There are few things more frustrating than dealing with a difficult boss. If you are in this situation, know you’re not alone.
Half of those in one study described their worst boss as arrogant or manipulative, and a little less than half labeled them as passive aggressive, according to research by Hogan.
These negative attitudes are challenging to deal with in the workplace, especially coming from a manager or an authority figure.
Here are some tips for dealing with a bad boss, as well as some advice on recognizing when it’s time to say goodbye:
Dealing with a Difficult Boss
Ask “Why?” & Emphasize
Imagine for a moment you are the psychologist and your boss is sitting across from you in the patient chair. “Why?” is your new workplace mantra.
Why is your boss being aggressive or micromanaging you? What personal and workplace stress lies on their shoulders? Put yourself in their shoes during each interaction, advises Forbes.
Once you determine what matters to them and empathize with their triggers, it becomes easier to react with sensitivity. For example, if you heard from a coworker your boss is going through a nasty divorce, maybe overhearing you chat with your deskmate about your happy family upsets your manager, and you should be more mindful of their feelings. Or, if you know they like being ahead of deadlines, you can predictably anticipate this and get your work done early.
Clear Up Ambiguity
If your boss is poor at communicating expectations, you may have to go out of your way to understand the task. Repeat back what they asked, then say “Am I understanding this correctly?” This way, you can’t take the blame if you deliver what was clearly outlined and get backlash.
For extremely difficult bosses, it may be best to get this chat in writing, whenever possible. Having tangible proof makes it harder for your boss to dispute your incompetence. Plus, it gives you evidence if matters get escalated to higher management or human resources.
Be Short & Specific
The old saying goes, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” If your boss gets under your skin no matter what you do, try engaging with them as infrequently as possible. When forced to connect, keep your interactions brief, with specific “goals” in mind.
Come prepared with a list of things you need from your boss to complete your work, get your resources, exchange a warm thank you and exit. No need to chat by the water machine about the kid’s basketball game. Keep it strictly professional, respectful and terse.
Remember, It’s Not Always Your Fault
Sometimes a mean boss isn’t actually mad at you, rather, projecting feelings from something else onto everything they touch.
As a self-aware employee, you should understand if the fault is yours to bear or not. Sometimes simply knowing their behavior has nothing to do with you is relieving in and of itself.
It doesn’t hurt to ask if they are mad at you specifically. Keep it simple by asking if there’s anything you can do to improve at work. If they give you a grocery list of things to change, it might be time to assess your hand in their frustration.
Consider Chatting with HR
If your boss is verbally abusive or behaves inappropriately at work, calmly explain why it’s not acceptable to act this way, immediately after the action. For example, if your boss participates in bullying— such as calling you demeaning names like “idiot”— or has angry, yelling outbursts behind closed doors, explain why this is inappropriate and ask for them to stop.
If the behavior continues, it’s probably time to involve human resources (HR). Though be warned, oftentimes this can further sour your relationship with your boss, without any change. Consider consulting your other coworkers to see if similar incidents have occured, and if so, ask them to file a complaint with you. There’s power in numbers, and if many of you share your problems, the company will be more likely to take proper action, or even fire your bad boss.
When to Quit
If you are still experiencing trouble after sharing your concerns with your boss, or after involving higher authority, it might be time to start job hunting.
The right time to say goodbye to a bad boss is sooner rather than later.
If your boss and you don’t have the best relationship, you should also prepare for the possibility of being fired, as they could dismiss you at a moments notice, warns the Harvard Business Review.
Overall, working with a boss you hate isn’t healthy and can cause immense stress. Not only that, but they can pigeonhole you from growing your career.
Create a transition timeline, to help you plan an exact end date and start exploring other job opportunities, as soon as possible.
Never Deal with a Bad Boss Again!
Sometimes, it’s all about trusting your instincts from the beginning. Oftentimes, difficult managers work for companies with already “bad” culture.
Read our article on How to Spot Signs of a Bad Company Culture During the Interview to pick out a mean boss from the start, and avoid the stress altogether.
At GoGig, we match job hunters and employers based on their personality and job skills, to help find the right fit. It just takes a few short minutes to fill out your personality profile and to start connecting with compassionate, caring managers.
Sign up for your free profile, today!