How to Stand Up to Your Boss (Without Losing Your Job)

Creative Commons License photo credit: cwalker71

Every few days I hear one of my friends tell me how much they hate their boss. They dread going in to work each day because they simply cannot stand him/her anymore. Having a happiness-sucking demon of a boss puts stress on every part of your life. In this post I want to show you how to stand up to your boss without losing your job.

Why stand up to your boss?

Sometimes we let our bosses get away with too much simply because we are afraid of losing our job or creating a tense situation had we stood up for ourselves. But letting them get away with too much can also be a bad idea. As with anyone else in life, your boss will keep taking and taking as long as you keep giving and giving. If it is at the point where you feel like you are stressed, tensed, anxious, sad or frightened around your boss then it is time to stand up to him/her.

Some reasons to stand up to your boss might include:

  • Your boss is giving you more work than you can handle
  • Your boss is making you take the fall for his/her mistakes
  • Your boss continues to harass you sexually or emotionally
  • Your boss yells at you more often than necessary
  • Etc.

The onus is on you to decide whether standing up to your boss is the best solution. You have to realize that standing up to your boss will not always go well. And, if it doesn’t, you need to be able to accept the consequences however unreasonable they might be.

How to stand up to your boss (without losing your job)

Pick your moments
When standing up to your boss you need to use a lot of skill. You cannot just use any one of the strategies I am about to outline at any time. You need to pick your moments. For example, do not approach your boss to ask for a raise when he has just got back from a rough meeting with the bank. Possibly the most important thing about standing up to your boss is not HOW you do it but WHEN you do it.

Take some time to look at what kind of person your boss appears to be. Is he a morning person? Is he an afternoon person? Is he happiest after lunch? Does he get grumpy after a certain activity in the day? Try to only stand up to your boss when he is an agreeable mood.

If your boss happens to be high on ether like Mr. Burns from The Simpsons then that would be an opportune time. Take a look at how Homer asks for a donation for his bowling team:

Have specific examples ready
Nine times out of ten your boss is going to want to know specific examples of how he as offended you. If you don’t have them prepared and ready it will look like you are being melodramatic and overreacting and he will simply brush it off saying that he doesn’t even remember it happening.

However, if you can think of a few concrete example of when he has offended you (or whatever your problem is) then you will be much more convincing. Use this specific event as the basis and opening of your confrontation. For example, you could say something like, “Mr. Smith. Last week you called me a lazy no hoper. This is not the first time you have said things like that to me and I have just come to tell you that I really don’t appreciate it.”

Stand up straight, talk quietly and be in charge
This is a very important tip, one that I learned from my father. It is very important to stand up straight and assure yourself that you are in charge. This helps to put you in a position of power and makes your boss feel like you are really serious.

Don’t get it wrong though, being in charge does not mean stomping into his office and yelling at the top of your lungs. In fact, it means the opposite. Keep your voice steady and quiet, shoulders back and speak like an adult. When your boss sees that he is talking to a fellow grown up who is deadly serious about this issue then he will be less likely to retaliate in an aggressive or defensive way.

I find this tactic has helped me a lot in dealing with both superiors and clients. People like to know that you are in charge and when you project that through your stance, voice and words you are more likely to get the result you are after. This also works extremely well for the drunk guy at the bar who is starting trouble!

Don’t be intimidated or afraid

Creative Commons License photo credit: inesplicabile

There are several types of managers in this world. The problematic type is the one who tries to control everyone around him and keeps everyone in a constant state of fear. Unfortunately this is the most common type of manager.

When you confront a boss like this you will no doubt be met with counter arguments and a lot of bravado. Think about a King Cobra. When he is afraid he stands up tall, makes his head really wide and hisses and spits. It is a fear reaction. Bad bosses are the same. When they feel like the are wrong or are intimidated they will try to bring you down to make themselves feel bigger. Don’t fall for it.

When this happens just take a few seconds to recollect yourself. Stand tall and most importantly don’t look away. Keep eye contact. Eye contact is a calling sign of an honest person and maintaining it will show him that you are being genuine. This will connect with him at some level. Even though you might be afraid do not let it affect you too much or his reign of terror will continue!

Be reasonable
Don’t go in to the confrontation charged with emotion and on fire. Take is slow and above all else be reasonable. Most of the time a reasonable person will be able to negotiate better than someone who is angry and upset. Be reasonable with your boss and you will be more likely to get the reaction you want from him.


