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Does Your Boss Deliberately Start Fights with You?

January 29, 2016

By: Crystal Spraggins

What do you do when it seems your boss would like nothing more than to see you blow your top?

It sounds strange to say, but there are bosses out there (very bad bosses, I might add) who enjoy provoking their employees to wrath, fear, frustration, and any other number of negative emotions.


I’ve had a couple of bosses who fit this description, so believe me I know. Among other things, one of my former managers used to:

  • Deliberately misplace documents I’d forwarded for her approval, leaving me no choice but to retrace her steps and/or redo my work. (I quickly learned to photocopy every scrap of paper before giving it to her.)
  • Make inappropriate and demeaning comments intended to get a rise out of me.
  • Nitpick nearly every piece of work I produced, including routine email messages.
  • Attempt to control every conversation, barely letting me get a word in edgewise.
  • Routinely shoot down my ideas, while claiming she wasn’t.

Faced with this insanity, what in the world is a stressed out worker to do?

Here are a few suggestions to surviving the boss who deliberately pushes your buttons:



First and foremost, understand your boss’ issues aren’t yours, and you don’t have to take them on. Who knows why your manager acts this way? You don’t, and that’s fine. Better to spend your energy figuring out how to manage your own emotions, because a deliberately provocative boss will find ways to mess with them.

Make a Decision

Is your intent to stay or leave the job? Know what you want and what the job offers you besides a lousy boss. If there are good reasons to stay, develop a long-term strategy around that goal. This strategy will probably involve actively appeasing your boss’ ego, but if you can pull it off and it’s worth it to you, then by all means do it.

On the other hand, if leaving the job is not an “if” but a “when,” your strategy might be to keep a low profile until you can exit gracefully. Either way, make a decision and stay the course, knowing that a provocative boss won’t be content to merely let you be.

Build Your Network

Be proactive and gather plenty of supporters who’ll help you see straight when your boss’s bad behavior starts to wear you down. These allies can also act as professional references or vouch for your good work should your boss decide you’d make a suitable scapegoat for her latest screw up. 

Build Your Skills

Take advantage of every opportunity to enhance your marketability and your resume. 


Deliberately take time each day to invite laughter into the workplace whenever something strikes your funny bone. It’s hard to be stressed when you’re laughing, and you having fun will make your boss nuts (bonus)! As they say, the best revenge is a well-lived life. So … 

Live Your Life

Don’t let your boss’ nasty ways steal all your joy. Stay aware of the blessings in your life and mediate on them as often as needed. Also, don’t neglect your health (physical, spiritual, and mental), hobbies, and family.

Be Grateful You Aren’t Your Boss

Why in the world would anyone want to be this miserable person? Imagine spending nearly every waking moment plotting how you can dominate other people. I honestly can’t think of anything less appealing.

Provocative bosses lack self-insight, usually can’t form real or lasting relationships, and live in fear of being found out for who they truly are, rather than the persona they project. Doesn’t that sound horrible? We should probably feel sorry for these folks.

A bad boss can make life trying, but you’re not without hope. Don’t give this individual more influence over your world than she’s earned, and stay focused on your plans for the future.

This too shall pass!

Crystal Spraggins

Freelance Writer, Editor, and HR Consultant in Philly. You can find more of Crystal's work at:

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