Wouldn’t it be great if we all had fantastic managers? The type that let us know that we are a valued member of the team. Who showed appropriate empathy and ability to lead the troops to work collaboratively? A boss that constantly inspired you to achieve more for the organisation?

But instead, you’re scrolling through this article because you need ideas on how to deal with a difficult boss.

Whether your difficult boss is a micromanager, shows favouritism toward one team or person, continuously lies or is just a straightforward workplace bully – you still have to make the best of the situation and get your job done.

Try out one or more of these tips to find some common ground with your difficult boss or at least remain sane until you find a new job.

Make Sure Your Difficult Boss is Bad

Before trying to fix your boss, make sure you are not particularly hard on them. Try observing your boss for a few days with a non-judgemental attitude. Notice how many things they are doing or not doing well. Is there a reason for their behaviour? Is what they are doing due to something out of their control? This isn’t always the case, but you need to make sure that you are not unfairly lumping them with the bad boss title before making changes.

Identify Their Motivation

Try understanding why your boss is so focused on specific behaviours or situations that lead them to meltdown. It’s helpful to stop assuming you know their motivation behind their behaviour. Ask them why. You may be correct, but you may also find out information you didn’t previously have. This additional knowledge may impact how you see the future situation or have a solution to fix the problem.

Don’t Let Your Difficult Boss Get You Down

If you want to keep your job, no matter how bad your boss’ behaviour, avoid allowing it to affect your work. You want to stay on amicable terms with the other leaders in the organisation. Don’t try to get revenge by refusing to communicate with them, taking excessive days off or extended lunches. It will only make you look bad.

Stay a Step Ahead

This tactic is beneficial if you are dealing with a micromanager. Anticipate your boss’ request and get them done before they come to you. Micromanagers are notoriously predictable and ask the same request multiple times. If you head them off at the pass enough times, they should notice you have your responsibilities on track and they don’t need to watch over you all the time.

Set Good Boundaries

Working with a difficult boss usually means they have problematic behaviour. It would be best if you learned how to distance yourself from their challenging behaviour through the use of boundaries. If their behaviour is overstepping the mark, you need to let them know how it makes you feel, have a solution to the situation and consequence if they don’t respect your boundary.

For example – they come to you 10 minutes before knock-off time every week with an urgent request. You end up agreeing to do unpaid overtime to get it done for them. You need to inform them nicely but firmly that you can’t keep bending to their request. You are happy to do the work urgently, but you need to be paid overtime or get time off in lieu. If this can’t be adhered to, you will leave on time and do the work first thing in the morning.

The trick is, you have to follow through with the consequence if you are going to build the healthy boundary. Otherwise, you are as much to blame for not holding your word. You’re teaching your difficult boss to trample all over you.

Step Up and Act Like a Leader

If your difficult boss is incompetent, you will most likely have to step forward and be the leader. If you are confident in your area of expertise, go ahead and create and pursue new directions or opportunities that will bring results for the company. These are the people who are often referred to as informal leaders.

Don’t intentionally undermine your boss. Keep them up-to-date with what you are trying to achieve, but move forward regardless. Your initiative will not go unnoticed.

Use Your Communication Skills

When disagreeing with your difficult boss, repeat back to them what they said and ask “Is that what you meant?” If they agree to your paraphrase, ask them to explain further. When you paraphrase back someone’s perspective, you give them a chance to explain, and they feel like they are being heard. This is a skill nurses and doctors use to ensure they have all relevant information required and to decrease rising tensions.

Interview Your Future Boss

This is to make sure you don’t get into another difficult boss situation. When interviewing with a new company, do your research ahead of time to ensure you’re not walking into another problem with a difficult boss. Have lunch or coffee with some of the employees at the new company. Find out general information about the company, and it’s culture. You will usually be able to tell if your potential new boss will be a nightmare from their reactions to your questions about the culture.

Don’t be tempted to put up with a problematic boss just because it keeps the peace. If it’s making you miserable, you have to do something about it. Try these techniques, and if all else fails, move onto a team where all members are treated equally.

Categories: Coaching & Mentoring


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