How to Handle a Difficult Boss

How to Handle a Difficult Boss

Hi there. Did you have a good day at the office? Tell me something. Do you have a boss who:

  • Does not have the best managerial and leadership skills so hides behind his desk and paperwork to avoid having a relationship with you?
  • Gives the good assignments to the same person over and over as if the rest of you on the team are not even there?
  • Seems to make decisions for the team based on what he wants and not what the individual members can achieve?
  • Does not know how to set clear goals and objectives for what he wants your team to do/achieve and as a result keeps changing what he  (or she)’s said before?
  • Stuck in a ‘punishment’ policy development cycle in the hopes that these will get your team to work harder?
  • A boss who favours his employees because they like him and not because they are brilliant at their job?

If you answered yes to any of the above questions, how do you feel about your boss and your job as a result?

The above points are the most common characteristics found in a difficult boss. You may have a few other choice words to describe your, but to keep this article clean, let’s stick to the word, ‘difficult’.

It’s so easy to identify a difficult boss simply by the way he or she makes their employees feel about themselves and their work. Generally, you may be okay with the occasional ups and downs but some bosses are just difficult most of the time and leave us wondering why or even worse, can cause us to leave the jobs we so once loved. While conducting research online, I came across an interesting quote that says “employees do not leave companies, they leave bad managers”.

The good news for you is that there are a few simple techniques that you can start to use today, to help you deal with your boss in a way that will leave you feeling better about yourself and your job. So here’s a short list of my favourite tips for dealing with a difficult manager:

  1. Set clear boundaries: a difficult manager probably does not understand where and when he has overstepped your personal boundaries. You need to manage this with him by politely telling him where yours start and end. Practice saying this to your friend (who does not work with you) in a firm and non-aggressive tone. Just make sure your friend is a manager too, so you can get good feedback on how what you are saying ‘sounds’.
  2. Think of your own ‘best alternative’: a best alternative is the plan you have on hand to support you after the conversation. Before you approach your manager to have any discussions about his behaviour towards you, think of a positive alternative that will support you without a doubt, should the conversation not turn out the way you would like it to.
  3. Avoid using negative labels for your boss because these will only serve to inflate the bad feelings you already have about him and is likely to cause more conflict (which lands you up in more trouble) because your whole attitude will change to accommodate the thoughts your mind is creating. Just remember ‘rubbish in, rubbish out’.
  4. Know your skills and abilities well and remain professional when you communicate anything related to your skills, with your boss. Remember that if your boss feels threatened by you in anyway, then you will probably lose. Don’t forget that there is a difference between not liking your boss and being unprofessional towards your boss.
  5. Give support and structure: as strange as it may sound, it benefits you a lot more to support your difficult boss than to fight them. Offer to help with any tasks that are running late or causing unnecessary stress and tension. I’m not saying he will thank you with a big hug, just that you will feel better and have all your hair right where you want it – on your head. Just remember that focusing on the positive will get you better results in the end. Always talk to your manager directly before you open your mouth to any colleagues or superiors that you think will listen to you. If things really get out of hand, then perhaps it’ll be up to you to re-evaluate step 2 and look for an alternative that will work better for you.




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