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5 Ways to Deal with a Difficult Boss

5 Ways to Deal with a Difficult Boss

By Lauren Bayne Anderson

June 30, 2011

In the new movie Horrible Bosses, two disgruntled workers plan to get rid of each others’ bosses.

It’s an ongoing theme. In a recent episode of Law & Order one boss actually struck an employee at work and later wound up dead.

The reason the story line is so popular is because everyone can relate. If you’ve held a few jobs, you have surely come across a boss or two that you just couldn’t stand. Maybe it was a personality clash, maybe you felt like they had it out for you, or maybe they just didn’t respect you or your hard work.

If you have a difficult boss, the best overall piece of advice is to continue to work hard – it’s difficult to fire someone who does their job really well. And if you file a complaint, the higher-ups or HR won’t think twice about it if you have a reputation for slacking off. In fact, the tables may turn on you.

Here are our top five tips on dealing with difficult bosses:

  1. Document Your Boss’ Behavior: Try your hardest to get along. But while you’re doing that, document everything. Keep a diary (at home) of questionable things that have transpired between you and your boss, complete with dates, times and full descriptions. Also keep a file with any supporting documentation, memos, emails, etc. Why is this helpful? When you’re ready to take action (or should your boss try to fire you) you will have documented and detailed proof of his/her mistreatment of you to present to Human Resources, and if necessary, a lawyer.

  2. Work Hard This one is simple. Continue to work hard and be on time. If you’re having trouble with your boss, you don’t want to give them any ammunition against you. Furthermore, this is probably a good time to sit down with your boss and go over the specifics of what he or she expects from you. Leave no room for misunderstandings when it comes to your responsibilities. Once you have the list, document it, and then follow it to the “T”. Try your best to go above and beyond.

  3. Document Your Work: Stay late three nights this week without collecting overtime? Take the lead on a project that wasn’t in your job description? Make a sale that brought in a hefty check to the company? Make sure to write all this down along with background, and any positive overall effect your work had on the company. Why is this important? In the event your boss tries to terminate you, you will need to be able to show that you are a valuable and competent employee, who has consistently done their job well. This will help you make your case if your boss attempts to fire you for being “incompetent”, “not doing your job”, or a host of other reasons they may try to give, when you know it’s simply personal.

  4. Think Before You Speak: If your boss says something to upset you, don’t respond in anger – even if they were completely rude or out of line with you. Why shouldn’t you? First and foremost, your boss may be trying to trap you into saying something he/she can terminate you for, or use it as documentation that you don’t work well with the team. Furthermore, if the matter is brought before a higher-up, you look squeaky clean, and your boss looks like the problem. And finally, be careful who you share your issues within the office. It’s best to keep these matters to yourself.

  5. Only Confront with Evidence: When you’re finally ready to say something to your boss, approach the topic in a non confrontational way and try your best not to make it personal. Use specific examples of situations you’ve documented to bolster your position and ask for tangible changes that will help you feel more respected and appreciated. Be careful when taking these issues to your boss’ boss, or even HR, as you never know where their loyalties lie. But if you do, again, talk about the specific issues you have (not your boss’ personality), come with evidence and try to stay as positive as possible.