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How to deal with a difficult boss - top ten tips

Updated on January 13, 2012

Dealing with a difficult boss

To deal with a difficult boss is a challenge alright but it could also be a huge demotivating factor for many employees. This is an occupational hazard that comes with most jobs. I remember having a boss, a woman who was cynical and critical of anything I did. I almost quit the job because of her, fortunately for me a mentor taught me how to deal with her. It was easy after that. Dealing with your boss/manager is an important part of your job description, though you may not actually find it on printed paper. Since it is your boss who decides whether your career graph takes an upward or downward swing, it would be worthwhile to pick up a few tips on how to deal with your difficult boss. It is not easy, I can assure you, like all things it takes time, effort and commitment to make it work. If you are ready we could start now.

Handle a with a difficult boss with ease

Top ten tips to deal with a difficult boss

It is important to get along well with you boss, not only because he /she decides on your advancement, but also because it ensures that you have peace of mind and function at your highest potential. This does not mean that you have to curry favour with your boss at the cost of your dignity. You could keep your chin up while you deal effectively with him/her. Remember that your boss difficult or not needs you as much as you need him or her. This reason is enough to make you hopeful that your methods of dealing with your boss is an achievable task.

Know your boss. Yes, knowing and understanding what makes him/her tick is the major part of the job. Knowing the stress, the pressure or work load that your boss is coping with may be your direct route to dealing with your difficult boss. Your boss faces as much pressure if not more. So take time to understand you boss’s work routine, the way he or she functions and make your plan of action.

Avoid any problem areas or any pet peeves that you boss may have. It is not worth it to be on the wrong side of your boss annoying him or her. Knowing these could tell you what you have to handle diplomatically and what you really need to avoid for your own self-preservation. You could find the most agreeable time to raise concerns and issues for discussion. Confronting a difficult boss about his/her pet peeves is not a sensible thing to do either.

Take criticism in a positive way as a means to improve your performance. Taking it personally could cause you a lot of heartache and ruin the quality of your work. It would also undermine your confidence levels. Being defensive and emotional in the way you react to criticism could hurt you badly. It would work well for you if you could respond to situations instead of reacting to them. This would be true in any situation whether you are dealing with a difficult boss or dealing with a difficult person or a close friend or relative.

Knowing what stresses your boss out and being proactive in that area would often help improve relations. If you boss gets stressed or overworked with additional responsibilities, offering to take up some work would not only ease the pressure off your boss but put you in a positive light. It helps to be proactive in areas which are known to be your bosses weak links and doing a bit more than your chunk of work to keep that area problem free and highly transparent could help you and your boss collaborate well together. You would have your boss thanking you for it and giving you credit for your efforts. I have had to handle a difficulty and nit picky manager while I was into recruitment. I would very diligently work with resumes, collaborate with many more placement agencies and even take help from his own departmental staff to get the right personnel for his department. Soon I had won him over to my side and he was the reason for my quick promotion.

That brings me to the next point. Develop the right contacts. It is very important to work on building your contacts. It would be immensely important to know who your boss values highly or respects the most. Developing a great relationship with the person and earning his /her good will is another easy and effective way of handling your boss. Word spreads around faster and more effectively, bringing you the right kind of attention and treatment. Having a mentor, a senior in the field, is another wonderful resource. He/she could provide you with the required inputs when you need them the most.

Communicate. When assigned a task, start discussion, ask question, clarify issues or areas that are not very clear, make sure you summarise and let your boss know that your aim is to do the job well. Often, when you boss sees your interest and energy His/her perception of you undergoes a modification. It is as important to follow through, as it is important to create a good impression, that is where most fail. Make sure that you are not all talk and no action.

Use all the resources at your command to get your job done to your highest satisfaction. Often a job well done receives more appreciation and respect than fawning or flattery ever does. Most often we use those resources that we are comfortable with, not really exploring newer and better resources that are at our command. Some of us are comfortable with what we do and refuse to step out of our comfort zones and learn new tricks that could simplify our lives and make work more effective.

Take pride in your work, which also means taking responsibility for your work. As much as you love to take credit for your work you need to be quick to acknowledge your faults. This is the only way you can improve the quality of your work. This send signals to your boss saying I am your man, the buck stops here.

Growing a thick skin or learn to ignore small but irritating things, being in control of your emotions and picking the right battles to fight are all effective strategies in dealing with a difficult boss. Friction of any kind that could be avoided is best left that way. Your aim should be to increase and improve the lines of communication between you and your boss, making things pleasant and comfortable not annoying and messy.
Hook up your goals with those of your boss and your team. This will ensure progress in a unified and planned manner. It would also ensure that your goals are not in conflict with those of your boss, which could make things even more difficult. Knowing your bosses goals and methods of achieving goals could help you be proactive and work ahead to ensure that both your goals are achieved. Coordination and collaboration is the crux of team work. Without collaboration and interdependence nothing much can be achieved.

