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Messy Management Survival Guide: 3 Ways to Cope With a Bad Manager

  • Have you ever been dealt a manager that really doesn’t like you? I recently have, and I couldn’t help but to internalize every encounter that we had. I’d been finding myself over thinking the meaning behind semi-snarky emails, being called out during monthly meetings, and bothered over teams. With that being said, this has been the perfect opportunity to employ the tips that I often give others when going through awkward or hard times. Here are 3 ways to cope with a messy manager.

Go extremely low contact.

Going low contact worked for me because the person with which I had the problem was not my direct manager. This makes being in a situation like this all the more confusing. What could someone possibly want with an employee that does not report to them? Not reporting to the manager that is bothering you has a few bright sides as well:

  • Direct meetings with them aren’t a necessity.
  • Outside of group meetings, you do not have to see this person.
  • Most communication is through email or teams, so there is always documented proof of each interaction.

Not everyone is lucky enough to be able to avoid a high ranking corporate bully. low contact with a manager with whom you report may look like:

  • Only speaking about on topic matters. Don’t let any conversations veer into semi-personal context.
  • Avoiding small talk is a great way to keep the messiness at bay. Sitting in silence will not kill you!
  • Asking high level questions to a colleague instead of your manager is a great way to get the help you may need without having to ask up. It also helps facilitate collaboration in the workplace.

Document everything (within reason).


For many people the conflict does not pass on and the problem manager becomes a bigger issue than anticipated. This is a stage that you do not want to approach. However, if you do cross into the threshold of needing to protect yourself from messy management, documentation is your friend. This can be done in a few ways:

  • Contacting each other solely via email so that there is a clear line of communication that cannot be misconstrued.
  • Taking notes during 1 to 1’s. Sometimes people will see this as unnecessary, but it will make everyone think twice about how they behave and what they say. If your manager tells you not to take notes that is a red flag.
  • following up verbal communication with an email. This is the most common way to keep tabs on your communication. Because it is a standard practice you shouldn’t have any push back for doing this.

The bottom line is that no one wants to have direct conflict, especially in the workplace. While managers do have more pull than standard level employees, documentation never lies. keep tabs as necessary, and always assume that the same is being done vice versa.

Let it roll off your back.

When you really think about the overall picture, drama in the workplace is so silly, especially concerning managers. To be frank you have to be pretty free on time to actively pursue ruining someone’s day at work. My greatest weapon against managerial pettiness? Letting it roll off my back. If your work or job is not being directly targeted or impacted by the manager then ignore the nonsense. Like most things in life this is easier said than done, so here are some ways that I let things slide:

  • Not everything needs a response. If there’s a snarky remark or eye contact made your way (during a group gathering or meeting), don’t engage. Either someone else will see it fit to respond, or nobody will and it will pass.
  • Don’t get angry or out of character. If the goal is to get you upset it may be to jeopardize your job. is a disagreement really worth your employment?
  • Focus on the perks of your job. do you get a great company match? are you approaching yearly bonus season, or that much anticipated vacation? Sometimes these things being in the forefront of our minds will help block out the noise.

The bottom line is you have way too much to lose, and it often becomes clear how miniscule the petty office drama with a manager is when we have made an emotional, irreversible decision.


In an ideal world your manager is put in place to be in charge of your team, drive product and utilization, and encourage healthy work life balance. However many of us are dealt a losing hand with managers who are human beings with feelings that may sometimes override the logic needed in certain situations. No one was given a manual on how to navigate the emotions of a stunted person in power, which is why the actions in this guide were used when I needed to survive a toxic managerial nightmare. The main takeaways that I want you to get from this post are as follows:

  • Document everything. Do not get caught in a situation without documentation whether it’s via email, pen and paper, or even HR. No proof means it didn’t happen.
  • Do not engage. Most confrontation can be avoided if negative energy isn’t given to the situation. Not everything needs a response.
  • Let it slide. If the issue is truly petty then treat it as such. Yes, it can be annoying to think that a manager is getting away with acting outside of their wage, but are you willing to jeopardize yours to expose it?

I hope you got something of value out of this post and would love to hear some of your messy management survival tis below. For similar content on work survival guides check out my 5 signs of a toxic job that I regret ignoring.

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