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How to Deal with a Difficult Boss

Updated on October 14, 2011

I have worked with wonderful bosses and difficult bosses. You cannot choose who your boss is but you can choose how you will react and behave. Here are 7 tips on how to deal with a difficult boss.

1. Observe & LIsten

Observe your boss's habits and preferences. Are there any patterns that you can identify? How is your difficult boss's interactions with other collegues or supervisors? In my workplace my boss got along well with people who made her laugh and joked around. When my boss was stressed in the workplace or at home, it would be bad news for me.

2. Do not take things personally

This will save you but is hard to do. We are humans with emotions and it's hard to not take things personally when they are directed at you. One busy day for the five minutes that I was not with clients, my boss happened to walk by and commented "You missed the meeting, I heard you were busy chatting with other coworkers." I just replied I was busy with clients and let it go.

3. Control your emotions

What I really wanted to do was inform my boss that I was busy for 4 hours straight with clients in my office non-stop. It was super busy and she was in her office all day hiding out. But his would not only be inappropriate, it is not helping the professional relationship. Instead I controlled my hurt and anger and walked away.

4. Learn your boss's emotions

Knowing how to read your boss's emotions will be one of your greatest assets. You will know when your boss is having a bad day and when he/she is in a good mood. Then you will know when is a good day to pitch a program and when it's a good day to just not ask any questions.

5. Do what is asked. Do not over think.

One of my greatest challenge was the fact that I worked in a small company before which valued independence. So it was difficult for me to come to a workplace where my emails had to be approved before I could send them out. Or document revisions were sent to my by email instead of my boss doing them herself directly on the document. I thought too much about why my boss wouldn't do it herself instead of just doing the task that was asked. I learned to read the email for what was asked, not question the simplicity or reasons, and just complete the task.

6. Do not listen to workplace gossip.

Sometimes what other people say can have an impact on your behavior.  This does not help with a difficult boss because already you are struggling with your own professional relationship.  Do not make judgements based on gossip.  You can learn from the gossip, but remember that your relationship with your boss is not their relationship.

7.  Find your own connection

Everyone is a person and everyone forms connections.  The key is to find your own connection with your boss.  What does you boss like or dislike?  What is their personal or family life like? (depends on the workplace and familiarity).  I learned to use my sense of humour, take things lightly, and was able to empathize with my boss when she was stressed.

Even when I used the 7 Tips on How to Deal with a Difficult Boss, the road is never easy.  You'll have good days and bad days, but you'll be learning about yourself every step of the way. 



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    • whaturmissing profile image

      whaturmissing 7 years ago from Canada

      Very true. You'll always be listening to the gossip but it's what you decide to do with the gossip. Keep it as gossip rather than truths.

    • globalsky profile image

      globalsky 7 years ago

      Thanks for the tips, but please note it is very difficult to not listen to the workplace gossip.