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  • By: Lynda Stephen

How to Deal with a Difficult Boss

One of the most challenging situations you can find is a job having to work for a difficult boss. Because ‘difficult’ can be a subjective term depending on your perspective, it is advisable to make sure that you are dealing with a ‘Bad Boss’ before you go screaming, out of your job, in frustration. To do this try to establish a possible reason for their behaviour to give them the benefit of the doubt. They may be under pressure that is out of their control. Also, try to assess their emotional intelligence and develop your emotional intelligence to deal effectively with situations that arise.

· Emotional intelligence will assist in identifying motivation, and once you know the motivation behind the behaviour you get insight into their management style, e.g. they may be more concerned with rigid rules than flexibility; more with the appearance of things than real issues that need more attention. Try to understand their insecurities – we all have those. Adjust your behaviour accordingly without compromising ethics.

· Don’t get even by using go-slow tactics or taking unnecessary time off under the pretext of being ill because this will increase your workload and others in management will be observing your behaviour.

· Anticipate the boss’ requests by getting things done before he comes to you. It will make him realise that he can rely on you. This way you could also become a valuable asset to him and the company.

· Make notes of all interactions with the boss be they requests or criticisms. It is invaluable should he ever contradict himself and this can often happen with a manager or boss who is under undue pressure. Take all instructions in writing, and for the boss, who gives verbal instructions, follow up with an email to him that outlines the discussion for your records. In a conflict situation, it is sometimes better to wait before reacting especially with a boss who is under enormous pressure. They will not appreciate your adding to their woes.

· Take the initiative in dealing with projects without being bossy – you don’t want to antagonise colleagues. Even a demanding boss will appreciate a worker who has initiative, as long as your actions do not show them up – keep them informed.

· Identify what it is that triggers a conflict situation e.g. if it is punctuality then come to work early and double check all written work if the grammar is a bug- bear. Be extra careful to avoid triggers that set them off.

· Be very aware of all that transpires in the office. Do not make assumptions based on gossip or polite misinformation posing as advice. Put that emotional intelligence on high alert. Tackle misunderstandings when they occur. If necessary, seek information to correct wrong impressions from the source by requesting an appointment with the boss, to discuss any disputes.

· Take problems with middle-management to the next level if these cannot be resolved amicably between you.

If the problems arise out of office politics, there is little you can do except to walk a tight neutral line and if this becomes too much, prepare to move on as in the case of an inexplicable dislike from a boss. You simply can’t win if the boss hates your guts because you remind them of someone who makes him miserable e.g. ex-girlfriend, ex-wife or ex-husband, or a high school teacher from hell.

For the next job research the company by becoming friendly with some staffers from the organisation to elicit general information without appearing nosey.

Why not read our other articles, “looking for a new job “and “starting a new job” for more advice on your next career move!

We are always keen to speak to hiring managers, so if your company has a “difficult CEO” and you need to hire the right people with the emotional intelligence to work under their direction, we can help! Email

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