10 Signs Your Boss is Stressing You Out

Posted on October 28, 2013 by

angry-bossAs most of us know from experience, work can be very stressful.  Of all the many kinds of work stress, having a difficult boss is extremely common and particularly stressful.  If you feel stressed at work perhaps the major source of your stress is your boss.  (Note: If you are your own boss, you can be stressing yourself out!) Here are 10 signs your boss is stressing you out.  If your boss is stressing you out, then use the following 8 tips to either change the stressful situation with your boss or to thrive despite the stress. 10 signs your boss is stressing you out.

  • 1).  You hate going to work or feel ill on Sunday evening for no apparent reason.
  • 2).  You feel anxious whenever your boss stops by your office.
  • 3).  You feel like nothing you do is good enough for your boss.
  • 4).  Your boss criticizes you, yells at you or says negative things about you.
  • 5). Your boss blames you for their mistakes.
  • 6).  There simply isn’t enough time to get everything done that your boss assigns to you. Your boss doesn’t respect your time and expects long unpaid hours.
  • 7).  You feel overwhelmed and stuck in your work.
  • 8).  You feel irritable and snap at your loved ones or coworkers.
  • 9).  You have a stress related illness such as high blood pressure.
  • 10).  You have trouble concentrating at work

If you suffer from these signs of stress then use the following 8 steps to change the stressful situation with your boss or to thrive despite it.  Start right now.  Stress can be deadly!

clipboard1). Identify where the stress is coming from.  Identify how your boss contributes to the stress. Make a list of the things your boss does that stress you out.  Are the demands being placed on you unreasonable?  Is your boss critical?  Do you feel disrespected or under-valued?  Does your boss expect you to work too many hours?

2). Is the stress coming from within you?  Do you put a lot of pressure on yourself to succeed or to be “perfect”?  Are you confident in your ability to do the work?  Does anxiety, depression, or ADHD get in your way stress-in-dictionaryof feeling good about yourself and your productivity?  Do you have trouble getting things done on time?  If so, consult a psychotherapist or a coach to help you improve your self-esteem, set better limits or devise systems for organizing your work and staying on task.  Learn and practice mindfulness skills to keep your stress response under control.

3). What can you do to change the stress? This is the first question I always ask when confronted with a difficult and stressful situation. Identify what, if anything, can you do to change the situation with your boss so it will be less stressful.  Be assertive.  Represent yourself.  Talk to your boss.  Be specific about what you would like to change.  Perhaps the boss doesn’t realize how much work they have given you to do.  Ask for clarification of priorities.  Make suggestions for how to improve things so they will be less stressful.

woman-with-stack-papersWhen I was a computer software engineer, my boss kept giving me more and more projects.  I finally told him I needed clarification about which projects he needed done first as I had too many to get them all done in time.  He laughed and said “I was wondering when you would tell me it was too much.  I was giving you more work until you cried ‘uncle'”.  What I learned from this is that many bosses don’t know how much is too much until you tell them.  Others do know but have too much work being assigned to them which they pass on to you.  Either way, speak up.

4). Ask for help and delegate when possible.  Take it as your responsibility to ask for help when you need it.  Early in my computer career and before I knew better, I was working about 100 hours per week.  I was exhausted, resentful, and clearly not as productive as I could have been.  When I told my boss I needed an assistant they said “No, you are doing just fine”.  I told them “I can’t keep up this pace.  I am working day and night, 6-7 days per week to get this all done.”  “Oh, in that case we will find some help for you.”  If you just keep doing the work, without letting your boss know you are overwhelmed, they may not realize you need help.  Typically you will need to be firm and tell them exactly what you need.  If they don’t respond favorably, perhaps it is time for a new job.

5). Set limits.  Protect yourself and your health.  Think about what you are willing to do for your work.  One woman I supervised was coming in at 4AM and working until after 6PM everyday trying to get everything done for a project another boss assigned to her.  She was exhausted and was having trouble concentrating.  I advised her to keep a saner schedule.  Instead she kept up her pace.  A few weeks later she came to my office in tears stating the project had been cancelled and all her sacrifice was for naught.  Learn from this.

6). Clarify your goals and set priorities accordingly.  Are you aiming for a promotion to an executive position?  What will that position require from you?  Are you willing to do what it takes?  Are the demands being placed on you by your boss reasonable for the position?  Do you need to balance your work life with your home life?  Do you need to have a conversation with your boss about being able to leave if your kids are sick?  How many hours per week are you really willing to work?

7). Be mindful about your interactions with your boss.  Set you intention for how you would like to relate to them.  Tune into how you feel when you are speaking with your boss or even just thinking about them.  Try to understand what they need from you and whether this is a good fit for your needs and goals.  Represent yourself by telling them what resources you need to get the work done on time.

Help Wanted8). Change the situation.  Sometimes, you simply need to find a new job with a different boss.  This can be within the same company or with another company entirely.  One man I worked with became very stressed out and then depressed after being transferred to work for a new boss.  After many months of trying to work with this boss, the man finally realized that this boss was a poor fit for his work style.  He spoke with Human Resources and found another position within the company.  Within a week of starting his new job his stress level decreased dramatically and his depression dissipated. For help with transforming stress in all areas of your life visit Transforming Stress.

Debra Burdick, LCSW, BCN, also known as ‘The Brain Lady’, is an international expert on ADHD and Mindfulness. She is an award-winning, #1 best-selling author of: Mindfulness Skills Workbook, Mindfulness Skills for Kids and Teens, ADHD: Non-Medication Treatments and Skills for Children and Teens and Mindfulness for Teens with ADHD. She is an international speaker and retired psychotherapist and neurotherapist, who has been helping all ages thrive for over 30 years.

I would love to hear your personal experiences with this topic.


  1. Great article

    Comment by Terri on October 31, 2013 at 3:44 pm

  2. i ran a export/packing dept for 3yrs on my own and it ran perfect , the department moved (for what ever reason) and i have a new boss which is unbarable to work with/for she is into everything i do telling me it would be best done this way etc , reading my mails telling me what to send back mmm been doing this before for 3 yrs , interfearing in my orders/stock asking questions all the time , i would like to know what she did if she has time to got involved in my work , i just need to be left alone to run it , it stresses me that much i get a pain in the back of my head and my blood boils , i hate going now i have been there 30yrs and the last month its been horrible , i did not know others feel the same in that dept she speaks to you like your a child and you cant think for yourself always watching people , what can i do ?

    Comment by chris may on December 13, 2013 at 1:19 am

  3. Sorry it is so difficult. Sometimes bosses have no idea how much they stress out their employees. Look at your options: Change nothing at work but add exercise, meditation, massage, psychotherapy to help you manage the stress: Talk to your boss about how you feel and be specific about what you want; If that doesn’t help, talk with human resources for help with working with your boss; See if there is another position within the company that you could transfer to that is for a different boss; Look for another job outside the company.

    Comment by Debra Burdick on December 16, 2013 at 12:15 pm

  4. It’s hard when she say everything I do is wrong talk to other about me..its hard to work when I am being micromanage. My blood pressure is through the roof..i am 53 and I feel she is trying to push me out

    Comment by Tanya on August 28, 2017 at 11:19 am

  5. Perhaps it’s time for a change? There are always options and they start to show up when you set your intention to make a healthy change.

    Comment by Debra Burdick on October 7, 2017 at 4:48 pm

Categories: Anxiety, Articles, Business/Workplace, Stress