As a talent coach, over the years I’ve heard some real horror stories about managers and bosses. When digging deeper with clients, what I’ve learned is this: yes, there are some truly bad managers out there. But, how do you know if you have a truly horrible boss, or if you just need an adjustment of attitude? Is it actually the circumstance (a bad boss) or you (how you are thinking about it)?

I recommend the following steps to determine if it’s you or your boss:

  • Do an objective self-assessment to find where your strengths and your shortcomings may be when it comes to your job, your boss, and your work environment.
    Are you hitting the key objectives of your job? Are you performing at the level you need to be valued? Are you and your boss on the same page about what he/she expects and how you are executing on it? Are the objectives realistic and based on mutual expectations?

If during this assessment, you realize may not be performing at the expected level, try the following:

  • Evaluate and focus on what you should be doing. Do those activities that produce the results that are expected.

Also, once you realize you aren’t performing at the optimal level, ask yourself the following:

  • Are you in a victim mentality? (A victim mentality means everything is happening to you, and there’s always a villain.) And if you are in a victim mentality, who is the villain? Is it your boss? Your coworkers? The job? The environment?

On the other hand, if after the self-assessment you have determined you are performing at the expected level, ask yourself these questions:

  • Are you denying the reality of who your boss is? Do you have expectations he/she can’t meet? Are you creating a situation where you want your boss to be something they aren’t?

If you answer yes to these questions, know that this is actually very common. Most people do this with everyone they meet—create an “operating manual” in their minds about how a person should be that may not be based in reality. If this is the case with you, it’s time to take a step back and take an honest look at your boss and how they operate. Once you do this, while you may still find the things they do annoying, when you aren’t expecting anything different, it can reduce the stress level you feel at work.

If after all this self-reflection and analysis, you decide you are performing up to par, have no expectations and are not in victim mode, then no, it’s probably not you.

Just keep in mind, as I wrote about in one of my prior blogs, “Should I Stay or Should I Go,” Often what happens is we think our job (circumstance) is negative, but really it is neutral. It is our thoughts, not the circumstance, that are negative. Meaning if you leave the circumstance—the bad boss—you may still end up in a stressful situation if it truly was just your thoughts about it, rather than the circumstance itself.

If you would like my determining if it is you or your boss, please schedule a free 30-minute session with me at