How to Deal With a Bad Boss: Be Passive-Aggressive

Study points to benefits of not just putting up with it
By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 21, 2015 7:41 PM CST
How to Deal With a Bad Boss: Be Passive-Aggressive
Jason Bateman and Kevin Spacey in a scene from "Horrible Bosses."   (AP Photo/Warner Bros. Pictures, John P. Johnson)

(Newser) – If you've got a bad boss, you're not alone: USA Today last year reported that 75% of workers see their bosses as the most negative aspect of their jobs, and 65% would take a new boss rather than a raise. A study in Denmark, meanwhile, suggests terrible management, not workload, is the chief culprit in workplace discontent, ScienceNordic reported. The good news is that researchers may have found a handy way to deal with a boss who's a jerk: Give it right back, subtly. "If your boss is hostile, there [appear] to be benefits to reciprocating," an Ohio State researcher says at Eureka Alert. "Employees felt better about themselves because they didn't just sit back and take the abuse." Except instead of yelling, they did things like ignoring their bosses, pretending not to get it, or putting forth a mediocre effort.

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"These are things that bosses don't like and that fit the definition of hostility, but in a passive-aggressive form," says researcher Bennett Tepper. In one study, 169 subjects reported how abusive their bosses were and how they responded at work; seven months later, they reported how they were feeling about their jobs. Respondents who didn't retaliate against mean bosses were more likely to be unhappy with and less committed to their jobs than those who fired back. Another survey found that employees in the latter camp were less likely to see themselves as victims and have psychological distress. Still, researchers aren't necessarily recommending the seemingly risky strategy, saying more investigation is needed. (And no matter how bad things seem, at least your boss probably isn't murderous.)

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