I had an awful boss once. OK he wasn't really all that awful, but at the time I sure felt so. I would say for sure he wasn't a good boss. I puzzled over what to do with it and ended up just tolerating him until he eventually switched jobs. However once I did complain to HR about a specific issue and HR ended up disciplining my manager, so I did have one small victory.
What should you do if you really have a total ogre of a boss? Should you quit? Maybe you can get your boss fired?
The recent article on Yahoo from Bnet titled How to Get Your Boss Fired discusses the topic and offers these main suggestions:
1. Document, document, document.
2. Talk directly to the HR person who is investigating.
3. Encourage your coworkers to do the same thing.
4. Make sure you are direct and clear.
5. Be prepared for nothing to change.
You can read the full article on Yahoo for their detailed explanation.
Generally this is a good overall process for trying to deal with a bad boss. However you definitely have to be careful and understand it could all just end up getting you disciplined or fired. Thats not how it should work but we should all know that in reality bosses and employers aren't always fair. That goes quadruple for bad bosses.
Here's my take on each point:
1. Documenting the problems is good advice and should be done in any case. The only risk I see is if the boss somehow discovers your compiled evidence. So be smart and keep it out of their reach. Keep in mind that company computers and email are possibly available for your boss to access.
2. I think going to HR may or may not help. It depends on your HR. I know someone who had a bad boss and when they made a complaint to HR the HR person went straight to the bad boss in question and told the boss that they had a troublemaker in their team. My own HR dept has been helpful in some cases and useless in others. But at least they don't share complaints with the management and tell them who complained.
3. Being the single complainer can make you look like a troublemaker. But again you need to be careful when enlisting coworkers to help you. Your coworkers may not agree with you and they may even be your bosses best friend outside of work.
4. & 5. The last two points are pretty good and I'd agree with them entirely.
Bottom Line: If you've got a bad boss and can't stand it then you might be able to work the system at your place of employment to have the boss disciplined or even fired. But you must proceed with caution and understand it could all backfire on you.