Dealing With a Difficult Boss: 10 Brilliant Real Scenarios

We discussed How To Manage Difficult Situations With Team Members in our previous tutorial.

Read This Interesting Article To Know How to Deal With Difficult People at Work. This Question is More Important When You have to Deal With a Difficult Boss:

Similar to conflict among team members, there can be a difficult boss or supervisor you need to deal with.

This article explains how to handle some of the difficult situations with the manager or supervisor in detail.
dealing with difficult people

Real-Life Scenarios To Deal With A Difficult Boss

Scenario 1:

You think your manager is incompetent.

Superiors who are incompetent can make your life difficult, especially when he/she imitates you. This will affect the performance of the whole department and the department can miss out on bonuses and salary hikes. The challenge is to make sure that others will realize that you don’t deserve to be tarred with the same brush as your manager.

#1) Write it down in detail about your contribution to the organization. Instead of discussing ideas to the manager verbally, write them down as suggestions. This can only be a page long. But it will be there in black and white. Send these ideas to another concerned person along with your manager.

You can tell your manager ‘I’ve mailed this communication to someone else also because I thought their input would be useful in helping us to schedule’ or ‘I thought John could use this idea in his department too’.

#2) Now do the same with any other warnings you want to make. If you are concerned about the project then email your superior or send them a memo, outlining your concerns and your commendations for remedying the problem.

If things go wrong then it will be clear that it wasn’t your fault. In fact, if the manager had listened to you then they could be better. And if the manager has followed your advice, then success is in your hands

#3) Write down all your achievements and circulate it. You don’t have to send a memo saying, ‘Am I not brilliant? Look what I did!’ You can email your boss with essential details of a new contract, you’ve just landed and copied it to the other relevant departments as well. Just make sure it’s clear that you came up with an idea or put in the hard work.

Scenario 2:

You don’t like your manager.

Many people leave jobs because they don’t want to work with their managers. You don’t like to work with him maybe because of his working style or you don’t like him as a person.

Either way, if you’re dejected then you need to think hard about ‘what is the point in staying in the job’. Unless one of you looks likely to get transferred soon or your manager is already looking for another job, leaving is the best option.

If it was not that bad then you might not want to leave and will adjust to the situation. Don’t keep bitching about your manager because eventually he/she will find it out and things will become more unfriendly than they were before.

Your finest bet is to:

  • Minimize contact with your manager – ask for work from home, part-time or business travel.
  • Try to see the good qualities of your manager. Many people achieve to do this and find their working lives become easier than before. If you have decided to live with the problem then you can always change your mind later when it will become unbearable.

Scenario 3:

The manager is picking on you personally.

Maybe your manager is great for others, but not for you. Being singled out is deeply distressing. It is arguably worse than receiving the same treatment from a manager who dishes it out to everybody.

The first step is to talk to your colleagues if you can. See if they have also noticed the same and enlist their support. If colleagues are not supportive then it may act as a deterrent.

The first step is to talk to your manager. Be confident and non-confrontational, and try to find out why they’re selecting you. Don’t put it in these terms. Instead of that tell them, you are feeling that he/she is dissatisfied with something you’re doing, or failing to do. Ask them what you can do to resolve things.

If there’s a specific reason then the manager will probably tell you in response to this. And you can take steps to change things. If the reason is jealousy or something else then you won’t get a clear response. But highlighting the problem may well convince them to lay off.

Scenario 4:

Your Manager is biased against you.

When people judge you wrongly for something on which you have no control over, it is extremely annoying. When it’s done by your manager, it can also damage your job. Whether they are sexist, racist, ageist, classist or anything else that you need to challenge the problem.

Meeting with your manager for a calm discussion about the problem can be very helpful. Forcing your manager to acknowledge that your performance will not be affected by your age, gender, race or any other similar factor. There are some other steps as well which you can take to help yourself.

