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What to Do When Your Boss Holds Your Job Over Your Head to Get You to Do What They Want

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When you know that your boss is holding your job over your head to get you to do what he wants, you might feel like your job has become a nightmare. In most cases, you need to do what your managers and supervisors ask, within reason and within the context of your job description. But you don't have to feel like your toxic boss holds all the cards. You can take steps to deal with the situation so it doesn't continue to impact your morale and well-being.

Set Appropriate Boundaries

One of the most effective ways to work with a toxic boss is to set healthy boundaries, says communication expert Van Moody in an article for Just because you are an employee doesn't mean your boss gets to take advantage of you. If your boss is stepping over the line, you need to be proactive in setting appropriate, healthy boundaries in terms of the work you can reasonably do. For example, you don't have to say yes to every request or kill yourself working excessive amounts of overtime because your boss might seem to be holding your job over your head. Focus on what you can realistically accomplish and let him know what you can do. You have a right to say "no" when you have a full plate of work and can't take on any more duties.

Discuss the Situation

One of the most effective -- if frightening -- ways of dealing with a problem with your boss is to address the matter directly. Schedule a meeting with your boss and let him know how you feel. It's possible, though not likely, that your boss isn't aware of his behavior. Calling him on his behavior might help improve your situation. Don't show fear or become emotional when talking about your concerns, because this might only add fuel to his fire. Be assertive and professional. Explain that you are concerned that your boss is threatening your job in order to get you to do more work. Provide examples of recent requests he has made to back your points up. Finally, tell your boss how his behavior is affecting your attitude and productivity.

Contact Human Resources

Bad bosses get away with inappropriate behavior because employees are afraid to stand up to them -- and understandably so. But allowing your boss to hold your job over your head as a way of manipulating you only leads to more problems. You'll never win, even if you do everything that he asks. When you feel that your job is in jeopardy because your boss is being unreasonable or manipulative, contact your company's human resources department or your union representative. Keep documentation on the interactions you've had with your boss that outline his behavior so that you are well-prepared for your meeting. When you meet with an HR or union rep, describe the situation in calm, neutral tones. Provide specific examples of things your boss has said or done, and when and where it happened. If the situation doesn't improve even after consulting with others, you may have no other choice but to update your resume and start seeking another job.

Seek Emotional Support

Dealing with a manipulative boss can be emotionally draining, especially since you probably spend most of your waking hours at work. Having a solid support network is essential for coping with your situation. Connecting with supportive co-workers who might be able to understand your situation can help alleviate stress, according to the Help Guide website. Talk to your family members or trusted friends. If you need help coping with the negative effects of your work life, consult a counselor or mental health professional.


Ashley Miller is a licensed social worker, psychotherapist, certified Reiki practitioner, yoga enthusiast and aromatherapist. She has also worked as an employee assistance program counselor and a substance-abuse professional. Miller holds a Master of Social Work and has extensive training in mental health diagnosis, as well as child and adolescent psychotherapy. She also has a bachelor's degree in music.

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