3 Ways to Manage Your Difficult Boss

Americans who work full-time may spend more time interacting with co-workers and managers than with their own family and friends. Their relationships at work, however, are far different than with trusted friends. When bosses are difficult people, workers often do not have the freedom to confront them or to demand to be treated with common courtesy. For those employees who are not lucky enough to work for polite people, these three strategies may help them maintain their sanity.


(Photo Credit: JD Hancock/Flickr)

1. Recognize Acute vs. Chronic Behavior

We all have bad days. Sometimes bosses and managers are cranky for purely personal reasons. Other times, bosses and managers seem rude or impatient for work-related reasons; for example, because corporate is putting pressure on them to increase productivity. You may get the brunt of that without an explanation.

There is a big difference between your boss going through a difficult time and your boss being generally and predictably difficult. Before you get upset or angry at the way you have been treated or spoken to, think over the bulk of your interactions with this person. If it is out of the ordinary, forgiveness is likely in order. Just keep doing your job as well as you can.

2. Manage Your Own Emotions

Chronic bad behavior on your boss’s part puts you in a difficult position. No matter how easy-going you may be about these things, eventually a rude boss will wear on your nerves. It is too easy for negative emotions to start to show, and you must monitor your own behavior to avoid self-defeating actions.

If you feel attacked, it is natural to want to counter-attack. Don’t act in the heat of the moment. If your boss wants something reasonable from you, such as work-product or information, don’t stonewall. Do your job.

3. Discuss, Do Not Confront

If you feel you must respond to your boss’s behavior, avoid a confrontation. Choose your words carefully. For example, “Stop yelling at me!” is more confrontational. Instead, “Why are you raising your voice?” or even “How can I help you?” may get better results.

If the chronic, bad behavior is grossly unreasonable, you may consider complaining about it above your boss’s head. This is touchy, however. Regardless of the fact that your boss is in the wrong, you may be perceived by others as super-sensitive or whiny if you complain. If you feel it is necessary, make certain you have specifics that go beyond “sounds like somebody was having a bad day.”

Of course, the bottom line is that some bosses are so toxic you may be best off finding another position. This is not always easy, so the above three steps may help you keep your sanity in the meantime.

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