5 Tell Tale Signs of A Manipulative Boss

  | 6 min read
Manipulative boss

Identifying manipulative behaviour and dealing with it

Imagine always taking the blame for your boss. Worse still, imagine your boss denying you what you deserve under the pretence that you have not been doing things right. A manipulative boss is basically the kind of boss who uses emotional and political influence to control your actions and keep you dependent on them.

Such boss can either teach you how to fight for yourself or can kill your morale. The boss may even pretend to be mentoring you or coaching you to be a better version of yourself but the truth is, you do not need them and you can never be good enough to them. So here, is how to tell when your boss is trying to take control of your career and your life.

  1. Focussing on your weaknesses

highlights your shortcomings


A good boss is one who pays attention to your strengths while still encouraging you to work on your weaknesses. They may use bonuses, verbal praise, encouragement, or even empowering activities to help you grow your skills.

However, a manipulative boss will focus on what you are not good at or not doing up to their unattainable standards while completely ignoring your strengths. Often, this will happen when for example, you ask for a raise or other people around you seem to be noticing your strengths. They might even throw veiled threats your way and constantly remind you of things like how many job seekers are itching to replace you. Some will even go to the extent of shooting you down in front of your colleagues or shouting at you so as to weaken your confidence.

By playing up your weaknesses, this kind of boss doesn’t want you to grow or simply wants to deny you something. Basically, this kind of boss doesn’t want you to ask questions.

How to handle this boss

Such a boss will rarely pick on a person who is confident so start by building your self-confidence. Then, be confident in your work and always have a reason for your actions, which can be backed up by a sensible argument. Ensure that you do your job right and be firm in how you deal with this kind of a boss. This introduces a habit of firmness and your boss will not easily pick on you.

  1.  Micromanages your work


Do you know that boss who has to comb through everything you do and every decision you make? Simply put, you are there to do their bidding and they do not trust your decisions. Everything you do is questioned for no reason because they did not come up with the idea or approve it before you implemented it. Every detail has to go through them and if you make a minor change along the way, they have to approve it. In some cases, they will ask you to present a mountain of evidence and justifications for simple actions just so that they can frustrate you.

The micro manager wants to kill your confidence which then means that you will not have the confidence to rise above your current position. They will shoot down all your ideas and in some cases, come up with the idea later on and front it as their own. Some micromanagers even pretend to ask you for your opinion and then go right ahead and ignore it.

How to handle this boss

Just like the one who highlights your weaknesses, deal with the micromanager by having very good reasons to back up your actions. Do not simply accept their ideas and opinions about your work without communicating your rationale. Soon, they will learn how to trust your actions and actually pay attention to your ideas.

  1. Your boss always passes on the blame

Shifts blame

Good leaders are known to take charge of their actions and decisions. But, a manipulative boss will never take blame for their actions but will be quick to take credit for your work. Simply put, this boss will either have you do something they are scared of doing and then blame you for the outcome or will have you admit to a mistake they made. Although it is a sign of weakness, such a boss will even throw you under the bus in order to shine or come out blameless.

How to handle this boss

For such a boss, evidence of their actions in relation to your actions is what will save you. Insist on having any formal communication in writing. This way, you can demonstrate that their actions led to the problem. Do not simply take the blame without justifying your actions, especially if you acted on their instructions. You will set a precedent of accountability.

  1.  Drops names of senior managers to make you do their bidding


Imagine having a conversation with your boss and in every third sentence, they drop the name of a person in senior management, usually, a person you have no access to. The message here is that they are simply putting you out of harm’s way, or that their actions and ideas have been sanctioned from above and there is nothing you can do. Some will even do this to justify wrong actions and most of the time, they have not actually been directed by anyone in senior management but simply want to control you. Name-dropping is a show of poor leadership skills and shows that your boss cannot stand by their decisions and actions and will most likely let you take the blame when things go wrong.

How to handle this boss

Usually, there is nothing much you can do since you most likely have no access to senior management. Just like with the boss who passess on blame, have every important communication done in writing. This way, you can always backup your actions. Additionally, such a boss will not drop names in writing because they are usually lying and would not want to be caught in the act.

  1. Plays the frenemy card


We all know them. They are extremely friendly when they need help or when they are trying to get you to trust them but will quickly turn into a person you cannot recognise when it suits them. You can never really tell what mood they are in. One minute, you are laughing together and the next minute, they are throwing you under the bus or shouting at you. In the worst case scenario, they try to get close to you so that they can gather information from you and use it against you.

How to handle this boss

With this boss, the best thing is to keep your distance and keep your relationship strictly professional. Do not be too comfortable with them and divulge personal details about your life to them. Let your relationship be based on your work so as to avoid situations where unnecessary information is passed on and can be used against you.

A manipulative boss can make your life at the company impossible. All you have to remember is that you are not the problem. The best you can do is ensure that you do your job well and be firm in your actions and decisions.


Njeri Karanja
Njeri is a reading and creative writing enthusiast who is neck-deep in research writing. She is well versed in researching and writing on various topics.


