I worked for slightly over a year for a boss that I considered to be toxic, abusive and unstable. While there were times we got along on a personal level, overall I was quite miserable working for her. The job itself was great and offered many benefits (government) that other jobs can't even come close to.

I found another job and since there was a part of me that did like her personally, I left "for more money" and never let her know she was the cause. Moreover, I was ultimately uncomfortable approaching her or HR about the issue.

After 8 months at the new gig, a job opened up at my previous employer, but in a totally different department. I jumped at the opportunity and was brought back in (with a strong recommendation from my previous boss).

Life was good until about a year in, when an integral employee for the toxic boss abruptly quit for a job out of state. This triggered a restructuring and I was moved back to her department because of my specific skill set, having previously worked there.

After 6 months of my boss exhibiting the same type of abusive and toxic behaviors as before, I was at my wit's end and left again. This time she asked me if it was due to her and that she would "try to be nice" if I stayed. I told her that I could definitely tell she was under a lot of stress but it was once again moreso the attraction of the new job. To straight up tell her yes I'm leaving because of you is just not in my nature. As before, there were times when we genuinely bonded if she was not in one of her moods.

So, now I have this really strange block on my resume that I'm not sure how to explain in an interview. I desperately wanted to work for that company but just did not mesh with my boss. Although I think it would have done more harm than good, I did not report any of her behavior.

In situations like this, am I expected to try to work through the situation? As a potential employer, would this be a red flag that I did not handle this "correctly"? While I was working for her, I lived in fear of her and would bring a great deal of stress home with me. At the time, all I cared about was getting out ASAP.

  • Are you more concerned about how to handle this situation if it should hypothetically happen again? Or, how to explain it, right now, on your resume? Or both?
    – dwizum
    Jan 24, 2019 at 20:09

2 Answers 2


As a potential employer, I don't want to know about your previous boss at all.

Here's what I see:

  • You worked at Company A for a year or so
  • You left to work for Company B for about 8 months
  • You returned to Company A for another 18 months or so

I would read that as "Company B wasn't a good fit so you returned to A, but the original reasons for leaving A are still there and you're looking to move on".

That's perfectly reasonable and relatively common.

In an interview you want to spend most of the time discussing the future - what work you'd be doing, how well you'd fit with the team, and so on. Discuss your past just enough to establish your qualifications, then move on.

The usual answer to "why are you looking for a new job?" is "this looks like it may be a better fit". It's true and it's much better than "to get away from a terrible situation". Look forward, not back


The professional thing to do would be to resolve things with the manager.

This doesn't necessarily mean "be nice". I had a director who couldn't stand me once, and likewise. We avoided each other and only dealt with each other professionally and only when needed.

My coworker was less polite and told him to get the h*** out of our workshop and get back in his office. While I wouldn't recommend such an approach, it's still a resolution.

From your question it sounds like you're a bit conflict averse. That's fine, not everyone can (or should) be as aggressive as I am, but you do need to be assertive.

Going forward, you need to start setting boundaries with people.

  • If a manager is rude, speak to the manager in private and tell them you don't like it
  • If too much work is being thrown your way, bring it up and work to realign you load
  • If a coworker is difficult, resolve it privately.

The most important thing is that you talk to the person who is giving you difficulties and let them know:

  • What they are doing
  • What is wrong with it
  • How to correct it

Communication is key with all levels.

Next time, try resolving things first, before pulling the trigger on getting a new job

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