6 Strategies on How to Deal with a Difficult Boss


Last Updated: August 31, 2022
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We’ve heard the complaints, laughed at the memes and jokes, and, perhaps, even indulged in a fair bit of complaining ourselves about how tough or difficult our bosses are. It’s very easy to write off a team leader or manager as ‘bad’, but how often have you delved a little deeper to understand what makes them so? Is it just a clash of personalities? Are you not used to their working style? Is there a communication gap between what they want and what you want?

People shouting over handheld megaphone

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Let’s face it, not everyone will have an easygoing, mellow leader who is content to let you simply do things in your way at your pace. After all, there are targets to be met and progress to be made! But before you simply give up on your dream job over a challenging boss, go through this list and find out how you can find a way to work with your boss instead:

Treat them like you would treat a Tough Client.

If there’s one thing we complain about more than our team leaders, it’s our clients. You have probably come across that one client who keeps giving changes or isn’t clear about what they want. How do you handle a situation like that? Our advice is to keep calm, ask questions and make sure you’re both on the same page with regards to your expectations from each other.Your boss is actually your most valuable customer. Your boss, like a client, engages you to perform a service and supply solutions. Find out whether your boss or organisation has a specific method of doing things and adjust accordingly. The customer is always right, as the phrase goes. Some supervisors, on the other hand, genuinely seek inventive and fresh ways of doing business, so don’t be afraid to speak out and provide suggestions.

Identify the Triggers.

Does your team leader’s temper fly through the roof when you miss deadlines? Do they often come out of meetings in a sour mood? Identify their pain points, give them their space and – most importantly – meet your deadlines! If a deadline looks difficult, inform your team leader well in advance and not at the last minute. They are sure to understand and help you with your dilemma. You can recognise the trigger rather than fighting it. Instead of scratching your head and moving on, take a look back at what happened and see if you can figure out what triggered your boss’s rage. You’ll have a greater chance of stopping them before they start if you know what sets them off.

Woman resting head on her hand on the table

Learn by Observing.

If you are new at your workplace and don’t quite know how to read your manager, be patient, cautious and observant. You can learn a lot by watching what your manager does. You can monitor how people interact, your boss’s working style, and what forms of behaviour produce results or what does not. Figure out their working style, identify the clashes in your personalities and find a workaround. 

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Speak up, but Be Nice.

How do you raise your issues with your manager without seeming like you’re whining or jeopardising your job? When it comes to talking to your boss, how can you stand up for yourself?No matter how senior your manager is, there is no excuse to illtreat, insult, exploit or humiliate someone. If you feel that you aren’t being treated well, make it a point to have a mature conversation with your manager. Back it up with specific instances. Remain polite and try to resolve the argument instead of placing the blame. If you’re not happy with the outcome, you can always talk to your HR department about it. Speaking up encourages conversation, brainstorming, and group thinking in an organisation.

People stressed & in Tension

Be Proactive.

Being proactive is taking initiative. When your boss asks for a volunteer for some task, don’t shy away from going that extra mile. Be the first one to offer help and suggest ways to make your work more efficient. Respond to difficulties that can’t be avoided quickly and correctly, minimising their negative effects. As self-motivated employees who are also great problem solvers can actively seek out new opportunities. These are all signs of proactiveness and are appreciated by all, not just your bosses.

Accept. Try. Try Some More. Then Move On.

Before you hit ‘send’ on your resignation email right after a tough meeting with your team leader, take a step back to think. Did you do everything you could to resolve the conflict? Consider all possible scenarios for how your employer will react to your resignation. Did you express your frustration or disappointment? Could you have done something to handle the situation better? Was this just a one-off or has this been a consistent pattern in behaviour? And if it has, have you discussed it with the team leader or spoken to your HR Manager about it? The answers will help you make a decision you will not regret.

Don’t give up quote written in book

It may take more than a few tries and even take some time. But you can’t let a tough manager make you quit an organisation or role that you actually love. Even if it comes to a point where the situation is just too challenging to handle and you have no choice but to switch to another company, discuss your dilemma with your HR Manager before you exit. Many companies have an exit process where team members can discuss why they’re leaving the job with the HR personnel. Share your feedback clearly and honestly, back it up with incidents and proof, and be polite.

During the course of your career, you’re likely to come across both challenging bosses and colleagues. The key is to find a common ground to work with them instead of just giving up. After all, conquering such challenges will only make you stronger and more resilient!

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