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Dealing with a Bad Veterinary Boss

If there is one universal truth, it’s that pretty much everyone has had a ‘bad’ boss at some stage during their career. 

Perhaps you had a micromanager who would drive you up the wall, or a tyrant who would leave you in bits after every shift. Regardless of the type, a bad boss can make or break a job. So much so, that 57% of employees have quit their job because of one¹. 

But what exactly makes a ‘bad’ boss, and what can you do if you find yourself working for one?

We investigate.

What Makes a ‘Bad’ Boss?

Bad bosses, much like pets, come in all shapes and sizes. 

While they are all unpleasant, it might surprise you to know that many bad bosses aren’t actually trying to make your life difficult. They’re probably just as stressed as you are! Maybe they’re new to leadership, or unaware of how their behavior is negatively impacting you.

Types of ‘bad’ bosses include…

1. The ‘Rescuers’ or ‘Superheroes’

These bosses can seem great at first. They’re hands-on, helpful, and attentive. But as time passes, they become frustrating. It’s almost like they don’t trust their employees to do their jobs, taking over whenever they can. This can result in frustration, stagnation, and, ultimately, resentment.

2. The Invisible Man

These types of leaders can be particularly demoralizing. They’re always ready to delve out the criticism, but not prepared to help you improve. These harsh leaders shut down follow-up questions or change the subject when asked for help, inhibiting growth. 

3. The Time Wasters

Time wasters talk the talk, but can’t walk the walk. What could have been an email is an hour-long meeting, one on one chats drag on- you get the picture. These leaders aren’t self-aware and may contact their employees at inappropriate times during the day.

4. The Ticking Time Bomb

Everybody has bad days, right? But what if your bosses’ bad day is every day? These bosses can go nuclear over the smallest things, and lose patience quickly. This can be really unpleasant, leaving everyone walking on eggshells. 

5. The Indecisive Overthinker

While some leaders can be a bit too decisive, indecisive overthinkers are the opposite. Indecisive leaders often lack the confidence, expertise, or criteria on how to make decisive decisions, instead becoming frozen like the rabbit in the headlamps. Clinics with these leaders often experience ‘power struggles’ with lower-level employees trying to fill in directive gaps.

6. The Machiavellian Manipulator

These leaders are by far the worst out there. Whilst uncommon (thankfully), these leaders can be narcissistic. Their narcissism is what has gotten them to the top, and they’re not afraid to step on a few people to get ahead.

7. The Conflict Avoider

No one likes conflict. But avoiding it can result in passive-aggressive behavior, toxicity, and more. These leaders can be an utter nightmare and must be reigned in where possible.

How Can You Deal With a ‘Bad’ Boss?

1. Identify Your Bosses’ Motivators

Identifying why your boss acts in a certain way can give you insight into their inner workings. 

Perhaps they are under a lot of pressure from their supervisor and so inadvertently direct that frustration towards you. Or maybe they have previously worked in practices where everything is ‘just so’, and therefore are meticulous about everything. 

Regardless, once you know the rules of the game, playing becomes much easier.

2. Resist Gossiping

Everyone needs an outlet for their frustrations, but that outlet shouldn’t be at work. This can be hard, especially if you’ve been holding onto a lot of resentment. But gossiping will only exacerbate the problem and degrade culture further, especially if it gets back to your boss.

3. Try And Work Around Your Boss’ Preferences

You shouldn’t have to completely change your personality to make a job work. But, when it comes to your career (and your sanity), sometimes it is necessary. 

To work around your boss’ preferences, take note of their leadership style and their pet peeves. Are they collaborative or more directive in style? Are there certain ways of approaching work which they prefer? Is there anyone on the team whom they admire who you could mirror?

This strategy can be surprisingly effective and a great lesson for future leaders about emotional intelligence.

4. Talk to Your Manager

This can be awkward as it is a form of conflict (that thing so many of us hate), so it’s understandable why many people with ‘bad’ bosses don’t do this. However, it is your manager’s job to essentially act as a liaison between you and your boss. so if you’re going to get advice from anyone, it’s them.

You’ll have to be careful about how you approach this because you don’t want to come across as negative or finicky. Ask your manager how you can help them reach your boss’ goals, or see what you can do to improve your performance at work.

If your manager is your boss, then this can be tricky- for obvious reasons. But if the problems are being created unintentionally, it could be a really valuable learning curve for you and your boss.

5. Put Your Wellbeing First

At the end of the day, you only live once. If your boss is a real nightmare, or they’re seriously impacting your mental health, you may want to consider an exit strategy. 

However, quitting isn’t always the answer, and does carry some risks:

  1. Potential loss of earnings – although in the current job market this is unlikely to be much of a problem.

  2. Reputational risk – veterinary medicine is a small world and news can travel. 

  3. Lost learning and growth opportunities – was it really all your boss? Or were you a part of the problem? A failure to recognize what part our own behavior has in any relationship troubles places you at the risk of being unaccountable for your own decisions and actions. And if you were a large part of the problem, then your chances of escaping the problem by changing jobs are vastly reduced unless you also change your own behavior. 

Before making a choice to exit stage left, it is wise to pause and take a mental inventory of the things that are contributing to the issue. For example, is it down to a clash of values? Or can it be pinned to something going on in your personal life? If after doing this quitting still feels like the right decision, then at the very least you have made a decision rationally.

This Too Will Pass

People don’t quit a bad job – as the saying goes, they quit a bad boss. 

If you are having a tough time, then bear in mind that nothing lasts forever, not even a crappy relationship with a bad boss. And there is always something useful to be gained. Valuable life lessons are rarely requested nor do they come cheap. 

If you’re in a less-than-ideal situation, ask yourself what this experience has shown you about yourself. What sort of support do you need at work (in this job or the next)? What do you enjoy/not enjoy doing? What would you look out for in the future role? 

By answering these questions you will start to form a clearer idea of what you need in your next job.

If you enjoyed this content and want more, check out our twelve-module, 'So You're a Vet, Now What?' course to build a happy and successful career in veterinary medicine:


1 -  ‘6 Types of Bad Bosses and How to Spot Them in Your Organization.’ 8 Jan. 2021, Accessed 19 Nov. 2021.


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