  • Don’t fight with your manager for his/her biased decisions. Decline to discuss controversial issues like whether women are better than men? Or whether experienced or new joiners are better? etc. You will only reinforce their preconception. You’re not going to change your mind after such discussions, neither he/she will change.
  • Volunteer for tasks that will prove your opinion and behave in a way that will undermine their preconception. For Example, if your manager is a sexist woman who thinks all men are dunderheads then take on a task requiring delicate negotiation and let her see how nicely you can handle it. If you’re elder to your manager then let him/her see that elder people can be imaginative and open to new ideas. When you will decide to ask for a meeting to discuss the problem, you must have been equipped with examples that will contradict his/her preconceived notion.
  • At the same time, take care that you are not reinforcing his/her opinions unintentionally.

Example: If you’re a woman with a sexist manager, then don’t ask him to change the light bulb for you.

It is nothing to do with your skills for the job but it will give him a chance to say that women are pathetic.

You don’t want to support your manager for examples used in the meeting. When you ask for examples of, how your work is harmfully affected by being a woman/being over 55/being public school educated/being black/being gay or whatever your manager’s preconception is, you want them to be unable to cite an example.

Scenario 5:

Your manager expects you to be a workaholic.

When you have family promises, you simply can’t keep working late. If your manager wants you to work for 16 hours a day then it’s not your problem. But if you’re expected to join in it, then it can be a big problem. And also your colleagues are ready to work for extra hours, then you will feel isolated if you complain.

If it’s not too late already then don’t start working for long hours. It’s a lot easier to say no initially, better than to get fed up later. And try to cut your workload down by several hours a week. There are some other steps to consider as well.

  • Talk to your manager. If you can get the support from your teammates then this will be even more effective. But don’t make it, to look like a mutiny. Just a collective request for rethinking on working hours will do work.
  • Don’t allow your manager to intimidate you for working long hours. You are not remunerated to work for these hours, so you have the right to refuse. Your manager must be able to recognize that you are working for extra hours out of goodwill. And you can also be assertive and can clarify that you are not happy in giving the organization so many extra hours for nothing.
  • If you tell your boss that working late or on weekends is interfering with family promises then it may help them realize that you really have a problem.
  • The biggest problem for your manager, in practical terms, will occur when you will reduce your working hours and it will affect the work/project. So do whatever you can, to help. Expand your time management skills, delegate what you can and find ways to streamline your tasks. You can discuss this option with your manager and let them know that you’re trying to reduce working hours without suffering the work.

Scenario 6:

Your manager seems to think that you’re permanently available on call.

If your manager is calling you during non-working hours or on holiday:

  • Don’t give him/her your phone number or carry an extra sim card for office and turn it off during non-working hours.
  • Leave your answering machine at home or get someone else to answer calls. Make it clear that you consider it as an incursion of privacy.
  • Tell them that the place you’re holidaying doesn’t have a phone – or be straightforward and tell them you’re not giving the number.
  • Brief family and colleagues as not to put the manager in touch with you.

Scenario 7:

Your manager is having a hard time and is taking it out on you.

This is intolerable, no matter how much pressure your manager is facing. This will be more intolerable if it isn’t their usual behavior. Any manager can have a bad day. But you should be able to ignore it.

When your manager is giving you a hard time, respond coolly but assertively. Don’t snap back or retaliate in kind, but make it clear that you’re not prepared for such behavior.

The simplest way to do this is to simply say, ‘Please don’t shout at me’. A manager who is treating you like this because of stress will most probably be shocked to realize how impolite he/she is being.

If the problem persists, talk to your manager in private. Let him know how you feel when he takes his emotions out on you. Be reasonable and constructive. Don’t make allegations.

Approach the issue from your own perspective. And express the fact that you are upset and concerned about his/her behavior. Once the boss realizes how serious the problem is becoming, he/she will act accordingly.

Your manager’s stress, whether it is because of home or work, is none of your business. He may not want to talk about it, and may not want to admit that it is the cause of his/her changed behavior. This will suggest that the manager can’t manage the stress (it may be true, but that’s the point). So don’t bring in the subject.

After all, the cause of their behavior isn’t the issue, it’s the behavior itself that you need to address. So it’s not actually relevant.

Scenario 8:

Your manager had a hard time and bursts into tears in front of you.

