How to Deal with a Difficult Boss

Most of us will have to deal with a difficult boss at some point in our careers. A difficult boss might micromanage you, talk down to you, steal your spotlight, dominate conversations, or even create conflict. This may cause heightened stress, decreased productivity, and low satisfaction at work. We spend around 1/4 of our life at work, so our boss can have a substantial impact on our overall happiness. When you see these behaviors in a boss, there are some things you can do to improve the situation.

First, you should spend some time self-reflecting. Are you being too sensitive? Have any of your actions led your boss to treat you this way? Are you meeting your boss’s expectations? Really try to figure out why you believe your boss is being difficult.

Once you have examined the situation objectively, if you still believe the issue is with your boss, then you should have a conversation with your boss. Ask your boss if you can have a one on one meeting. Approach your boss in a polite and kind way. When you have the discussion, focus on the facts, and do not take it personally. Choose your words carefully. You should be open to hearing constructive feedback as well. Try to listen with an open mind and don’t get defensive. Empathize with what your boss is going through, and try to understand the situation from their perspective.

Once you have had a conversation with your boss, hopefully you will be able to reach an understanding and find mutual respect. Try to understand your boss’ communication style. Maybe they are direct, and it’s mistaken for being unkind. Try to anticipate your boss’ expectations, so that they don’t have to follow up with you. If you are able to deliver what they want the first time, this will build trust.

If you have tried all of these things, and your boss is still too difficult to handle, then you may need to escalate to their boss. Make sure not to complain to your peers in the process. This will only make you look bad. When you speak to your boss’ superior, make sure to only state facts and leave your emotions out of the conversation. Explain that you are unable to be successful in the current work environment because of the way you are being treated.

Keep in mind that this too shall pass and difficult situations like this are only temporary. Try to take the problems one at a time, and focus on getting your job done to the best of your ability despite your boss. Remember that you are responsible for your own actions and responses no matter how you are being treated.