Dealing with a Difficult Boss

Dealing with a Difficult Boss

The cardinal rule is to remember to be professional and keep your emotions in check at all times.


In an ideal world, we’d have wonderful bosses who supported us, helped us succeed and made us feel valued. But the reality is usually quite different. Many of us have had the misfortune to have worked with difficult bosses at some point in our careers. Bad bosses have been cited as being the major reason for quitting jobs, they come in all shapes and sizes and have a range of attitudes and personalities. They are from both sexes but for reasons of readability, we will refer to bad bosses in the masculine gender only.


Whether the person you work for is a micromanager, has a quick temper, is a control freak, is incompetent, self- serving, or just plain doesn’t like you for some reason you can’t fathom, you need to make the best of the situation and get your job done. So how must one cope? Here are some suggestions on making the best of a bad situation.


Try to be objective


First make sure that he/she really is a difficult boss. Are you being too hard on him?

Could there could be some reason for his behavior?

Ensure that you aren’t the one with the problem and ask yourself questions like, do your colleagues think the boss is OK?

Do you have unrealistic expectations of him?

Have you secretly not forgiven him for some perceived slight, for example, for giving a sought - after assignment to someone much junior to you?


Think long and hard, and if you’re sure you’re not part of the problem, move on to the next step.


Give him a break


Observe your boss carefully (and discreetly!) and notice the things he does well. When he does something ‘bad’ try to think of the most positive reason for why he did what he did. Was it truly his fault or could it have been something out of his control? Identify what makes him tick. Understanding why your boss does or cares about certain things could give you insight into his management style. If you feel he’s being completely unfair, try to figure it out from his point of view. For example, he may not really care about those long lunch hours you take to visit your sick mother, he may be concerned about how your long absences look to other employees. If you think your boss is a control freak, are you sure you didn’t do anything that caused him to lose confidence in your ability to handle your job? Think back, however painful such revelations could be, they can be a positive step towards resolving the situation.


Also understand that he’s human. People who become bosses don’t always get the training they need, and they, too, face pressures on the job, may even have their own bad boss, and make mistakes sometimes. You’re not infallible either, are you?


If, after all these observations and soul searching, you still feel that he is the person at fault, read on.


Identify triggers


If your boss has anger management problems, identify what triggers his meltdowns and be extra vigilant about avoiding incidents that bring it on.


Stay one step ahead


Especially when dealing with a micromanager, head off your boss’ demands by anticipating them and getting through your tasks efficiently and ahead of the deadline. If you respond something on the lines of, ‘I already left a draft of the report on your desk for your comments enough times’, you’ll minimise the number of times he gets on your back, and he’ll realise that you have your work on track and don’t need him constantly looking over your shoulder.


Communication is the key


If your relationship has deteriorated, try talking it out, provided you can gather up the courage and are sure you will be calm and focused. Ask for a meeting to talk about your job performance and his expectations of you. Explain which areas of your job are going well and which areas you think could improve with his support. Ask what you can do differently to gain his confidence. This could help clear the air.


Above all, stay professional


No matter how bad your boss’ behavior is, don’t let it affect your work. Don’t try to even the score by working slower, or taking excessive days off or longer lunches. These will only give your boss ammunition to get rid of you before you’re ready to go. You want to stay on good terms with the rest of the management in the company, and keep your job!


Continue to be supportive of your boss. Above all, don’t bad-mouth him. Negative comments have a way of getting around.




Hopefully the good elements in your job will outweigh the boss’ behavior and you’ll decide to grit your teeth and stay on.


Try focusing on the positive


If, after making all this effort things aren’t improving between you, think about all the positive aspects of your job.


Are you learning new things?

Do you like your colleagues?

Does it give you the flexibility you need in your personal life?

Are you well paid?


Hopefully the good elements in your job will outweigh the boss’ behavior and you’ll decide to grit your teeth and stay on.


Quit only if all else fails


If things are just not working out between you, you may have to think of quitting for the sake of your mental and physical health. But remember, these are times of economic uncertainty and that the job market is soft, so unless you have a specialised skill you might find it tough to find a job with similar perks. But that’s not to say you must put your sanity and career on the line in an unhappy job.


The cardinal rule is to remember to be professional and keep your emotions in check at all times. What’s the worst case scenario, after all? You could move on to bigger and better things leaving the horrible boss and unpleasant memories far behind.