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How to Manage a Difficult Boss

How to Manage a Difficult Boss

According to a study by the Harvard Business Review, the majority of people surveyed reported having a bad boss at some point in their careers. Working with a bad boss can be a challenging and stressful experience that can make going to work each day feel like an uphill battle. 

Whether your boss is micromanaging, abusive, or simply ineffective, the situation can leave you feeling stressed, demotivated, and unappreciated. However, there are ways to navigate this difficult situation and maintain your professionalism while working with a bad boss.

In a survey conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management, 84% of employees blame bad managers for creating unnecessary stress

How to work with a bad boss

Understand your boss’s management style: Try to understand your boss’s management style and how they operate. Are they detail-oriented or more big-picture focused? Do they prefer to communicate in writing or in person? By understanding your boss’s approach, you can adjust your own communication and work style to better align with theirs.

Focus on what you love about your work: While it’s easy to get bogged down in negativity when working with a difficult boss, it’s important to try to focus on the aspects of your job that you enjoy, and the tasks at hand. Instead of focusing on the worst part of your job, do your best to stay positive and productive, even if your boss is difficult to work with. Remember that your work is ultimately what matters, and it can speak for itself.

Communicate effectively: Effective communication is key when working with a difficult boss. When communicating with your boss, try to be clear and concise in your messages and avoid becoming defensive or argumentative. If your boss is prone to misinterpretation or misunderstandings, consider following up with an email or written summary of your conversation to ensure that you are both on the same page. If there are issues that need to be addressed, schedule a meeting with your boss to discuss them in a calm and constructive manner.

Stay professional and respectful: It can be tempting to vent or complain about your boss to coworkers or friends, but this is rarely productive and can actually make the situation worse. Instead, avoid gossiping about your boss or speaking negatively about them to coworkers and focus on being polite and courteous, even if your boss is not behaving in the same manner.

“Every leader is a boss, but every boss is not a leader.” — Amit Kalantri

Seek support from colleagues: If you are struggling to work with your boss, talking to colleagues who are in a similar situation can be helpful. They may have suggestions for dealing with a bad boss, or simply provide a supportive ear to listen to your concerns. However, it’s important to be cautious about who you talk to and to avoid badmouthing your boss.

Be patient, persistent and proactive: Instead of focusing on your boss’s shortcomings, focus on the team’s goals and how you can contribute to achieving them. By keeping your focus on the bigger picture, you can help to minimize the impact of your boss’s behaviour. If you encounter a problem, try to come up with a solution instead of simply pointing out the issue. Being proactive and solution-oriented can help to build trust and respect with your boss and your team. Changing a difficult boss’s behaviour can take time, so it’s important to be patient and persistent. Keep doing your best work and continue to communicate effectively, and over time you may see improvements in your boss’s behaviour.

Consider your options: If the situation becomes unbearable or starts to impact your mental health, it may be time to consider your options. This could include speaking to HR or looking for another job. Remember that you have options, and you don’t have to suffer in silence.

According to a Gallup poll, one in two employees have left their job to get away from a bad manager.

“Be the change you want to see”

Remember that change often starts with small, individual actions. By being the change you want to see in the world, you can inspire others to join you and create a better future for all. Here are 5 ways to apply this philosophy in your daily life: 

  1. Start small: Identify an area of your life where you’d like to see change and start small. Whether it’s reducing your carbon footprint, volunteering in your community, or simply being kinder to others, taking small steps can help build momentum towards larger changes.
  2. Lead by example: If you want to see change in the world, you need to be a role model for that change. For example, if you want to see more kindness and compassion in the world, start by being kind and compassionate to others in your daily interactions.
  3. Be proactive: Don’t wait for someone else to create the change you want to see. Take the initiative and start making changes yourself. 
  4. Collaborate with others: Creating change often requires collaboration and teamwork. Seek out like-minded individuals and work together to achieve your goals.
  5. Stay positive: Creating change can be challenging and frustrating at times, but it’s important to stay positive and focused on your goals. Celebrate your successes, learn from your failures, and keep moving forward.

“You always learn from both good and bad bosses.” — Rajeev Suri

Working with a bad boss can be a difficult and stressful experience. However, by following the steps above, you can navigate the situation and maintain your professionalism. Remember, the way you handle a difficult situation says a lot about your character and can impact your career in the long run.

Finally you can learn just as much from a bad boss than a great boss. See the learning in everything and remember the only behaviours and actions you can control are yours and also how you react to them.

Stay kind and courageous…

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About LeadershipHQ

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We are a leadership development and performance organisation. We encourage leaders to realise their full potential, discover their calling, and make a real difference in the world. With us, you’ll find a truly invested team that offers genuine care and support while telling it like it is. We are deeply committed to the success of our clients. You won’t have to deal with the egos of large consulting firms – your success and progression are everything to us. In our work, everyone feels safe and inspired.

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About the Author

Sonia McDonald – CEO Of LeadershipHQ And Outstanding Leadership Awards, Leadership Coach, Global Keynote Speaker, Entrepreneur, CEO, Mum And Award Winning Author.

Sonia is passionate about her voice. When Sonia speaks, everyone in the room feels like she is having a conversation with them as her audience will feel as if they are the only one in the room. She speaks from the heart. She is brave. She wants everyone to be brave. She is an impactful and motivational leadership expert and speaker that creates a life-changing experience. People call Sonia sassy, inspirational, real and a speaker who leaves a lasting impression. Her high-energy, authenticity and humour combined with actionable and practical advice, empowers her audience and provides them with great drive and confidence to take courageous actions and inspire great leadership in all aspects of their lives.

Sonia also is founder of LeadershipHQ and McDonald Inc. and is also a renowned and award-winning author, having written several of her own books, Leadership Attitude, Just Rock It! and First Comes Courage as well as being a regular contributor in The Australian, HRD Magazine, Smart Healthy Women and Women’s Business Media. She was named as one of the Top 250 Influential Women in the world as well as Top 100 Australian Entrepreneurs by Richtopia.

Through her leadership advisory and coaching work at LeadershipHQ, and founding the Outstanding Leadership Awards, Sonia is internationally recognised as an expert in leadership and culture, organisational development, neuroscience, kindness, and courage.

Sonia is also a full-time single parent and has a passion for women in business and teenage mental health. Sonia travels and speaks across Australia and Globe, and she is on a mission to building a world of great leaders and leadership.