12 Ways to Deal with a Difficult Boss
Is your boss ruining your life? Do you dread going to work? If you’re not in this situation right now, you probably have been at some point during your career or will be in the future. That’s the unfortunate reality of working for another person. You and your boss might not always see eye-to-eye or get along at all.
Rather than stewing over your disdain for your boss, find ways to cope. Your day and your life will improve. While it’s highly unlikely that you can change your boss’ behavior (unless he or she is doing something illegal or unethical that warrants intervention from the human resources department), you can change your own.
Following are 12 effective ways to deal with a difficult boss. Be proactive and work to modify your relationship with your boss and the way you work with your boss, and you might just be able to turn a bad working situation into a great one (or at the very least, a tolerable one).
1. Don’t take it personally, and don’t make it personal.
Work on developing a thick skin, and don’t let your boss’ behavior affect you personally. At the same time, you need to make sure everything you do is completely professional. This not only protects you but it also provides a sense of detachment that you need to be able to leave your work problems at the office when you leave each day.
2. Identify your boss’ preferred communication style and use it.
Does your boss like to be updated about every detail? Does he prefer email or verbal communication? Does he like lengthy reports, charts and visuals, or bullet points? Communicate with him in the manner that he prefers, and he’ll not only be more open to your messages but he’ll also understand them more quickly and be more likely to respond to them.
3. Document everything.
When your boss asks you for something, get it in writing. You need to create a paper trail of all requests as well as everything you produce. If your boss is the type who gives you directions verbally, follow-up with an email that outlines the discussion to ensure that you heard everything correctly. Cover yourself at all times and be prepared to pull out your documented proof if your boss questions your outputs.
4. Help your boss look good.
If you can make your boss look good to his peers and superiors, you’ll become more valuable to him. He might not change his behavior toward you outwardly, but his hostility level toward you might go down.
5. Understand your boss’ stress and problems.
Is your boss’ superior demanding unattainable results? Is your boss under pressure that is causing him to take his frustrations out on you? Try to be empathetic. By helping your boss navigate through the difficult times, and both of your lives at work should improve.
6. Pretend your boss is a client.
Rather than viewing your boss as an annoyance, view her as a client. Imagine that you need this client to earn your paycheck, and you have to satisfy her wants and needs. After all, the customer is always right.
7. Don’t burn bridges.
While you might be tempted to give your boss a piece of your mind or to complain about your boss to any coworker who will listen, don’t do it. You never know when your paths might cross later in your career, and your negative behavior could cost you a job opportunity in the future.
Make a habit of always giving your boss more than she asked for. If you provide everything she could possibly need, there won’t be as much for her to complain about.
9. Set boundaries.
Once you set a precedent, you’ll be held to that precedent. For example, if you make a habit of working late, you’ll be expected to do so — always. Set boundaries immediately and stick to them.
10. Be flexible.
Rather than fighting against your boss’ requests, be ready to change what you’re doing at the drop of a hat. If you’re prepared to go with the flow, a constantly changing list of priorities won’t bother you. It’s never a good idea to get stuck in your ways if you’re not the one calling the shots and making the decisions. In other words, don’t try to control things that are out of your control or you’re setting yourself up for repeated failure.
11. Emulate the person in the position that you want to have.
Who has the position in your company that you’d like to have? Who do you really respect and admire? Think of how that person would respond to your boss’ behavior and emulate it. Depending on who that person is and your company’s culture, you could approach her and ask her to mentor you. As part of your mentoring, you could ask her how she would deal with a challenging boss. Don’t complain about your boss, but do ask for guidance.
12. Enhance your skills and education.
Get what you can from your current job experience and pursue external learning opportunities at the same time. By doing so, you’ll be prepared to look for another job if you can’t find a way to work with your boss in the long-term.