Six Ways to Deal With a Difficult Boss

Written on the 18 June 2018 by Adapted from the work of Kaye Sullivan, M.A.

Six Ways to Deal With a Difficult Boss


Of all the relationships important to any employee, getting along with your boss is top of the list. Whether we like it or not, your boss is key to your career growth, your pay check, and those all important references needed for the next job. If not a necessity, working well with your boss is a smart step for everyone!


Below are six ways for turning difficult relationships into better ones:


1. Accept your relative roles of power and position

Just as you can't change most people, you can't change your boss. The typical workplace hierarchy means your boss has more control and authority in the relationship than you do. Learning to accept the "power divide" rather than fighting it is a positive first step in building better rapport. This mental transition from changing people to accepting them can open many doors. Don't fight the boss' position power; work within it. This may require eating some humble pie or having to bite your tongue every now and then, but the benefits of such are far better than knocking heads.


2. Think about your differences in personality type

Try and think about what type of personality traits your boss has and how this aligns or conflicts with how you approach things. A good method for assessing this is DISC. DISC is a behavioural styles assessment that describes four main styles:

D = Dominance,
I  =  Influence,
S = Steadiness,
C = Conscientiousness.

You can find out here from our previous post how DISC styles can better work together in groups.

The boss with a "Steadiness" style will tend to focus on maintaining the status quo, reinforcing existing customers' satisfaction, and avoiding radical shifts. If your style is more Dominance or Influence, you like change, seek new challenges, and view risks as opportunities. These opposite tendencies may cause you to view the boss as wrong or weak, rather than simply different.

Try to realign yourself with the boss' overall focus and management practices. Either adapt your own needs to the overall work environment preferred by your boss or demonstrate how your needs can be met within the boss' parameters.


3. Articulate your frustrations in business terms

Even when you are really frustrated with your boss, it is wise to avoid being openly critical, hostile, or angry. Don't criticize people, instead solve problems. Take some time to re-state your frustrations in terms of business impact. A good tactic here is to take time to calm down and then approach your boss in a calm manner with a well-considered solution. Perhaps even sit down and write the email you wish you could send with all your frustrations, but don't send the email then when you've had time to cool off, re-assess the situation.

An approach response to a manager who gives last minute request might be:

"It is hard for me to respond to your spontaneous queries. I don't want to provide incorrect information. If you could give me more time to think through your questions, I could provide more reliable data and help keep us on track."


4. Be willing to find the middle ground

Sometimes it is possible to find an acceptable compromise. Start by just doing what your boss asks. This demonstrates that you can and will follow through on your end without whining or challenging unpopular assignments.

Let's suppose your boss requires detailed monthly reports that you feel are a waste of time. Rather than trying to get the reports eliminated entirely, think of ways you can complete the reports with greater efficiency. This approach sends a message that "I am trying to work with you and accomplish your requests with improved results" rather than an irritating message like "I think these reports are stupid."


5. Remember, it's not all about you

While you only have one boss to manage, your boss has an entire staff to manage. Subordinates often can't see or understand the pressures, demands, and stress that descend on their superiors. While it seems like any supervisor or manager should be spending most of the work day well, managing employees, this is often not the norm.

Don't take it personally that your boss has limited time for your problems or concerns. Use your time together wisely and focus on moving forward in your relationship. Use the time your boss is tied up with other projects or issues to come to a solution to the problem you are currently facing.



6. Make your differences a strength, not a weakness

In solid relationships, differences are viewed as assets, not liabilities. Start looking at your personality differences as a blessing, not a curse. Where your boss has difficulties, you may have strengths.

Ask yourself how you can save your boss some time, relieve some pressure, or handle a least favoured task. Suggest options, shortcuts, or answers your boss hasn't thought of. Adapt your personality to make your boss' life easier.



In a nutshell:

If you can use your skills and behavioural style to balance your boss' skills and style, you will be on your way to replacing a stressful relationship with an outstanding one.

It's always worthwhile putting yourself in the other person's shoes, understanding where they are coming from and trying to identify why they might be acting in a certain way. Often it has nothing to do with you personally. Rising above challenging workplace relationships can be the key to career development and growth and demonstrates you can work with all types of personalities in all types of situations. Which is not only a workplace skill, but a skill for life.


Who Pushes Your Buttons?  Take our test to find out:

To understand which type of personality most pushes your buttons you can take our "hot button" test.





If you can use your skills and behavioural style to balance your boss' skills andstyle, you will be on your way to replacing a stressful relationship with an outstanding one.


Talent Tools  distributes Extended DISC Products and provides a variety of  Extended DISC Certification Training and Workshops

To find out more about howto improve workplace relationships and reslove conflict using 
 Behavioural Styles, simply contact Talent Tools by
email or phone 61 7 3103 0177

Author: Adapted from the work of Kaye Sullivan, M.A.