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Home » Managing people » Tips » Managing a Difficult Boss

Managing a Difficult Boss
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Having a difficult male boss makes work life miserable. It's intimidating, stressful, and counter-productive.
Does your boss:
  • act in an arrogant way and as a 'know-it-all'?
  • treat staff like children?
  • react to helpful, constructive comments as criticism?
  • use the 'big-desk approach' sit behind his desk piled with papers and files, lean back in his leather chair, position his hands behind his head while you sit opposite him on a small chair, feeling uncomfortable and awkward?
  • only ever drive his own agenda?

If so, you have a difficult boss and one who is likely to abuse his position of power.

Remember, you don't want to or have to be a victim or let yourself get angry. You don't have to let your boss get in your way of successfully completing work and improving your chances of promotion and success.

So what's the answer?

Step one

Acknowledge your relationship is one of mutual dependence between two fallible human beings. You need your boss for a range of things, including resources, information and advice. While you can't change him you can adopt a range of measures to manage him more effectively.

Step two

Be strategic in managing you boss. This involves detaching from your personal emotional response, your very high standards and your disappointment.

Step three

Focus on the reality that you and your boss both have a role and responsibilities to fulfil. Aim to work with this reality.

Step four

Ask yourself these questions:
  1. What is my boss's role and what are his responsibilities?
  2. What are his priorities (personal and professional)?
  3. What are my priorities (personal and professional)?
  4. How aligned are these two sets of priorities? Is there is a gap and, if so:
    • why is there a gap
    • what can I do to close it?
  5. What does my boss need from me to do his job effectively?
  6. What does he expect of me?
  7. What do I need from my boss to do my work effectively and to fulfil my personal and professional aspirations?
Step five

Now that you’re armed with answers to your questions, it’s time to schedule a meeting with your boss to clarify matters. Stay focused on your joint responsibility to achieve organisational goals. Remind your boss that you want to help him achieve his priorities but to do this you need certain things from him.

Don’t be shy in giving direct and honest feedback, but only if it’s relevant to the performance of your role. Make sure you’re clear and diplomatic—uncontrolled emotion will only exacerbate the situation. Always use an even, considered, non-judgmental tone. Remember your needs, views and opinions are as important, but not more or less important than your boss’s.



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