5 Thoughts for Dealing with Difficult Bosses

It’s a fact of life that at some point we will all have to deal with a difficult boss. They come in all shapes, sizes and genders and have a knack for ruining your day.  In fact, several of them have been the topic of choice at many after work Happy Hours.  (By the way, you should avoid talking badly about your boss, unless you KNOW that you can ABSOLUTELY TRUST the person/people with whom you’re venting.  Otherwise, it puts your job at risk.)


First, let’s talk about what actually makes a boss difficult.  Unfortunately, there are several things.  Some are overly demanding and micromanage you.  Others are unsupportive and might even sabotage you behind your back.  And some, and these are the worst to me, are offensive, disrespectful and condescending.  Regardless of the type of difficult boss you’re dealing with, one thing about them is universal…  they all stress us out!


So what do you do when you’re faced with a difficult boss?  Unless you can afford to quit, you have to figure out a way to deal.  Here are 5 thoughts on managing through the situation:

  • Thought 1 – Build and Maintain a Good Reputation for your work and your work style.  Said differently, be a good worker that’s a pleasure to work with.  I know that it’s easy to get discouraged when you’re dealing with a tough boss.  However, try not to let that affect your work performance.  Instead, strive to be one of the best employees regardless.   When you do this, your reputation will speak for you.  Good reviews and other colleagues saying good things about your performance go a long way.  In fact, this might actually show that you’re not the problem, your boss is.

  • Thought 2 – Keep Track of your Successes.  Save complimentary emails and document things that you’ve done well, especially when you’ve done things outside of the scope of your job.  For example, if you’re a Salesperson and you assume some Customer Service responsibilities, document that.  Include the date, what you did and the results.  You can refer to your successes if and when you have to talk to your boss about the way he/she treats you.

  • Thought 3 – Consider your Boss’ Situation.  I know, I know…  This is a hard one.  It means that we have to try to be objective about someone that’s making our lives difficult.  Guess what, difficult bosses are just people.  Understanding their perspective might make it a lot easier to deal with them.  For example, what if a boss is unrealistically demanding on you because he/she has unrealistic demands being placed on them?  Understanding this could help you empathize with your boss’ situation and make him/her more tolerable.

  • Thought 4 – Speak Up.  That’s right.  Respectfully and professionally discuss the situation with your boss.  How? Schedule a meeting.  Prepare for the discussion by jotting down a few bullets.  Remember to FOCUS on 1 or 2 issues.  Give FACTUAL examples and provide RECOMMENDATIONS on how to improve the situation.  Creating this dialogue might actually improve your relationship.  At the very least, your boss will be aware of your feelings.  If you’re fortunate he/she might actually change his/her behavior.

  • Thought 5 – Keep Things in Perspective.  Your boss is neither your family nor your friend.  (We need to have a different discussion if he/she is J.)  Even when we spend a lot of time at work, our bosses are still exactly that, JUST our bosses.  At the end of the day, remember that you get to go home.  You’re in control of how much they can affect, annoy or upset you, especially once your day is over.  Fill your free time with experiences that make you feel good.  Hang out with friends.  Grab a bite with your family.  Catch a movie.  Or, curl up on your couch and read a good book.  Regardless, take it one day at a time and counteract the stress of a difficult boss with things that fulfill you.


Well, those are my 5 thoughts for Dealing with Difficult Bosses.  Do you have any more?  If so, please post them below.  I’d love to get some pointers from you.


Dame Arnisha

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