Standing up to your boss can be hard. However, if you feel like he/she is taking advantage of you it might be a necessary thing to do. What ever happens it will be you who has to take the repercussions of this confrontation. Make sure you think about them before you do it.

16 thoughts on “How to Stand Up to Your Boss (Without Losing Your Job)

  1. I’m a boss and I must say that I take complaints or opinions more seriously if examples are provided. If a complaint or a concern is well thought and not laced with too much drama, then chances of those complains being addressed increase.

  2. Not being intimidated or afraid is hard, but really needed when you stand up to your boss. They need to know you mean business. I’ve never stood up to a bully of a boss even though I have had plenty of them. I wish that I had and been able to read this post before I did. It does a great job laying it all out.

  3. my colleague is really troubling me these days, he gives his petty works to, esp when our boss is not around. The only reason i am scared of stading up to him is coz he gets really snappy, would pass unnecessary comments when in bad mood. even by boss (they both were same batch guys) is at loss of words. he has been told so many times to mind his behaviour, then he gets really nasty and insults us.

  4. I’m so glad I found this today. I have a meeting tonight with my boss and the higher ups about being harrassed by my boss. I think this has really helped a lot in how I’m going to manage and present myself tonight.

  5. The last part about thinking before doing is a slippery slope. If you think you will overdo it. Therefore, you will hesitate and you will not go through with it. Even if you do it will show. You should do it on a whim. Give some of his/her own medicine.

  6. And what do you do when the one who does the snapping and yelling and being unreasonable is your boss? We have to walk on egg shells when talking to her. My colleagues and I have tried to talk to her calmly. We have given examples and we have had meeting, show professionalism. Still she gets upset and we have gotten yelled at and insulted. What do you do in this case?

  7. Yeah that all fine and all. But all bosses are cunts in the end, when shit hits the fan its the worker who gets it in the ass. Supervisors are even worse sucking all the sht from the boss and passing it on to the employees like father fuckin Christmas.


  8. I don’t think that you should ever go out and pick a fight with your boss, but never back down when you are being attacked by a boss or coworker. “Picking your battles” when your being attacked is just an excuse for not defending yourself.

    Never try to reason with lunacy. Don’t spend too much time over thinking your argument.There are two key parts to your argument 1) The outcome you want 2) The consequences that will follow a failure to comply “if you call me stupid again you will be creating all these reports yourself until you find a replacement!”. Simplicity is key.

    Never use your emotions because your attacker rarely truly cares how you feel inside “It hurts me when you call me stupid”. See how silly that sounds.

    Know when to speak quietly, but DO NOT default to that. Some of the most influential people who ever lived often spoke with fire and passion. Just be sure to speak directly and with control. Eye contact is a must.

    Finally some people only respond to one of the most primal feelings: fear. I mean isn’t this what you are responding to on a daily basis…fear of confrontation or losing your job.

    Find a new job and quit! More than likely your current employer will be fine without you. They will find a replacement for you and your boss will continue to be a jackass of a boss….but you wont be on the receiving end any longer.

    At the end of the day the only person you have to live with is yourself…….

  9. We all need to keep our jobs but a lot of these insights to me is pretty much kissing the boss’ ass. Just be straight up and go over their head when you know what they are all about so they can see that that they too have a boss over their head as well.

  10. Great tips. Am about to call my boss informing him again tha am too scared to live in a bad area in London during 2 days of xmas so I can get to work. Need all the tips I could get….am shivering. He has known that no train goes on thoes two days for over a month now. But hes do good at making people say yes. Am really too scared

  11. Thanks so much for the tips and the discussions, it’s really helpful to me realizing I’m not the only one with boss issues. Having a “bipolar” boss is just too difficult for me. Sometimes he reacts pretty well, sometimes it’s a catastrophe of biblical proportions and lots of yelling for almost nothing. This happens not only with me, but also with all my co-workers. I try to “feel” the mood my boss is in before talking to him. If it’s a bad mood day, forget it, he’s gonna yell at you even when you have good news. To complicate matters I’m a very shy person, and I end up taking personally any criticism I get, especially from the bully boss I have. This incredibly unstable situation has taken its toll: after some 3 years I ended up with major anxiety symptoms, had 2 panic attacks, and developed depression. I tried hard to avoid working, dodging my boss in the office, lost most of the interest for what I previously loved in my profession, couldn’t sleep at night, couldn’t focus on work during the day. I hit the bottom when I caught myself having suicidal thoughts, driving carelessly in a highway imagining that an accident would end up all the suffering. It might seem silly, but some people can be that sensitive and shy. I’m better now, trying everything I can to bounce back: regularly seeing a psychiatrist, taking antidepressants, attending psychotherapy once a week, meditating, reading self-help books, trying to find whatever works. Ah, yes, I also keep trying to win the lottery -that could mean financial freedom to quit my job or at least not worry about losing it.

