How to handle a difficult boss in tech

We’ve all had to deal with a difficult boss, especially in the highly pressured tech world. Here are four ways to deal with bullying or overbearing tech leaders

What makes a good boss? Is it integrity? Vision? Or perhaps empathy? Of course, the answer is there is no one-size-fits-all approach.

Everyone from the Greek philosophers to current-day career influencers has something to say when it comes to leadership. People like to call out the necessary qualities that are needed or share great examples of leadership online.

‘A recent survey of 2,100 UK employees discovered that 43% of workers have left a job because of their manager’

But the one thing that people really love to discuss is when somebody is getting it wrong.

Throughout 2022 we heard tales of tech leaders who have missed the mark. The most notable, of course, was Elon Musk. The SpaceX CEO’s takeover of Twitter saw him erase thousands of jobs at the social platform, make up new rules and then promptly cancel them, before demanding employees be “extremely hardcore”. Additionally, Musk banned, and then reinstated, journalists – and the list goes on.

By its nature, the tech industry is powered by visionary leaders who don’t always like to follow traditional paths or have their employees’ best interests at heart. But a difficult tech boss can push good people out of jobs: a recent survey of 2,100 UK employees, conducted by Visier, discovered that 43 per cent of workers have left a job because of their manager, with another 54 per cent of those considering leaving their jobs doing so because of their boss.

4 ways to handle a difficult boss in tech

If you work in the tech sector you’ve very likely come across a maverick or two in a leadership position. So, how can you work alongside a difficult tech boss, and ultimately progress in your career too? Let’s take a look.

#1 – Take emotion out of the equation

A recent “horrible bosses” survey discovered that 84 per cent of workers who took part said they could absolutely, probably, or maybe do their manager’s job. If you’re frustrated with a bad leader’s behaviour (or abilities), then you need to step back. It is not a reflection of your capabilities, so try to keep your emotions in check.

Remember, while you can’t control your boss’ behaviour, you can control how you react to triggering situations. Always take time to cool off before responding to snarky emails or comments. The wrong reaction can just add fuel to the fire.

#2 – Document everything

That same survey found that only 22 per cent of workers said their managers definitely trust them to be productive and hard-working during remote working hours. If you’re coming up against a frustrating situation where you find you’re in a “productivity theatre” – aka over-performing your job for your manager’s satisfaction – then keep a written record of all your meetings (virtual and in-person) with your boss.

If they ask you to complete a task over the phone or video call, always follow up over email so that there is a paper trail. It can also be helpful to repeat back any instructions so you can be sure there’s no misunderstanding. Having a clear record of interactions can help you to plead your case if you need to go to HR.

#3 – Don’t self-sabotage

Gallup research has found that 70 per cent of a team’s engagement is influenced by management. If you’re dealing with a workplace tyrant, it can be very easy to become completely disengaged, go into “quiet quitting” mode and ultimately self-sabotage your career. You might not even realise that you’re doing it.

If you don’t get along with your boss, it’s vital that you don’t take unnecessary sick days to avoid the office. Likewise, don’t start to abuse your flexible working policy either. Remember, you want to maintain a positive working relationship with all of your colleagues and maintain your workplace integrity. On top of this, you want to ensure a good reference if you do decide to leave further down the line.

#4 – If all else fails, consider leaving

Leaving a role should be a last resort. But, if you’ve tried to resolve the issues on your own and with the help of HR to no avail, then sometimes you just have to get out.

Here are a few open roles to inspire you, with plenty more available on the Information Age Job Board.

Engineering Manager, Zilch, London

Zilch is a UK-headquartered payments technology company, known for creating the “Googlisation of payments”. Europe’s fastest-ever company to go from Series A to double-unicorn status, to help with further growth, the team needs an Engineering Manager who has bags of energy. The right candidate will have a Bachelor’s and/or Master’s degree and three years’ of experience managing software teams. Read all the info here.

Program Manager, GoCardless, London

GoCardless is a global leader in account-to-account payments, making it easy for merchants to collect both recurring and one-off payments directly from customers’ bank accounts. Each year the team processes $30 billion of payments across more than 30 countries and as a result it needs a Program Manager to work with compliance managers to relaunch and run various compliance programs, and drive a programmatic structuring and implementation across the key pillars of the compliance operating model. Check out a run-down of the job requirements here.

Infrastructure Specialist, Cloud Platforms, IBM, Leicester

IBM is on the hunt for an Infrastructure Specialist who will work in the IBM Client Innovation Center (CIC), where the team delivers deep technical and industry expertise to a wide range of public and private sector clients around the world. Key responsibilities will include conducting pre-sales meetings with customers, implementing new landing zones, giving workshops and design recommendations to the internal technical team, and developing automation and IaC for customers’ infrastructure and applications. Before you apply, you’ll need to have experience with cloud architecture design, and expert knowledge of one of the following platforms: GCP, Azure, AWS, and DevOps skills. Get all the information here.

Accelerate your 2023 career search on the Information Age Job Board.

Pippa Hardy is a content creator and writer for Amply by Jobbio. She’s a work-from-home enthusiast who loves all things travel and tech. When she’s not writing up her next article, she’s usually hiking or spending a whole afternoon on Pinterest


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