastanaga — On Dec 20, 2013

This is such a tricky situation, because your situation might not be objectively all that bad. It might just happen that you're the kind of person who doesn't like strict management, whereas another person might prefer it. A perfect boss could cater for employees who work best under different conditions, but most people aren't going to be that perfect.

I guess what I'm saying is that you should absolutely make sure that you aren't just complaining that your boss isn't the ideal boss for you. You're going to come across as a troublemaker and you might wind up making your own situation worse.

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