ask a boss

‘My Manager Sucks, and There’s Nothing I Can Do’

Photo-Illustration: by The Cut; Photos: Getty Images

Dear Boss,

I work in marketing at a large company. I relocated for this job, but we’ve been remote during my entire year-and-a-half tenure. I don’t have any social connections in this city, but I took this job because it was a great opportunity for growth and I really liked the hiring manager and the rest of the team. Four months in, my boss moved to a different team, and I got a new manager from another department. 

Initially I gave my new manager, “Josh,” the benefit of the doubt and assumed his shortfalls were due to the steep learning curve of the role. He seemed to constantly forget conversations we’d had or items that were discussed in meetings. He also repeated ideas I presented to him as his own. At first, I assumed he was overwhelmed by his new role. But after a few months, I saw patterns emerge and realized that this was not a temporary problem. 

Josh also treats me like his personal assistant. He IMs me constantly throughout the day, wanting me to remind him of what was discussed in meetings he was in, asking me to find emails that were sent to him because he can’t bother looking in his inbox, you name it.

Then there’s the mansplaining. He lectures me on topics that I know more about than he does and questions my decisions and opinions even when he knows nothing about the matter. He turns down my ideas and makes suggestions that are straight up wrong and impossible to execute within our business. He has continued to take credit for my ideas and other women’s ideas in meetings and in front of senior leadership.

Although he has a lot to say about every project, when it comes to doing the actual work, he disappears, leaving me to figure everything out by myself. He usually makes an appearance toward the end of a project, adding something or demanding a last-minute change so his involvement is visible and he can claim credit. 

I’ve had many discussions with him where I politely addressed his behavior. Each time he is very apologetic and says he will make changes. But those changes last for about a week before he reverts back. I’ve also talked with the head of our team, who fully acknowledged the problems and said she has also noticed these patterns. She assured me that she would give Josh feedback and asked me to reduce his involvement in my work, which is not really doable when the guy is my boss.

I’m drained and exhausted. I tried to bring this up again with the head of our team, but she was not open to discussing it again. I feel like I don’t have anyone to go to for help or support. Our projects are interesting and fun, but I am not excited by the work anymore. I dread logging in each day and feel like I am always defensive and annoyed with my interactions with him.

Since I don’t know anyone in this city, all I do is obsess over work, and it’s bleeding into the little personal life I do have. I recently decided to start looking for other jobs, but I know finding one will take some time. How do I stop dreading work every day in the meantime? Is there anything I can do to make things more bearable and to hate my boss a little less? 

This might sound counterintuitive, but sometimes accepting that a work situation isn’t going to change can make it more bearable.

Before you accept that, it’s common to feel internal pressure to do something — to talk to your boss again or talk to his boss, find the right wording, land on a new approach. Something is wrong, and so there must be something you can do to solve it.

But there can be real liberation in deciding that you don’t need to do any of that because the reality is simply that your boss sucks and isn’t going to change.

You’ve already tried all the sensible approaches. You’ve talked to Josh himself — repeatedly, it sounds like. (And good for you for doing that, because a lot of people wouldn’t have the stomach for raising these sorts of issues with their boss, let alone more than once.) But he promises to change and then he doesn’t. You’ve also talked to his boss, and even though she agreed there are problems, she’s told you she’s not going to discuss it again, which closed that door in a pretty final way. For whatever reason, she’s decided that she’s going to live with Josh’s behavior the way it is now and won’t intervene further. (In fairness, it’s possible that she is working on Josh’s issues behind the scenes, but then she should have said something to you like, “I know about the problems and am working on them, although I won’t be able to fix things overnight.” Instead she shut you down.)

Since you’ve done both of those things, there’s not a lot left to try, and it makes sense that you’re feeling stuck.

Since you can’t change Josh and you can’t make his boss be more interested in changing Josh … what if you just accepted that Josh sucks and isn’t going to change, and then planned accordingly? For example, assume he’s going to IM you for reminders throughout the day (and maybe turn off or just ignore IMs for a few hours if that’s acceptable in your office) and see it as an annoying but unavoidable part of the job. Expect that he’s going to lecture you on topics you know well and he knows nothing about, and internally roll your eyes. Or, hell, if your dynamic with him allows for it, respond with, “Josh, I’m our internal expert on this! Of course I know how to do X and Y.”

And when he takes credit for your ideas in front of others, try calmly reasserting the credit for yourself. Matter-of-fact phrases like, “Yep, when I brought this proposal to Josh, I suggested …” and “My idea on this was to do …” can make it clear the ideas being discussed were originally yours. You can do something similar when he takes credit for other women’s ideas too — “That was originally Maya’s thought, and I think her point about X is so smart because …”

Ideally, switching your mind-set to “Josh sucks and isn’t going to change” would mean you’re not aggravated every time he does a Josh-like thing, because you expect it of him, plan for it, and know it’s going to keep happening. That might sound like giving up, but I’d argue that since you’ve tried the other available avenues without success, this approach is just fully committing to seeing the reality of the job and proceeding accordingly.

Josh will still be annoying; there’s no way to change that. But he might be less exhausting when you’re not constantly trying to figure out a way to change things. You’ll almost certainly end up obsessing over the situation less; it’s hard to obsess over changing a problem when you’ve accepted that it won’t change. And then you can transfer that energy into finding a new, Josh-free job.

Order Alison Green’s book Ask a Manager: Clueless Colleagues, Lunch-Stealing Bosses, and the Rest of Your Life at Work here. Got a question for her? Email Her advice column appears here every Tuesday.

‘My Manager Sucks, and There’s Nothing I Can Do’