The Urban Dictionary describes a bosshole as “an employer of a particularly evil nature, completely devoid of empathy or concern for anyone else. The deadly hybrid of boss and asshole.”

Ring any bells?

Are You A Bosshole? Or Do You Work For One?

Whether you’re familiar with the definition for it or not, chances are you’ve come across someone like this in your life. Or, uh-oh, maybe YOU are the boss hole?

First, we’re going to discuss five attributes of a bosshole, then we’ll move onto what to do about one!

How to spot a bosshole

Here are five attributes of a bosshole and some tips to turn yourself from bosshole to bosserrific.

  1. Bossholes take the credit for all the work that gets done.
  2. Bossholes won’t admit when they make a mistake and will stick with a decision no matter how bad an idea it was.
  3. A bosshole will yell, demean, or bully the people they work with. Don’t do this!
  4. Bossholes do not listen to others’ suggestions or ideas.
  5. Bossholes will talk behind others’ backs instead of to their face.

Think you might be a bosshole?

Here’s some of our favorite advice on how to become bosserrific instead.

Come on now . . . credit where credit is due.

Recognizing the people who did the work will build self-esteem and confidence. Your team and colleagues will continue to want to work hard for the company and to help you succeed.

Taking sole credit for teamwork, or an individual’s effort will have the opposite effect. You’ll look like a bosshole.

Also, it makes you look great to lead a team of people who complete high-quality work.

By the way, demonstrating your appreciation for your employees is a great way to give credit where it’s due! Here are 10 creative and fun ways to thank your employees.

We are all human and we all make mistakes.

Don’t let your pride get in the way of admitting you aren’t perfect. None of us are!

A leader’s job is to step up, admit mistakes, and apologize when necessary. Doing this creates a culture of understanding where people will not be afraid to try novel approaches for fear of failure.

They’ll also respect you for admitting that you aren’t perfect either.

Remember that the people who work for you need their jobs to survive.

There is no faster way to make your staff less productive, diminish your own authority, and have others lose respect for you than to treat others disrespectfully.

Your team looks to you for leadership, coaching, and career support. Bullying your employees is an abuse of power. It’s not your employees that are the problem. It’s you.

Collaboration is key.

Organizational studies show that when all employees share ideas, companies perform better.

This is not particularly surprising. What is surprising is that there are still many bosshole leaders who work hard to avoid listening to others’ ideas.

It is up to leaders to lead the culture of an organization. Surrounding yourself with people who think differently from you, are not scared to speak up, and offer suggestions will make the entire company better. One person does not have all the answers.

“Most of the successful people I have known are the ones who do more listening than talking.”~ Bernard Baruch

Leading courageously

Gossiping about anyone is bad form and often violates a company’s Respectful Workplace Policy. (Read more about respectful workplace policies here)

As a leader, you must be courageous enough to provide constructive feedback in person, rather than jumping to conclusions and discussing shortcomings with others.

Often, having a discussion with someone can clear up a misunderstanding and re-set performance expectations. Talking about others creates a culture of mistrust.

Leaders should exude expertise and professionalism.

Putting it all together

The trick to all of this is to figure out if this is just a one-time mistake or if this is consistent behaviour that needs to be rectified.

If you think you might be a bosshole, ask someone you trust to tell you the truth.

Once you’re aware of your tendencies (and the perception from others) you can start to transition from a bosshole to bosserrific!

There are many good resources out there to help:

  • Speak to another leader in your organization who is well respected
  • Get assistance from Human Resources
  • Seek out a career coach
  • Read books
  • Attend leadership development sessions

If you work for a bosshole and feel you can have an honest conversation with them, that’s a great place to start.

If you believe it won’t be effective or could be potentially career-damaging, speak with a trusted member of your HR team. They can assist you in planning the conversation, or mediate a discussion if needed.

If you need help with a bosshole to boss-a-rrific transformation or any other HR-related challenges, give us a call or send a note to, and don’t forget to follow us on LinkedIn.

Did you learn a lot from this post about dealing with boss holes? Here are three more to check out:

Your Organization Received a Sexual Harassment Claim. Now What?
Effective Communication Techniques to Bring Your Workplace Harassment Policy to Life
Effectively Investigating Workplace Bullying and Harassment Hazards and Incidents

This article was originally published in 2017, but has been updated in 2020 just for you!