Effective Communication: Dealing with a Difficult Boss

Effective Communication: Dealing with a Difficult Boss

We have the option to choose our partner, our friends, our food, our car, our home. But not the option of choosing our family, our next door neighbor or our boss..right? So how do we best deal with the deck of cards we’ve been dealt?

You don’t have to work more than a few jobs to run into a difficult boss of some kind. He or she is the kind of boss that sinks your spirit just by seeing them. They seem to know just how to make the work atmosphere toxic, leaving you distracted, micromanaged and emotionally displaced. Distrust becomes a major issue.

Some can even haunt you outside the office, becoming the center of your conversations, or causing enough anxiety that you can’t even get proper rest. What a nightmare!

It’s good to keep in mind that most difficult bosses are not actually as bad as they seem – still, they need to discontinue their behavior. You will probably find, provided you approach your difficult boss appropriately, that he or she is more or less reasonable enough to level with you through the issue.

Here are a few simple guidelines to reduce the impact of communicating with a difficult boss; these tips can help you manage the stress and provide much needed perspective.

  • Self-assess. What might you be doing, if anything, to contribute to your boss’s difficult behavior?
  • Put yourself in his shoes. Is he stressed? Maybe he is reacting to the pressure he feels. Would stress relief change his behavior?
  • Manage your own negative feelings. Control your reactions the best that you can. Don’t engage in self-defeating behaviors like stone-walling or counter-attacking.
  • Be assertive. Try discussing the issue with him; and be proactive if you see the potential for conflict. Asserting yourself can avert a likely clash and even impress your boss.

You might not get the result you are looking for after following these first few tips because some difficult bosses require a more bureaucratic approach. Here are some other tactics to try:

  • Document every altercation or instance of abuse.
  • Gather additional support, perhaps from other employees, particularly when you are taking your case to the Human Resources department.
  • Have a Plan B. Sometimes a little leverage can speak more clearly than anything else.
  • Visit the HR department or go up the chain of command, but only as a last resort.

Diane Domeyer, executive director of the Office Team, differentiates between three different kinds of difficult bosses, and offers tips on how to handle them.

The Micro-manager

Always hanging around, breathing down the back of your neck telling you just how to do things right down to the most minute detail, he keeps close, real close, tabs on your progression.

How to Handle: Self appraise. Have you given him reason for his control-freak behavior? If so, focus on rebuilding your reputation.

If you pass your own self appraisal and, in fact, have a good track record, then challenge the boss to give you more responsibility with less direction.

The Poor Communicator

This boss provides little to no direction. Constantly under strain, you seem to be redoing work or logging long hours simply to meet an unclear deadline.

How to Handle: Be direct and tell him that, in order for you to do your work effectively, you need all the pertinent information right up front. Continue to do this until he gets into the habit of doing so.

The Toxic Boss

He is belittling and exasperating, and not afraid to run you down in front of the other staff. He can be verbally abusive, and it does not take much for him to lash out in anger.

How to Handle: Reality is, not everybody is willing to change or can see why they need to change. If you have already confronted him, and his behavior has not improved, then it may be time to talk to another superior or to transfer, or even move on.

It is especially important to know that you are not helpless when communicating with a difficult boss. You can change the current context you share with him, whether that means initiating a clear approach to reducing the tension, changing your own contributing behavior, or taking more drastic measures.

We reach beyond the above types to acquaint you with a type that has been identified as a class beyond the above.

The Bully Boss

This personality type could posses all of the above characteristics which can culminate in the Bully Boss ultimate challenge. If I openly challenge them..I’ll either have to quit or they’ll fire me. At this stage you need professional guidance.
The litmus test, according to Valerie Cade, one of the top experts in this field, is to determine the severity of the situation: Are the bosses actions deliberate, disrespectful, repeated behaviours toward you that seem to satiate his or her appetite for self gratification? If yes, then you have a unique challenge on your hands for which you must seek as much knowledge in how to handle as well as seek expert council.

How To Handle: Although at first glance, the solution may appear unresolvable, there is hope. Hear what Valerie Cade www.bullyfreeatwork.com an expert. has to not only say but also the guidance she provides in her book: Bully Free At Work.

Start with seeing your boss as a person, not the dreadful dragon they appear to be. They may be subject to pressures you are not aware of. First, give them the benefit of doubt by trying to understand ‘their world’, however if this translates into a pattern of unacceptable behavior, then yes – ACT.

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