How to Stand Up to Your Boss (Without Losing Your Job)

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Every few days I hear one of my friends tell me how much they hate their boss. They dread going in to work each day because they simply cannot stand him/her anymore. Having a happiness-sucking demon of a boss puts stress on every part of your life. In this post I want to show you how to stand up to your boss without losing your job.

Why stand up to your boss?

Sometimes we let our bosses get away with too much simply because we are afraid of losing our job or creating a tense situation had we stood up for ourselves. But letting them get away with too much can also be a bad idea. As with anyone else in life, your boss will keep taking and taking as long as you keep giving and giving. If it is at the point where you feel like you are stressed, tensed, anxious, sad or frightened around your boss then it is time to stand up to him/her.

Some reasons to stand up to your boss might include:

  • Your boss is giving you more work than you can handle
  • Your boss is making you take the fall for his/her mistakes
  • Your boss continues to harass you sexually or emotionally
  • Your boss yells at you more often than necessary
  • Etc.

The onus is on you to decide whether standing up to your boss is the best solution. You have to realize that standing up to your boss will not always go well. And, if it doesn’t, you need to be able to accept the consequences however unreasonable they might be.

How to stand up to your boss (without losing your job)

Pick your moments
When standing up to your boss you need to use a lot of skill. You cannot just use any one of the strategies I am about to outline at any time. You need to pick your moments. For example, do not approach your boss to ask for a raise when he has just got back from a rough meeting with the bank. Possibly the most important thing about standing up to your boss is not HOW you do it but WHEN you do it.

Take some time to look at what kind of person your boss appears to be. Is he a morning person? Is he an afternoon person? Is he happiest after lunch? Does he get grumpy after a certain activity in the day? Try to only stand up to your boss when he is an agreeable mood.

If your boss happens to be high on ether like Mr. Burns from The Simpsons then that would be an opportune time. Take a look at how Homer asks for a donation for his bowling team:

Have specific examples ready
Nine times out of ten your boss is going to want to know specific examples of how he as offended you. If you don’t have them prepared and ready it will look like you are being melodramatic and overreacting and he will simply brush it off saying that he doesn’t even remember it happening.

However, if you can think of a few concrete example of when he has offended you (or whatever your problem is) then you will be much more convincing. Use this specific event as the basis and opening of your confrontation. For example, you could say something like, “Mr. Smith. Last week you called me a lazy no hoper. This is not the first time you have said things like that to me and I have just come to tell you that I really don’t appreciate it.”

Stand up straight, talk quietly and be in charge
This is a very important tip, one that I learned from my father. It is very important to stand up straight and assure yourself that you are in charge. This helps to put you in a position of power and makes your boss feel like you are really serious.

Don’t get it wrong though, being in charge does not mean stomping into his office and yelling at the top of your lungs. In fact, it means the opposite. Keep your voice steady and quiet, shoulders back and speak like an adult. When your boss sees that he is talking to a fellow grown up who is deadly serious about this issue then he will be less likely to retaliate in an aggressive or defensive way.

I find this tactic has helped me a lot in dealing with both superiors and clients. People like to know that you are in charge and when you project that through your stance, voice and words you are more likely to get the result you are after. This also works extremely well for the drunk guy at the bar who is starting trouble!

Don’t be intimidated or afraid

Creative Commons License photo credit: inesplicabile

There are several types of managers in this world. The problematic type is the one who tries to control everyone around him and keeps everyone in a constant state of fear. Unfortunately this is the most common type of manager.

When you confront a boss like this you will no doubt be met with counter arguments and a lot of bravado. Think about a King Cobra. When he is afraid he stands up tall, makes his head really wide and hisses and spits. It is a fear reaction. Bad bosses are the same. When they feel like the are wrong or are intimidated they will try to bring you down to make themselves feel bigger. Don’t fall for it.

When this happens just take a few seconds to recollect yourself. Stand tall and most importantly don’t look away. Keep eye contact. Eye contact is a calling sign of an honest person and maintaining it will show him that you are being genuine. This will connect with him at some level. Even though you might be afraid do not let it affect you too much or his reign of terror will continue!

Be reasonable
Don’t go in to the confrontation charged with emotion and on fire. Take is slow and above all else be reasonable. Most of the time a reasonable person will be able to negotiate better than someone who is angry and upset. Be reasonable with your boss and you will be more likely to get the reaction you want from him.


Standing up to your boss can be hard. However, if you feel like he/she is taking advantage of you it might be a necessary thing to do. What ever happens it will be you who has to take the repercussions of this confrontation. Make sure you think about them before you do it.

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