How to Stay Sane When You Can't Quit Your Job

Joyce Lain Kennedy


I fantasize about telling my boss what a horrible human being he is -- tantrum-throwing, micromanaging, blaming, arrogant -- and following the blast with two simple words: I quit!

The next morning I realize there's no way I, a single mom, can risk finding another job in this lousy recession that would match my pay and health benefits. I absolutely have to work this situation out. Somehow. Help?


Whoever came up with the aphorism "I prefer a sign that says 'no entry' to one that says 'no exit'" wasn't facing a double-digit unemployment rate. And now, after announcing that the recession is ending, economists offer America a new oxymoron: "jobless recovery." Oh, swell.

When you're welded to your chair, use proven advice from workplace expert Lynn Taylor ( She says bad boss behavior is rampant in the current labor climate.

Taylor's exceptionally helpful book, "Tame Your Terrible Office Tyrant: How to Manage Childish Boss Behavior and Thrive in Your Job," identifies 20 types of TOTs, an acronym for terrible office tyrants. Taylor notes that bad bosses and tiny tots behave in strikingly similar ways, and she says the tricks for managing them are virtually the same. Here are a few excerpts of Taylor's excellent tips.


Smart moms know not to wheel their little cookie monsters down the snacks aisle at the grocery store when they are cranky and need a nap. Plan ahead. Know your boss's routines and be ready with documentation -- reports with summaries, lots of colors and three-dimensional pie charts.

Don't fight a tantrum with a tantrum. Consider pacifier statements: "That will be the first thing on my to-do list." Or, "What a great idea! Thank you."

Give your boss a reverse time-out. When you sense an explosion coming on, look at your watch and say, "I've got an important call scheduled that I need to get to. It could get us closer to that deal with the client. I hate to do this, but would you be willing to defer our conversation?" The trick is to have ready a handful of legitimate excuses for leaving the scene.


Parents who've waited too long to feed their kids -- or allowed too much Halloween taste-testing -- know the outcome. Moods can stem from anything from hunger to overeating to reactions to sugar or caffeine. Mood-swing behavior that is more difficult to manage is based on manic or bipolar issues.

Don't be the first each morning to test your TOT's emotional barometer by bursting into his office with a set of items that need attention on the spot: "These can't wait, I need approval now!" Study your boss's patterns to determine the best times to approach. Reach out to your TOT's admin for insights.

And don't go over your TOT's head to Big TOT; your TOT will have fewer mood swings -- he'll just virtually flat-line at furious.


Much like a toddler, your TOT believes she is the center of the universe. Asking nicely doesn't naturally occur to a small child. After all, crying got great results in the early days. If other loud, insistent behavior like yelling or repeating demands worked before, the demanding boss will expect it to work again.

To avoid becoming a punching bag, set expectations with an estimate of how long your new assignment will take -- and what you need to complete it. Create frequent and regular status reports so your boss will know that work is in progress.

Say things like, "I feel that I won't be able to do a great job on X if I also have to complete Y by Wednesday," instead of, "Your plan to have Y done on Wednesday won't work."


You don't have to suffer the no-exit curse in silence. Visit Taylor's free advice office at

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How to Stay Sane When You Can't Quit Your Job

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