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How to Deal With a Difficult Boss

If you want to have a successful career, it is very important to build a healthy relationship with not only your co-workers but your boss as well.

Not all employees are fortunate to have fantastic bosses who are supportive, encouraging, competent, and confident. Many of them have difficult bosses who kill their desire to engage and contribute at work, leaving them feeling undervalued and looking for an escape route.

Some time ago an employee resigned from his position at a top company and on his final day of work, he went to the HR asking for his resignation letter back. When he was asked why he wanted to recall the resignation, he said “My manager is also joining the same company I am going to work for. I would like to stay back since he is leaving”. This might sound funny but sadly, it is the situation most employees find themselves in. It is actually no surprise that most employees who quit their jobs are leaving their bosses, not necessarily the company or their jobs. Difficult bosses vary in personality, some are pushy or rude, while some are downright abusive.

Thankfully, there are strategies that can help you better manage a difficult boss. Therefore, before you start planning an exit strategy, try these strategies first:


Analyse your behaviour and actions at work honestly. Ask yourself questions like – Where are my getting it wrong? What can I do to improve my behaviour? You could be the reason why you are having issues with your boss. Ensure you are a goal getter, productive, and adding value to the organisation. If you are obviously not the problem, then try finding other sources of positive reinforcement to do your job effectively.


Reacting emotionally to harsh criticism will only get you into trouble. Don’t react but rather acknowledge and move on without creating conflict. If your boss happens to be a control freak or a shouter, don’t react by shouting back (However tempting!).  The best way to handle him/her is to maintain a calm and professional demeanour, acknowledge that you are wrong and apologise. Doing this reduces the stress for you. You can complain to your spouse or your friends all you want, but as long as you are in the office, stay calm and cheerful. This can actually set you apart and you never know who is watching or listening but be assured, people who can open or close future opportunities for you are doing just that!


Sometimes your boss might be proving difficult because he/she wants to get the best out of you and is going about it the wrong way. Hence, you should be the understanding one. Ask your boss for a meeting to clarify his or her expectations. Take notes, create a plan with goals and action steps for your responsibilities. When you are done, present it and ask for their input. Listen and make appropriate adjustments. Review this list with your boss and adjust things where necessary. This will eliminate any misunderstanding.


Don’t retreat or avoid your boss simply because he/she is difficult to deal with. Frequently update him/her on everything going on through emails, meetings and feedbacks. However, don’t go overboard with your means of communication, learn the timing and process that seems to work best for your boss.


People often start feeling entitled to slack off at work, take longer and longer lunches, lose interest or stop performing well because of their boss. Never let your boss’s behaviour be an excuse for your own. Keep your mind focused and continue meeting your commitments. Never overpromise and under-deliver.

If you feel you have run out of options for dealing with him/her, remember your real job is to make yourself as adaptable, responsive, intelligent, and skillful in as many situations as possible, and that includes your relationship with your boss whether good, bad or in between. Also, keep in mind that you’ll never find that perfect workplace. Whatever you don’t tolerate might still show up at the next workplace.

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