How to Deal with a Difficult Boss

December 23 2013

Deal with your boss by accommodating his weakness

In the perfect world, everyone of us would have fantastic managers who help us grow, value our input and make us feel important around the workplace. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case…. whether your boss is lazy and incompetent or demanding and insensitive, many of us has had to deal with a boss who was either a bully, condescending or just downright difficult at one point or another in their career. It’s what makes movies like Office Space, Horrible Bosses and other similar movies popular as most of us can relate to the story line.

While it can be incredibly frustrating working for someone who doesn’t have a productive management style, especially if they don’t show you the respect and appreciation you deserve, there are ways to handle the situation so that you both can co-exist.

First and foremost, the best overall piece of advice is to make sure that you keep working hard, as it’ll be difficult for management to fire you if you’re doing your job well. It also helps to do a good job so that if you do have to file a complaint against your boss, you have a stellar reputation, otherwise if you’re known for slacking off, the tables may get turned on you.


With that said, below are a few tricks to dealing with a difficult boss by using their shortcomings or behavioral quirks to your advantage.

Here are six successful techniques for how to deal with a difficult boss:

1.      Maintain a Positive Attitude

Deal with a difficult boss with a positive attutude

The first and most important technique for dealing with a difficult boss is to remain positive regardless of the situation. There are bosses that want to see fear or tears in your eyes. Don’t give them the satisfaction of falling apart when they are being overly critical or insensitive. Stay calm, hold a smile, and always respond politely and positively. You can vent to yourself in the car on the way home. If you show a bully boss that their bullying doesn’t rattle you, they may stop doing it.

2.      Accommodate Your Boss’ Weaknesses

Deal with a difficult boss by using their weakness' against them

Even people in senior level management positions have weaknesses. Instead of complaining that your boss is never organized, help him or her to become more organized. Create a simple, organizational system and help maintain it. This will make both of your jobs easier and could even improve your boss’ mood.

3.      Work on Your Boss’ Terms

Dealing with a bullying boss

Your boss many be difficult, but he or she is still the boss. They have the ability to make your job miserable or even fire you if you don’t show them the respect they expect (regardless if you think they deserve it). Always work around their schedule and follow their instructions. You can make suggestions on how something could be done differently, but it is not a good idea to push the issue, especially if you have a difficult boss.

4.      Document All Communication

Document all communication when dealing with a horrible boss

If your boss is forgetful or indecisive, it is a good idea to document all conversations. Hopefully your boss likes to communicate via email or text, which will document everything for you. If your boss likes to cover your daily or weekly responsibilities in a lengthy face-to-face meeting, make sure to take detailed notes. Ask your boss if it is okay to read back the notes (especially any duties he or she has asked of you) at the end of the meeting to confirm that you fully understand what your boss needs from you.

5.      Be Sympathetic

Even if your boss is horrible, you may want to show sympathy

It may be hard to be sympathetic to your boss, especially if they behave like a tyrant, but they do have a lot of responsibilities resting on their shoulders. Their curt or aggressive tactics may be due to the pressure they are feeling from their own bosses or from company share-holders. At the end of the day, just about everyone has someone that they need to answer to. It might not make it right that your boss is taking their personal frustrations out on you, but we’ve all been there, and by acknowledging that fact, it may help you to deal with a difficult boss.

6.      Don’t Take it Personal

A key for how to deal with a difficult boss is not to take it personally, especially if your boss is ridiculously demanding and then gets frustrated with you because you couldn’t pull off the impossible. As long as you are always doing the best that you can to fulfill your boss’ request that’s all he or she can really ask of you. If your best is still not good enough to satisfy your boss, but he or she still continues to employ you, don’t let it get to you. Deep down your boss knows he or she has unrealistic expectations, otherwise you would have already been replaced by someone who could pull off their impossible requests.

Learn how to deal with a difficult boss is never easy, but you can make it more manageable by maintaining a positive attitude, accommodating for your boss’ weaknesses, working on your boss’ terms, documenting all communication, by being sympathetic, and by not taking it too personal. If it is still unbearable, the only other option may be to find a new job. Just keep in mind that there is no guarantee your new boss will be any better.

Learn if you should quit your job by using our patent-pending decision maker which will help you determine if it’s better for you to stay where you are or to look for a new job.

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