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How to Neutralize a Condescending Boss

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Bad bosses come in many forms: a controlling boss will watch, and often question, your every move, or a condescending boss will talk to you as if you're a child who is incapable of doing your job. Having a boss who talks down to you might impact you personally and damage your work performance and the workplace environment as a whole, but you don't have to suffer in silence.

Evaluate the Situation

Any course of action you take will affect your relationship with your boss and possibly your career. Before you decide to address the problem, you'll need to look at the situation closely and confirm you're correct in your assumption about your boss's condescending behavior. Ask yourself if your boss is really talking down to you or if you can take her remarks in another way. For example, if your boss is a very abrupt person, she might come across as condescending when her goal is only to get the information across quickly.

Increase Personal Interaction

You might not be accurately interpreting your boss's remarks if you don't have much physical interaction with her. Electronic communications, such as email and texts, often make deciphering a person's tone nearly impossible. To get a better gauge of her tone and attitude, personally deliver some work to your boss instead of using email or fax. Make more of an effort to speak to her face-to-face so you can notice some of the physical signs of condescending behavior, such as someone who rolls her eyes or sighs when you make a suggestion. It's easier to handle the problem once you're certain she is treating you condescendingly.

Say Something

Once you're positive you have a condescending boss, it's time to speak up. Schedule a meeting with her to talk about it. Don't wait for an opportunity to yell at your boss for her next remark, as you need to leave emotion out of the discussion as much as possible to avoid creating more problems. Try thinking about how your boss's behavior affects your work and what you would like her to do differently. Practice explaining these two points to your boss before you attend the meeting, and have specific examples of her condescending behavior in mind in case she asks. Once your boss realizes how her behavior negatively affects your work, she might invite suggestions to eliminate the issue.

Go Forward

If the meeting with your boss doesn't go your way, don't fixate on it. You're probably not the only person the boss is treating this way and you shouldn't take it personally. You won't have a case to take to your human resources department unless her behavior involves truly abusive comments, so you'll need to learn how to handle it to continue working at your job. Keep improving in your job to demonstrate that your boss's condescending attitude is unwarranted.

Alert HR

If your boss's condescending behavior is at abusive levels, such as calling you names, go your HR department. Document your boss's abusive comments. You can keep a written journal of remarks made to you in person, and keep copies of any comments in writing. Once you have enough evidence, schedule a meeting with your HR rep. If your boss is treating other employees the same way, work with those employees to gather more evidence and attend the meeting together.

Know Your Limits

If you can't handle your boss' behavior, and it's not going to improve anytime soon as far as you can tell, you might need to think about changing jobs. Working at a place where you continually feel unappreciated is taxing on you personally and often affects your job performance, which in turn might hurt your career.


Anna Assad began writing professionally in 1999 and has published several legal articles for various websites. She has an extensive real estate and criminal legal background. She also tutored in English for nearly eight years, attended Buffalo State College for paralegal studies and accounting, and minored in English literature, receiving a Bachelor of Arts.

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