If you have a difficult boss, it makes your work and your life difficult as well. A difficult boss is bad for you, and bad for business. There’s only one way of dealing with a difficult boss: the difficulty will have to be talked about and resolved, in the interest of all and everything concerned.
How to prepare for this talk, engage your difficult boss and propose a workable relationship is the subject of this article.
A rule of thumb in dealing with a difficult boss
- All difficult people are people. Difficult bosses are people too.
As we described in an earlier blog, it is liberating to realize that all difficult people are people. People need to relate to other people, especially in a professional context. Just remember: difficult bosses are people too. You need to relate to them, but they also need to relate to you.
You do have to talk about it
If the difficulty is within the realm of work, there is only one sustainable option, seen from the goal of a successful work relation and a positive self-development focus on your life and career. There is no alternative for talk. No matter how difficult it may be, perhaps awkward, or even scary, you just have to tell the other person (your boss in this case) about the difficulty.
The perspective you choose makes the difference
Consider this: is your perspective accusatory, (something has wronged me, or even worse: you have wronged me), or is your perspective one of invitational and factual description, with the resolution as a possible outcome? It should, of course, be the latter.
The perspective of a workable resolution provides room to maneuver and to find out what is doable to start with a mutually beneficial change effort.
Constructive talk about the difficulty
When you do it right, talking about the difficulty you have with the other person and showing maturity is a way to make a career (and you’ll also feel much better about life). Remember this: most bosses (and most colleagues as well) appreciate it when someone does a rather hard thing such as telling them about a difficulty you experience with them, PROVIDED IT IS DONE IN A CONSTRUCTIVE WAY.
- Be factual, not accusing.
- Offer a constructive alternative that would work for both of you and serves the business goal.
How to prepare for your conversation with your boss
It is wise to allow for some preparation before you go to your boss. Design what you want to say. Keep it very short and very simple. Say what is on your mind and propose a way forward.
Taking the difficulty as a starting point, you want to work in the direction of an effortless interaction, while facilitating the business goal. To start with something that was difficult, the next step should be based on mutual understanding and on what both of you are willing to do.
- Make some notes and explore your understanding and perception of the difficulty and what you are willing to do.
- In preparation also assume the position of the difficult boss dealing with you.
- Design an alternative that would work for both of you and serve the business goal. (It may be helpful here to define the work relation seen from the work goal you share. Ask yourself in what way the ‘difficulty’ is part of the realm of work and therefore partially a consequence of the formal roles and social and hierarchical ecology.)
Now that you have some clues about both sides and an alternative to offer, decide if you are up to it and then first talk it over with someone you trust.
Whatever you do, don’t make too much of it. Just remember: difficult bosses are people too, and therefore want and need to relate to other people.
N.B. In the preparation of the conversation with your boss, it is helpful to read the following article: Dealing with difficult people # 5 – Exploring a workable relationship.
The Good Career and Life coaching for professionals
Prepare the talk with your boss with someone who has the experience of how your boss will judge how and what you say. A prepared coaching session with us will give you a script and the justified self-confidence to engage your difficult boss.