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8 strategies to manage a difficult boss

Dealing with a bad boss is something you can learn. With these guidelines you’ll learn to better manage your manager.

Bright Plus

2 min. reading time

How to handle a difficult manager and come out a champ

Research confirms that “people don’t leave jobs, they leave managers”. A lousy boss can make your job a living hell, yet resigning isn’t always the only option. With these 8 strategies you can learn to better manage your manager while increasing your assertiveness, and strengthening your self-management and leadership skills.

1. What makes your boss tick?

Understanding his/her whys and wherefores will help you to deal with your manager with more ease. And you’ll be able to produce exactly the results he/she expects. Identify your boss’s motivations and serve them. Speak his/her language and focus on his/her core values, concerns and priorities.

2. Talk to your manager

Rather than to fret in silence, speak up, and address the issues you have with your manager. Voice your concerns, offer solutions and engage in a conversation about how to improve the situation. Your boss may be blind to his own behaviour or how it impacts you. This way you’ll also give your boss the opportunity to respond and maybe even set things right.

3. Match your style

Mimic your boss’s behavioural style and preferences. Does he/she prefer to communicate by mail? Is he/she quick to make decisions? Matching your communication style to your boss’s, he/she is more likely to hear what you’re saying.

4. Take care of your personal brand

You are responsible for your own personal brand. Whatever your do, do not neglect it. Do not underachieve, complain or slack off ‘because you have a lousy boss’. Stay true to your values, and keep giving top performes. For yourself. And for your career.

5. Support your manager

Making your manager look bad, will reflect poorly on you and may even damage your reputation. Is your boss really incompetent? He/she will be ‘found out’ sooner or later. Support your manager. Enable your boss to be successful: help him/her focus on his/her natural strengths and proactively work around his/her weaknesses. Remember: you are ultimately doing this for yourself.

6. Take the personality factor into account

Offer a slightly autistic manager extra structure and unequivocal clarity. Plan work meetings on fixed times; mention the goal and content of the conversation. Avoid emotional language, communicate short and to-the-point, and clearly state what your need. Use the 5 W’s: who, what where, why and when? Is there something you do not want? Just say no.

7. Don’t be intimidated

Bullies get their power from those who respond by showing fear. Does your boss shout, does he/she put you down or judge you? Stand tall and stay calm. Ask questions to understand what the problem is, and offer solutions. This way your boss will eventually discover he/she cannot get a power kick with you.

8. Use the proper procedures

When your managers’ conduct really escalates, or when he/she bullies or (sexually) abuses, follow the proper procedures and file your official complaint with your HR department or the assigned intermediary in your company. Document every step, register every incident, keep all relevant mails and voice mails.