Here are some tips on how to handle a difficult boss at work:
1. Make Sure You’re Dealing With a “Bad Boss”
Before trying to fix your bad boss, make sure you really are dealing with one. Is there a reason for his/her behaviour, or are you being too hard on him or her? Observe and analyze him/her. When he/she is doing something “bad,” try to imagine the most forgiving reason why it could have occurred. Is it truly his/her fault, or could it be something out of his/her control?”
2. Identify your Boss’ Motivations.
Know their “why”. Understanding why your boss does or cares about certain things can give you insight into his or her management style. When you know what drives your boss (even if your boss may not be fully conscious of it), you can speak to “his listening,” frame your opinions and use language in ways that line up with his core values, concerns, and priorities.
3. Don’t Let it Affect Your Work
No matter how bad your boss’ behavior, avoid letting it affect your work. You want to stay on good terms with other leaders in the company (and keep your job!). Don’t try to even the score by working slower or taking excessive ‘mental health’ days or longer lunches. It will only put you further behind in your workload and build a case for your boss to let you go before you’re ready to go.
4. Stay one Step Ahead
Especially when you’re dealing with a micromanager, head off your boss’ requests by anticipating them and getting things done before they come to you. It is particularly important that you plan what you are going to talk about before going ahead with a meeting. In addition, don’t leave the meeting until you have established what you want to say. It may help to have notes visible to which you can refer, thereby affirming that you have considered the meeting and areas of discussion. You can even give your boss a copy in advance of the meeting so there are no surprises. It will be a good sign if she/he has taken the trouble to read it!
5. Study your boss’ communication style
Taking the time to determine your manager’s preferred communication style can help foster more effective communication within the workplace. For example, if your boss prefers to communicate primarily via email, make it a habit to first send them an email before confronting them in person about a work-related matter. The better you understand how to communicate with your manager, the more likely your relationship will improve.
6. Don’t be intimidated by a bully: Stand tall, never cower!
People who bully get their power from those who respond by cowering and showing fear. If your boss is a yeller, a criticizer, or a judge, stand firm. If you’re doing the best job you can do, keep your head held high and don’t give him the satisfaction of pushing you about. Rather ask questions, seek to understand, and work to defuse a difficult situation instead of cowering or responding in anger. It takes practice, but over time you will get better at it, and he will look elsewhere for his power kick.
7. Adapt to a Point.
Sometimes, even despite your best efforts, your manager refuses to change. If you find yourself in this situation and would prefer to stay in your current job, you will have no choice but to adjust to your manager’s style. Most managers are motivated by one of three things: achievement, affiliation, or power. Observe and mirror your manager’s primary motivator and you will get on his/her wavelength. If your boss is motivated by achievement, people issues will be a low priority, but targets will be paramount. If the major driving force is an affiliation, you need to think in people terms. In the case of power, be sure to tread lightly. A little adjustment is natural in a work setting but getting on your manager’s wavelength is a big adaptation to make. It can sometimes be easier to get another job than another working style.
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