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How to manage a difficult boss

How to Manage a Difficult Boss – 5 Brilliant Strategies

Remember how excited you were to land your job? After seemingly interminable internships and interviews, there it was –– the first step on your career ladder. Seems like last century, doesn’t it? Now instead of enthusiasm you greet the work day with a dry pit in your stomach and relentless anxiety. You aren’t sleeping. Your friends and family are sick of hearing you complain. The worst thing is that the job isn’t the problem. It’s the person you work for. So what should you do?


Well, a few years ago Gallup did a survey and discovered that half of all employees quit a job at some point because of a supervisor. Before you become the one out of two that bails because of a bad boss, take a step back. Is quitting really the answer? Along with the blemish on your employment record, the ongoing economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic means it could take longer to land a new position than it would have two years ago. So before you leave, try these tips on how to manage a difficult boss.

Let Go


Stress produces some pretty toxic hormones. Sure, when you are fleeing a wildebeest, the flight-or-fight response comes in pretty handy. Flooding your system with cortisol on the daily, however, can do irreparable harm to your body. So instead of stressing out, work on mindfulness. After all, yesterday is gone and tomorrow is a blank space. Today is your present. The best way to enjoy this gift is to meditate in the morning. There are a ton of apps that can help.  Studies show meditation reduces stress, as does living-in-the-moment mindfulness. Then throughout your workday, practice deep breathing. Inhale through your nose for a slow count of five. Hold it for five more, then exhale slowly as you count to five. Repeat until you feel calmer. Finally, project a calm persona. Don’t rush through work or be sloppy. Be precise and deliberate. 

Fit into Those Ferragamos


Okay, they may be too big or too tight, but that’s because we are all different. It’s important to take a stroll in your boss’s shoes. Take the time to imagine what might be challenging your supervisor. Empathy is as smooth a transition from mindfulness as plank is from downward dog. Away from the office, consider what expectations your supervisor faces or what challenges they are dealing with at home. Every one of us is waging a battle of some kind. Being aware of what they are fighting is an important part of how to manage a difficult boss.

Know Their Style


Micromanagers are a challenge. If you are working for one, start anticipating their triggers. If they want a report by noon, deliver it. If they get upset when you roll in at 8:05, start arriving ten minutes early. Along with their management style, adopt their preferred communication technique –– whether that’s in-person, email, or text. The secret is to meet them more than halfway. 

Learn from Feuding Families


Family and couple’s counseling employs some helpful conversational tricks. When the boss makes demands, paraphrase what they said then ask, “Is that what you mean?” Don’t personalize your relationship. They may be a bad boss, they may be behaving badly but that doesn’t mean they are a bad person. So when you address your concerns, don’t attack –– “You’re a terrible boss!” Instead, express how it makes you feel: “When you criticize me for not using Excel properly it makes me feel incompetent.” Of course, this doesn’t work with everyone.

Be a Leader


Not only should you be the better person in confrontations with your manager, try to be a better boss. Identify their pain points and help resolve them. Volunteer to take on difficult projects. Inspire others on your team. If your boss is mean to you alone, that needs to be addressed. However, if they are difficult with everyone you may find that taking the lead not only gets them off your back but earns some hard-won respect. 


Although I am a strong advocate for speaking up, when you are dealing with a manager it’s important to keep your emotions in check. However, if your manager’s bad behavior crosses the line into abuse, bullying, or harassment I am absolutely not advising that you stay silent.


The best part about these tips on how to manage a difficult boss is that they apply to all sorts of people and situations. Overcoming this obstacle will make future ones more manageable. Plus, you’ll turn things around or at the very least improve your chances of getting a glowing recommendation for your next opportunity. Either way, you’ll come out ahead!


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