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Understanding and Dealing with a Difficult Boss

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Understanding and Dealing with a Difficult Boss

We’ve all had one: a difficult boss. The difficult boss is one who sets a negative tone by being unapproachable, overly busy, and emphasizing the wrong things. These managers will likely fail in their duties at some point because of these traits, but in the meantime, their employees have to deal with them. Instead of simply sighing and going about your business, there are better ways of dealing with a manager who is difficult.

1. You Must Look Inward

First and foremost, you should see if the reason your boss is being difficult relates to you being difficult. Your boss may be acting or appearing busy every time you need help because you are constantly seeking help or approval. If you just started your job, that’s understandable. If you’ve been there for nearly a decade, it’s probably time to cut the cord.

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What if your boss is responding to you with snark, and not the fun kind, and you’ve noticed that she’s not like that with anyone else she manages? Maybe it’s your attitude and not hers. If it’s just this week, look for ways to adjust your attitude. A more regular occurrence? Then it’s time to seek more permanent solutions, like learning to cultivate your emotional intelligence (EQ) in order to better respond to your boss. Well-honed EQ can turn you from the employee your boss loathes into a great leader among your peers.

Try something even more radical. Change your diet. The foods we eat directly affect our health, both physical and mental. It’s a circle. Turn it from a vicious one to a virtuous one.

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2. You Must Try a Little Empathy

This might be hard for us to do when the issue is with our boss. If you’ve seen your boss treat others the way he treats you, it’s probably safe to pin an issue on your boss and not you. That’s always the worry when we have difficult interactions with people. We’re paranoid it’s us not them.

When you’ve established that your boss is the difficult one, you may have a hard time being empathic, but walking a mile in someone else’s proverbial shoes is an effective business tool. If you truly do need help, but your boss dismisses you because of yet another meeting, think about this: unless you work for the CEO, your boss has a boss too. Your boss may not be as in control of her schedule as you think she is.

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Take a deep breath and be proactive about making time with your boss to speak with her, not talk at her. If you have to schedule time on her calendar, so be it. That will get you started, and then you can tell her how you feel.

3. You Should Be the Peacemaker

Don’t be a peacekeeper. There’s a big difference. Being a peacemaker means being proactive in how you deal with people who make life at work difficult, from your boss to the office gossip. Peacekeepers keep to themselves and let the world of work pass them by; they let others do the dirty work. Office peacemakers don’t just make peace between themselves and their difficult bosses. Peacemakers are not afraid of ruffling a few feathers among peers in order to make the culture of the entire office a better place.

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There are seven important things a peacemaker does to maintain empathy and a health culture at work. Among those are recognizing that the solution to the problem could benefit the person with the issue. Another is using neutral ground, not the office, to have discussions about an issue. A third is choosing one issue, if there are many, on which to focus a discussion. Peacemaking is often most successful when clarity can be maintained. Muddying the waters is only going to make your boss more difficult.

4. You Must Cut and Run

Sometimes, you can only make so much peace before it’s time to get the hell out from under the tyranny of a difficult boss. You can only be so empathetic before it starts to seriously affect your mental health. Not only that, but that manager whose schedule is so busy she can’t find time to address your needs? Her lack of focus may well lead to the business’s failure. Get out while you can.

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Featured photo credit: discussion/Nicolas Alejandro Street Photography via flickr.com

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