Suppose your manager has just been bawled out by the MD or he/she is going through a divorce procedure then what will you do if he/she bursts into tears in front of you?

Here are a few guidelines:

  • Forget that he/she is your manager/subordinate and treat him/her as a friend who is upset.
  • If you think that they will prefer you not to be there then ask him/her, ‘Do you want me to leave?’ If you don’t get a direct answer, stay with him/her for support.
  • Let them talk.
  • Don’t give them any suggestions unless they have specifically asked for it.
  • Next time when you see your manager you can ask ‘How are you feeling now?’ But don’t make an issue of it.
  • No matter what they have said or done, don’t mention the event to anyone else in the organization. Your manager will appreciate your ability in keeping things confidential.
  • Unless the manager is a close friend of yours, don’t mention the incident to him/her again unless he/she brings it up first. Most particularly, don’t use it as any kind of open leverage, in other words, don’t remind them how understanding you were just as you’re asking for a day off, or imply that they owe you a favor.

Scenario 9:

Your manager takes credit for your thoughts.

This is not only annoying but also damaging your career. If your ideas aren’t recognized as your own then how are you going to be rewarded for it? You need to act, to make sure that you will get the credit you deserve.

  • Keep records of your own thoughts and suggestions. Note down important points of relevant meetings with your manager. Send him/her memos and emails to elicit a written response. For Example, send them an email saying, ‘As I promised during our meeting about my knowledge for developing an automation tool, here are the figures.’ Any reply which will not argue on mentioning that it has been your idea will clearly acknowledge the fact as it is.
  • Note down your ideas on the cover page with the date.
  • Let the other people know your thoughts, either verbally or by sending in an email.
  • Keep a record of the testimonials from the customers, emails from the other managers offering thanks or praise, statistics showing how things have improved since you have introduced your knowledge, all this is going to show that the credit should be yours.
  • Let the people know that you are pleased because your knowledge turned out you to be a winner. While, the senior management may be the group who wanted to notice you mostly, and recognize your knowledge. So celebrate your success with your colleagues.
  • You can send an email or memo to your superiors, saying how grateful you are for your manager’s support. So that he/she will also be happy.

Scenario 10:

Your manager blames you for his/her fault.

None of us like to be blamed for someone else’s mistake. It will be annoying. For a start, if your manager makes it a habit, put your achievements down in writing, as you would for a manager who takes credit for your ideas.

That way you’ll have the details when you need them – appraisals, promotion interviews and so on. If your manager tries to blame you in private then draw his/her attention to the relevant paperwork.

  • Inspire your manager to send you instructions in writing.
  • Don’t blame back your manager even if you think, it is correct. That’s why they’re so desperate to palm the blame off on to you. Instead, use the word ‘we’ a lot, as in ‘We certainly didn’t get the results we wanted’, or ‘With hindsight, we could have done better to set the schedule further in advance’ and then focus on solutions.
  • If your manager blames you for his/her own mistake in public then don’t try to pass the blame back to them in front of others. It may be reasonable but won’t work.
  • Now focus on the resolution, outlining how you think the problem can be solved, and what you can do to help.

Scenario 11:

You think your manager has made a major mistake.

What you do here will depend on the nature of the mistake. If drawing attention to the fault won’t help then there’s no point in doing it. This is applicable when it is too late to save it.

For Example, if:

  • Your manager doesn’t welcome productive criticism
  • You aren’t concerned about the mistake
  • No one has a perspective to notice.

If it isn’t too late to correct the mistake then you should try, even though you think it will not work. It’s important to understand the problem and try to find a remedy for it. Hence persuade your manager.

If your manager really doesn’t want to notice then you should be able to develop a contingency for the mistake.

For Example, your boss has switched to a new supplier and according to you, he is untrustworthy. You reckon when that next order goes through the supplier and when he can let you down. You should get quotes and timescales from the other suppliers, so that, if your manager’s supplier will be unable to fulfill the order on time, you will have the other suppliers ready.

Dealing with difficult people at work can be very tricky. In this article, we have provided some practical tips to deal with a difficult boss.

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