    If you have been constantly bullied like me, hang on in there, you are not alone. If you are a bully boss, try putting yourself on your employees’ shoes -you might be causing much more harm than you think.

    Wish everybody stay well.

  12. Hi, everyone! I’m 16 years old, currently employed at a grocery store for… 8 months now, I think. My boss is a total dictator, expecting me to do ANYTHING they say. Sure, they are in charge, but I am not going to kiss their feet. That is where I draw the line. However, it is hard for me to stand up to my boss because this is the first and only job I’ve ever had. I don’t want to lose my job, but I know that I’m still so young—-I’ll eventually find another job somewhere else if I do get fired. However, I’m the kind of person who can be patient for so long. I don’t feel like I deserve to be fired in the first place, considering the other types of employees that I work with: Uncaring, materialistic, greedy jerks who only put half the effort in. I try to always keep a smile on my face, do whatever I can to be of service to others, and get what I need done. I’m not lazy, or at least when I’m tired that day, it is because I had to worry about staying on top of my grades at school and working towards UIL competitions in Band. I still do my best. I’ve been silent for too long: I deserve a RAISE, if anything. I’m tired of being taken advantage of. It’s time I start taking care of myself for once.

  13. Nice article, but you seem to be under the assumption that all bosses are open to a fair discussion. Most of the ones I’ve encountered are not. The current one I have is selfish, demanding and unforgiving and NEVER admits or accepts when she’s wrong. Here is a typical conversation:

    Me: Can you let me have the matter number – you didn’t dictate it.
    Boss: Yes I did.
    Me: No, you didn’t and I can’t set up the document template without it.
    Boss: I’m sure I dictated it.
    Me: No, you didn’t. Can you tell me what it is please.
    Boss: That needs to be done urgently.
    Me: It will be done as soon as I have the matter number.
    Boss: I dictated it.
    Me: If you’d dictated it, I wouldn’t be asking for it.
    Boss: I did dictate it. You probably missed it.

    She then goes into her office and shuts the door in my face. I listen to dictation again. Matter number has not been dictated. We have the conversation above over and over again until I go to the toilet and come back to find a post-it note with the matter number stuck on my keyboard. No apology. Nothing. Result – a huge amount of time wasted trying to get one small piece of information.

    Someone please tell me how you reason with somebody like that?

    I have seen her bully a secretary of 11 years out of her job (by making long lists of things said secretary allegedly did wrong that went back months – too far for the secretary to remember and defend herself). She is doing it to another secretary now – pressing HR to give her an official warning for incompetency (which isn’t true) and all this while her mother is in hospital after having a stroke. It is truly despicable. During the (numerous) meetings she’s been having with this secretary, she interrupts and talks over her. You may ask why HR doesn’t intervene during this clearly bullying and aggressive behaviour? I got my answer at previous job, when a secretary finally got fed up with being screamed abuse at from across the office and reported her boss to HR. The HR woman said (and I quote) ‘well if you don’t like it, why don’t you leave?’

    The idea that I could sit down with my current boss and have a fair discussion with her about her behaviour and its effects on our team is completely laughable and when you’re at the bottom of the food chain, no-one has your back – not even the so-called ‘human’ resource team whose job is apparently only to protect their employers.

  14. I’m just simply not one to be pushed around. I may have a manager. But, I’m a player in our game and run my ship tip-top. I won’t hobnob with people who just want to make a point.

    In this current instance I had everything right, except for a customary email that I forgot to send because I was carrying the work of 4 people (myself included) because they were all out. The missing “customary email” did neither change the outcome or affect the results. But, because I forgot one step in the process I am being held accountable for work gone undone because a coworker, who was supposed to be in, wasn’t (without the customary email notification, of course). Now, all of a sudden, my missing email is the Holy Grail of a reason to scold me.

    Get ready. It won’t be well. I have headhunters contacting me through LinkedIn monthly. I may simply play the silent card in the discussion and point back to my reliable results. But, any time you stand up to a boss you might be probing the lion (in title only).

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