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How To Deal With A Difficult Boss?

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Dealing with difficult bosses

Every individual will encounter a boss that is difficult to deal with because of the vast differences in people’s personalities, values and work ethics. You could have a boss who is controlling, a bully, micromanager, abusive, insensitive or just simply a dysfunctional person. This could affect you in various ways contributing to workplace frustration, unhappiness and demotivation. Dealing with a bad boss is a challenge many employees face. Below are several ideas to help you deal with your difficult boss.

Be aware and acknowledge the issue

Start by understanding that your boss may not be aware that he is difficult. The definition of “difficult” depends on the employee’s needs, expectations, the manager’s skills and circumstances. Recognise that you have the right to a professional environment in your workplace; if you do encounter a difficult boss, understand that you are not the sole cause of the problem.  Make an effort to speak with your boss and tell them the impact that their actions or words are having on you and your performance. If they decide to work on their behavior, remind them of their commitment.  Avoid verbal arguments in public, but draw attention to their behaviour when the opportunity presents itself, privately.

Adopt and evolve

Learning to adapt to you boss’s working style can be an effective strategy in the process of overcoming any issues. Ask yourself honestly and objectively, "Am I happy with my role and responsibilities in this organisation?”. If your answer is yes and you feel you are being held back by a difficult boss, then adapting to your boss could make all the difference. Understand that if you are a comfort-seeking individual, there is no perfect workplace. Difficult bosses can be present in any organisation, therefore whatever you don't tolerate and learn to adapt to, can appear somewhere else as patterns repeat themselves. The better you understand your boss, what they do and more importantly why they are difficult, you may start to see things differently. Attempt to be in their shoes and view the workplace, colleagues and situations through their eyes and it might lead you to understand why they behave the way they do. Or at the very least it might let you better understand how to manage them.

When you know what drives and motives your boss, you can adapt and speak choosing words and content that will appeal to him. Now you can clearly frame your opinions and use language that will resonate with his core values, priorities, decisions and ambitions.

Setting boundaries

Do not obsess over every little thing that your boss does as it won’t improve your job satisfaction. Set boundaries where others can only affect you if you allow them to do so. Make it your responsibility to filter and manager negative thoughts. As a result you will complain less because fewer things will bother you. Ground yourself with positive thought patterns. Use your talents and abilities the best you can to create a healthy work environment by adapting to as many situations as possible.

Effective communication

One can optimise communication where you can be receptive to your boss’s working style while sharing your opinion and seeking feedback for your efforts.  Start conversations by informing your boss ofwhat you need in terms of direction, feedback and professional support. Telling your boss they're difficult is counterproductive and won’t help you meet your professional goals. Be polite, courteous, understanding and focus on your needs while showing that you're eager to meet theirs. Always listen well and aim to provide all the needed assistance as it directly strengthens your relationship with your boss.

Focus on the positives

Aim to support their success and work around their weakness. You will gain nothing by attempting to make your difficult boss look bad, engaging in verbal arguments and facilitating their weakness. Exposing their difficulties can result in damaging your own reputation. Therefore focus on their strengths and the weakness will seem petty. For instance, if your boss is disorganised, help them be better organised. If they tend to be forgetful and change their mind frequently, document interactions as a reference point in case they contradict themselves. Make yourself indispensable and reliable to your boss, you will become a valuable asset to them and this will improve your interactions in the workplace.

If you have taken these steps and have not seen any progress towards a better relationship with your boss then speak with the Human Resources department.  Seek their advice and ask for assistance to resolve your issue. Describe exactly what the issue is concerning their behavior and the impact it's having on your performance.