Finally consider your boss from a human angle, praise the good qualities in him or her. Everyone loves to be appreciated, everyone loves to hear that they are good at something, your boss is no exception. You do not have to flatter and fawn but speak the truth as it appears to you. Put these into action and win your boss over to your side.


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    • sofs profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago

      Thank you for that vote of confidence Movie Master, experience is the greatest teacher, isn't she?

    • Movie Master profile image

      Movie Master 

      7 years ago from United Kingdom

      Coping with a difficult boss isn't easy and I have had a few in my time, some really good advice and tips here, thank you for sharing a very useful hub, voted up

    • sofs profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago

      Thank you Prasetio for the generosity of those words. I appreciate your comment. Have a lovely day!!

    • prasetio30 profile image


      7 years ago from malang-indonesia

      Very inspiring hub and I learn many things from you. You have done a great job here. Thanks for share with us. Rated up!


    • sofs profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago

      Ruby, you couldn't be more closer to the truth. Most difficult people just need love and reassurance. It is their insecurity that causes them to be mean and hurtful to other. They need to be helped, and a boss is no different. Thanks for taking the time to read and comment. Enjoy your retirement,while I enjoy my self-imposed hiatus from work!

    • always exploring profile image

      Ruby Jean Richert 

      7 years ago from Southern Illinois

      You list some really good tips Sofie..I've had a few DON'S to deal with in the hospital. I found a lot of times they were unsure and needed support..Some people are just mean and enjoy the power of being in charge. Thank goodness i'm finished with this...Retirement is GREAT..HaHa Thank you...

    • sofs profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago

      Genna the Gem should I crown you.. 'Perspective' is a word that needs to be highlighted. Most problems are problems of perception and really issues of a different nature. But the very word boss has a negative connotation putting us on our guard and coloring our perspective.. I have found that taking that extra initiative often helps ease a lot of tension between people.

      Thank you for your insightful comment and for highlighting this point. I appreciate this very much..Thank you and have the most wonderful weekend ever!

    • Genna East profile image

      Genna East 

      7 years ago from Massachusetts, USA

      Excellent hub. I especially like the part about...

      "Knowing what stresses your boss out and being proactive in that area would often help improve relations..."

      We don't have to necessarily walk a mile in their shoes, but it is very helpful to alter our perspective by understanding what they are experiencing, themselves.

      Up, interesting, and useful.

    • sofs profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago

      wordscribe43, LOL you are funny! I am glad that I am not the only one with such rotten luck.. Happy that you dropped by to say howdy . That is sweet of you.. I greatly appreciate that. Have a wonderful weekend!

    • sofs profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago

      Food4you, Idiots always seem to be on the top. ;) LoL I had your kind of luck too;) Hey turn them around, inside out. Its not very hard, yet not the easiest of tasks. Thanks for the read and the comment. Have a fun weekend!! ;) Best wishes to you!

    • sofs profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago

      thelyricalwriter, Haha, so you are like me, always managing to land up with some difficult people. Sometimes it is a question of survival, compromise and win-win policy is what need to be adopted. Thanks for the vote up and useful. I appreciate that. Have an amazing weekend.

    • sofs profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago

      Stephanie, you are right about personal feelings. Being able to keep a working persona or a very even temperament at work is absolutely important. Somehow I always landed up with terrible bosses, but they are my best friend now years after I have quit my various positions, just because I manged to keep a working persona and followed all that I have mentioned here. Thanks for the insightful comment. God Bless and have a happy weekend.

    • sofs profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago

      Senoritaa, Thanks for the endorsement and the tweet.. God Bless you..Have a lovely weekend. :)

    • wordscribe43 profile image

      Elsie Nelson 

      7 years ago from Pacific Northwest, USA

      Fantastic advice! I had a doozer of a boss years ago and could have used these tips. Nice guy outside the office, but total troll inside. Anyway, ran across this in the hopper and thought I'd say "howdy".

    • food4you profile image


      7 years ago from Oklahoma

      Great advice! It seems that from time to time every boss is an idiot! Or maybe it is just my luck, ;)

    • thelyricwriter profile image

      Richard Ricky Hale 

      7 years ago from West Virginia

      Voted up, useful, and interesting Sofs. Great advice. It seems like there is always someone like this everywhere I go. I am a hard worker and all I want is to be taken as one and given the correct appreciation that I deserve. Most times, I don't. I would rather much run my own business, but for now, I have to follow such tips. Great useful article Sofs. Hope your having a great day and best wishes:)

    • Stephanie Henkel profile image

      Stephanie Henkel 

      7 years ago from USA

      Dealing with a difficult boss is never easy, but your tips are sensible and should help smooth the way. Much depends on your personal feelings towards each other. Someone can be difficult, but you might still be able to connect on some level, and finding that connection point will certainly make an employee's life smoother. You've brought up many good points that would help.

    • Senoritaa profile image

      Rinita Sen 

      7 years ago

      Useful tips. Thanks sofs. Do need them. :) Tweeting your hub.


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