How to Deal With an Unfair Boss

Reporting an Unfair Boss

If you think your boss is being unfair, talk to your human resources representative.
If you think your boss is being unfair, talk to your human resources representative.
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Before you report an unfair boss, prepare yourself:

  • If you've ever behaved poorly because of unfair treatment, make a list of these incidents and prepare yourself for how you will respond if your boss questions your past behavior.
  • Gather evidence. Save demeaning e-mails and keep notes about incidences in which you feel you were treated unfairly.
  • Prepare a written statement. Your statement should be no more than one page summarizing your concerns
  • Compose yourself. You want to have a clear head and controlled emotions before addressing your boss.

Before going over your bosses' head, try addressing your concerns with him or her directly. Discuss your concerns and give your boss a chance to respond. Together, develop a plan for improving the situation. Then, set a time, perhaps 30 days in the future, to meet again and evaluate the improvements.

If your boss dismisses your concerns, or if the situation fails to improve, then it's time to move up the chain of command. Large companies and labor unions generally have processes for filing formal complaints. Check with your human resources department or union representative for the next step. For smaller companies, request a meeting and share your concerns with your human resources director or your bosses' direct supervisor.

In Charlotte's case, a face-to-face meeting with Greg revealed that he was frustrated because he'd hired her to do accounting, but she clearly preferred marketing. He apologized for his passive-aggressive sarcasm. They agreed that if she could demonstrate speed and accuracy at her accounting tasks, then she could develop a social media marketing strategy for the company in her spare time. They met regularly to review her progress and soon developed a warm working relationship.

Not all working relationships are so easy to heal. Systemic workplace discrimination or a boss who is an unapologetic bully can make the workplace unpleasant at best and dangerous at worst. However, by keeping a cool head, documenting your concerns, and addressing your supervisors in a clear, noncombative way, you'll give yourself the best chance at improving a difficult, stressful situation.

See the next page for related articles and lots more information.

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More Great Links


  • Lawson, Willow. "Good Boss, Bad Boss." Psychology Today. Nov. 1, 2005. (Sept. 30, 2010)
  • Marano, Hara Estroff. "When the Boss Is a Bully." Psychology Today. Sept. 1, 1995. (Sept. 30, 2010)
  • Puder-York, Marilyn. "Managing Your Boss." American Psychological Association. (Sept. 30, 2010)
  • Singer, Stephen. "Hartford Distributors Shooting: Nine Dead in Workplace Massacre." Huffington Post. Aug. 3, 2010. (Sept. 30, 2010)
  • "Stress … At Work." National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) (Sept. 30, 2010)