How to deal with a less-than-ideal boss: Tips and tricks to keep you sane at your job

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Having a bad boss at some point is inevitable: we’re all going to have one, or a few, in the time we spend trying to find our careers, and even in them. Some of us, however, are wise and have found some tips and tricks to dealing with a less-than-ideal boss.

Having a civil, professional relationship with a boss requires a lot more than one might think. According to The Society for Human Resource Management, there can be five different types of difficult bosses you might encounter:

  1. The Bully: “Who uses intimidation and public humiliation to keep their employees on task.”
  2. The Micromanager: Who might constantly hover to make sure you’re doing things the way they would.
  3. The Workaholic: “The ones who email their staff at 3 a.m. and expect an immediate response, and might dole out late-night assignments and expect staff to drop everything and stay late to complete them.”
  4. The By-the-Numbers boss: The opposite of the micromanager, “who sits behind closed doors poring over reports and analytics while his or her staff drifts without direction.”
  5. Or the Divisive boss: This person plays favorites. “Divide and conquer describes his or her management style.”

You might find that your boss is difficult, or mean, or crazy, but that doesn’t make them any less your boss. Some of the things we think are designed to help us and make our lives, our jobs, and our lines of communication with our bosses and everyone else easier have actually come to hurt us in the long run, like technology and social media.

“You kids don’t even know how to communicate these days,” said David Brownback, 46, an executive at DWB Sales, Inc from Haslett. “There shouldn’t be any emailing or texting a boss if there’s an issue.”

Set goals with your boss

“It’s better to air on the side of over-communicating, if nothing else,” said Brownback. “Communicating verbally, face-to-face, in person, gets the job done. Show initiative and concern for improvement by sitting with your employer and creating goals: long term, short term, and current.”

Communication is a common denominator in dealing with a less-than-ideal boss or authority figure. It might be uncomfortable in some situations, but confronting the issue head on, and face-to-face is better than avoiding an issue and creating a mountain out of a possible molehill.

Stay one step ahead

“I find it best to try and stay a step ahead of your boss to try and keep them from making your life difficult,” said Steve Lott, 25, an account representative at The Centennial Group from Haslett.  “Try not to give them any reason to complain.” 

It’s often harder to stay one step ahead of a difficult boss, but making an effort to do so can alleviate some of the tension between a boss and an employee. It’s best to treat them with respect in every interaction you encounter.

“Say ‘yes, ma’am’ or ‘yes, sir,’ and do what they ask of you,” said Lott. “Do what they ask of you until you can find a new job, and never expect an ‘I’m sorry’.”

Talk to your coworkers on how to navigate the ‘boss-waters’

Sometimes, you aren’t the only one to have encountered tension or issues with this person, and others around you might be able to give some insight as to how to deal with the difficulties or conflict at hand.

“Talk to a different person who has been there longer and get advice from them,” said Shelby Czartoryski, 18, a student from Marine City. “Don’t go above them, but maybe find an equal and talk to them.” 

Dealing with a difficult boss can often be tiring, exhausting, and even stressful, but those who try to let things roll off their back have more success as an employee of those less than ideal.

“This person wasn’t my boss, but more of a coworker that ranked higher than me, so they could technically yell at me if I did something wrong,” said Callan Tigani, 21, a senior agribusiness management major from Livonia. “This person was very rude and very harsh if someone made a minor mistake. The littlest thing could set them off and they would be in a bad mood for the rest of the day, and it would rub off on everyone else.”

Stay positive; keep working hard

Negativity is always hard to ignore and overcome, but taking the high road is better for the health and mentality of the employee and the workplace, too.

“Never take what they say personally,” said Tigani. “Unless they attack your character or embarrass you in front of your peers, honestly just let it go. When in doubt, have a beer after work!”

Honesty is key

While that not might solve all of your problems, it might work out better than letting every little thing get to you, because there could be a lot of little things that add up. One of the best things one can do for themselves and their employer or boss is to keep lines of communication open, no matter how hard, awkward or uncomfortable that might be.

“Be open and honest with yourself and your boss. If it comes to it, carefully assess and evaluate the environment you work in,” said Brownback. “If you have no room to grow, find an environment where you can, and flourish.”

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