  1. Nice!

    My current boss has similar xchers. She usually hides behind someone.
    She doesn’t know how to argue and always uses excuses.

    • Hi Andy
      We understand your frustration. However, just press on because you will realise there are also those in the same predicament but in your case it can be different. Ensure that you stay on your ground and remain firm. The article we have written here will also help you know how to handle such situations. If you need more advice, feel free to get back to us.


  2. Am currently under this kind of boss. I feel suffocated. I feel like moving on into another job will help.

    • Hi Lester,
      Sorry for this but, we would advise you not be too quick to quit your current job. Have a talk with your HR, supervisor or someone who is at a higher hierarchy because it may be an issue which can be looked at and even resolved easily. If you need more advice let us know and we will respond.


  3. nice article,
    my former boss was worse, he used to accuse me using abusive language later on he did not renew my contract.

    • Hi Nyongesa,
      Thank you for sharing story, we hope you took the right measures and if you are currently working, we hope this article has enlightened you to avoid a repeated incident.


  4. Ooh my!! I relate to the frenemy boss.It’s really hard to understand on which side they stand.I think a good manager is one who is consistent in his/her actions. Consistent leaders are easy to trust.
    Thanks for the article.

    • Hi Nelson,
      Thank you for reading.
      To over come this, keenly follow the steps we have highlighted and you can also refer to this http://bit.ly/2n6pawW article. If you need more advice feel free to get back to us.


    • Hi Njeri,
      Thank you for reading and participating. With regards to your proposals we think it would be inappropriate for us to include that point. It will do more damage than good.


  5. Absolutely spot on. Infriority complex
    from your boss towards an employee happens. Mostly this occurs as defencive mechanism against false or imaginery competition resulting to alot of suffering and frustration emanating from the affected individuals.

    • You’re welcome Martin.
      Read it time and again, share it your friends and colleagues so that they also are aware and more importantly are able to know how to trouble shoot the problem.


    • Hi Solomon,
      Thank you for reading.
      We hope this article has helped you and many others to know the right action to take when in such predicament.


  6. It reminds me of my former boss.One needs extra grace when dealing with emotional vampires. The experience helped improve on my adaptability quotient.

    • Hi Eunice,
      Thank you for reading and participating on the topic.
      We highly appreciate your sentiments.


    • Your welcome Nick,
      The articles we write here are meant to equip our audience, to know the right decision to make when in a similar situation and to have something that they can always refer to . Keep it here for more tips.


    • Hi Claire,
      Thank you for reading.
      Keep reading our articles and you will learn more.


    • Hi Hellen,

      Thank you for reading.
      We appreciate your feedback and we have more installed for you just keep it here.


    • Hi Irene,
      Thank you for reading.
      We understand your situation and we also know that this might have been brought about by many things for instance, if you are an under performer or have attitude problems then definitely you will see the negative side of your supervisor..both sides of the coin must be looked. Either way we know this article has given you ideas on how to go about the issue.


    Kindly why am i having a problem uploading my CV when applying for a job?
    When i click the uploading part for a cv its not showing me if its uploaded.
    Your response will be appreciated.
    Thank you

    • Hi Caroline,
      Thank you for bringing this attention to us. We can confirm to you that this is not a problem, so kindly redo the same process of applying, browse and upload the updated CV and this time round don’t wait for the display of the uploaded CV but Click the apply button. If you are still having difficulty in, write to our customer service email customerservice@brightermoday.co.ke and we will respond.


  8. Thank you for such good information
    It will be a blessing in the course of my career development.

    • You’re welcome Daniel.
      Be blessed and all the best in your career. It is our hope that you implement all what you have read.


    • Hi leah,
      Thank you for reading.
      We are glad that this information has helped you and even be well equipped when in similar predicament.


  9. its very educative plus encouraging for a person who is working with a manipulative boss.thanks a lot.

    • Hi Nzioka,
      Thank you reading.
      We are glad that you are enlightened and the tips you have learned here,we hope you will put them into practice.

      Install our new app via this link http://bit.ly/2jZt7Sz


  10. Did anyone inform you I have been looking for this? The piece I have read completely typifies this guy in the office calling himself the Operations Manager but who want to meddle into any other duty such as what the office girl does. The article, in every letter of every word embody the hell this guy has out the staff through and has even had some quit or get fired by managers who only buy his story. He smiles in the presence of the bosses but turns into a viper immediately we are alone on the floor with him alone.
    Thank you I now know why I am not going to quit just to appease his ego and insecurity.
    Thank you.

    • You’re welcome Innocent.
      One should not rush into quiting, but endure because there is always a good and bad side of everything. Knowing whats important and what you will benefit from will motivate you to strive and reach the height of success. Thanks for reading and we wish you all the best.


  11. its too encouraging…sometimes you find that some say that you are too complaining but do not understand why you are doing so, at least now if i find anyone accusing of complains and stubbornness now have got the way to handle them and still do far much better

Comments are closed.