7 Approaches to Deal with a Difficult Boss

Do you have a “bad boss” weighing you down?

Try one or several of these 7 approaches to improve your working relationship:

✅ Consider You Might Be Wrong About Them. It’s possible that you could be wrong. They might not be a “bad manager”, they might be in a bad phase or buckling under some sort of pressure you don’t even see. Consider whether you’ve become so jaded that the situation seems black and white. They’re bad. But, could the situation be gray? Are they really “bad”?

✅ Know You Won’t Change Them. You can help them to be successful, and support them as best as you can. You can only change how you show up in this environment (and if you even want to)….

✅ Figure Out Their Motivations and Play to Those. Ask a lot of questions of them. Pick a “good time” to do this, don’t start probing when they’re in a frenzy. Find a quiet moment, or a time when you’re together on a business trip, and ask them for more background on what’s going on. Help them to understand that you’re  genuinely interested in helping them. Know they’re human too and so much could be influencing their behavior. If you know what that is, you have a much greater chance of establishing a connection and trust with them. This connection and trust, will help you to partner with them to make you both successful.

✅ Manage Your Own Mind. You can change your thoughts to thoughts that better serve you. Let me give you an example. You might be thinking “my boss is a micro-manager.” When you think that thought, you feel irritated. When you feel irritated, you get less work done and you complain about your boss to your co-workers. It turns out that you are getting less done and your manager will probably feel a greater need to micro-manage you. You could change your thought to something simple like “I know what work I have to do and I’m going to do it.” From that thought, you dig in and feel focused. And when you feel focused, you get more work done, you don’t complain, and you have a greater chance of keeping your boss in a place where he’s not looking over your shoulder every time. This doesn’t mean your manager won’t try to micro-manage you. He might try to micro-manage you regardless of what you do. But, you can shift your thoughts to something more productive and away from the thoughts that are just making your work even more frustrating than it needs to be.

✅ Develop Professional Relationships With An Internal Champion(s). Another method for dealing with a situation where you feel you have a “bad manager,” is to branch out and make as many relationships as you can with internal champions.  These are oftentimes the people who are on the committees that make decisions about salaries, promotions, important project assignments, etc. You want to have your name and work well-known. Note: Be cautious here. You don’t want your boss to feel like you’re going over his head or trying to go around him.

✅ Stay One Step Ahead & Over-Deliver. Make sure you understand your objectives and then over-deliver on them. Stay one step ahead of your manager, anticipating what he will need and delivering it before he asks. Examples: provide an executive summary, send an email that recaps a meeting, warn your manager about a risk you’ve identified, along with a mitigation strategy, send a status update, or put a polishing touch on a deliverable. to make it look a little more professional.

✅ Decide If You’re In Or You’re Out. Don’t allow yourself to get into the zone of indecision, and have that impact your attitude, your performance, your professional relationships, and your overall mood.

If you want to stay, own that decision and manage through the issues, keeping your eye on what matters the most for your role, and to your organization. Don’t fall into the trap of gossiping, complaining, and commiserating. It’s a waste of your time and energy. 

If you want to go, it’s imperative that you’re clear with yourself on your reasons. Are you hoping to outrun your problems?

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