How to Work with a Difficult Boss

no-thanksYou seldom get to choose your boss. What you do get to do is influence how you work together. It is not the boss’s job to make you happy. And since you spend more time being influenced by your boss than by people outside work, do whatever you can to make the relationship successful. Here’s how:

  1. Realize that you’re unlikely to find the perfect boss.
  2. View your relationship as a challenge rather than a problem. Make it your goal to develop an effective relationship so that work can move from the “drag” category to “tolerable” or even beyond.
  3. Realize that your boss has significant power over you. He does your performance review and has greater access to the most senior people. There’s little point in getting into a war with him: when you leave you may find it harder to get a new job as a prospective employer will want to check on your performance with your previous employer.
  4. Become a problem-solver. Think about the problem from your boss’s perspective. What are you doing that causes a problem? Fix your part of the problem without waiting for the boss to respond, because that’s the area over which you have most control.
  5. Avoid badmouthing your boss behind her back. You never know if your opinions will filter back. If they do, you’ll land in hot water without having the ability to repair the breach of trust.
  6. Avoid malicious obedience. Sometimes people do exactly what they are told to do, knowing that it will lead to failure. Don’t embarrass your boss. Try to make things work, even if you don’t agree with him 100 percent.
  7. If your frustration is boiling over, set up a meeting with your boss to make her aware of your feelings. Key principles to remember:
    • Hold your meeting behind closed doors. A place away from work would be ideal. Consider taking her out for lunch, so the conversation can be done in a congenial setting.
    • Avoid using the word “you.” Make the problem yours. Use “I” constantly. For example, say, “I am really frustrated when I have to change tasks before completion. Can you understand why this would frustrate me?”
    • Ask for any advice she can give to help you deal with your issues.
  8. Let the boss know when he has done something new or different that has pleased you. Acknowledge his action with a show of appreciation — that way, he might be inclined to do more for you.
  9. As a last resort, consider leaving. You might ask for a transfer within the company or quit the company altogether. If you do quit, you might be able to make a statement in an exit interview. Avoid the temptation to go overboard and blame your boss for everything. Try to be objective. Stick to the facts and do so professionally.

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