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Friday, September 28, 2007

Difficult Bosses

I just finished up a free public seminar on "Balancing Work & Home Life" this morning. One of the attendees was particularly frustrated with her present situation. She explained how boss was extremely difficult to deal with. "She nitpicks at every little thing I do and is always micromanaging. When I approach her, she doesn't bother to hear what I have to say. It's like she doesn't care what I think." Too often this sentiment is shared by employees all over the nation. How does one deal with a difficult and overbearing boss? This can be a challenge but it can be accomplished with your sanity left securely intact.

The first step is to determine where your boss is coming from. You have to separate the behavior from the person. Being a bad boss doesn't necessarily mean that they are a bad person. Understanding the reasoning behind the boss' actions can go a long way in helping you to determine how to deal with him/her appropriately. A lot of the time conflicts arise out of miscommunication so make sure that you are clear on what expectations your boss has of you and that you are meeting them fully. If you don't know, then ask. If there are always certain bells and whistles that will set your boss off on the rampage, determine solutions that go above and beyond meeting set expectations.

If your boss is reeling from an overall stressful day, then his/her behavior could just be a manifestation of that. Relay this information to your boss by showing concern and empathy. You can approach him/her by saying something like "It looks like you are being stretched to the limit today. Is there anything that I can do to help alleviate your workload?" Or you could just come right out and let them know what specific behaviors you were uncomfortable with and your reactive response. "When you _____, I felt like _______ so in the future could you ______?" Discuss your uneasiness with the situation rather than confront them with blame. Don't be confrontational or engage them in a verbal assault. A generally reasonable boss would readjust their behavior and appreciated your honesty. If your boss is a regularly abusive and negative person, then your chances are much slimmer for any positive interaction. In that case, you should seek the advice and help of another superior or the human resources department to intervene.

The second step is to monitor your own reactions to your boss. If you become consumed by the negative emotions your boss' actions may evoke, then it is easy to enter into self-effacing behaviors. Learn how to take a proactive approach rather than a reactive response. Also, recognize that some conflicts may present themselves simply because of different personality types. If you are an analytical, prioritizing type person then it would be hard to truly gel with a boss that is more creative and flighty. Both types of people are needed in every business so learn how to appreciate the differences and utilize them to the benefit of the company's mission. If your boss is more of a bully or a control-freak then sometimes it is best to just acknowledge their need for power by apologizing and walking away even if you know you are right. The key is in knowing you can't change them. You can only change the way you view their behavior. Generally speaking, most negative behaviors should be ignored.

If all else fails and the situation continues or worsens, make sure that you have a plan B. This could be an anonymous employee help line or as extreme as another job offer in hand. You can use your plan B as a bargaining chip or as a safeguard against any sort of retaliatory actions. These steps should only be used as a very last resort such as if attempts to go through the chain of command have been futile. In these extreme cases, document everything and build a support team. Find others who share similar experiences and use a collective approach to make a change. After all, businesses suffer when employees are not engaged in their positions so it is in the management's best interest to work things out.

These are just a few tips on how to deal with difficult bosses. There are many more techniques that can be used but the primary tool you have available is choosing how you respond. For more information on dealing with bosses and other difficult people, Click Here

Happy Living!

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