I have a difficult boss. Please help!
Your boss is likely to be one of the key factors in making or breaking your work life. It might be the culture they create in your team or how they manage workloads. What is true is that even with the most difficult bosses, there are small things you can do to make working with them more bearable. In this article we explore some of the things that make bosses difficult and what you can do to make your work life more bearable.
This is the type of boss that is always slightly taking over the tasks they set you. Out of nowhere they will come and critique your work and will check in a little too often on how you’re going. They might even sometimes just take over. Micromanaging can make every task or project feel like an odyssey as edit after edit, your boss continues to nitpick your work.
A possible antidote = For the micromanager it can be helpful to make clear at the start of the project how and when your boss might like to check in, what they’re hoping to achieve and to try to set the rules for engaging around a project right up front. This will let them know that you value their opinion and give them peace of mind that they’re being included, while also providing clear rules for engagement around when you’re going to check in and get their feedback.
The blue sky thinker
Many successful businesses are built from imaginative people with creative ideas who are not so strong on detail. These blue sky thinkers rarely get stuck in the weeds of logistics and processes as they are constantly bringing in new ideas and concepts for improving the business. This style of boss can be quite difficult to keep on task, as they’re rarely caught up in the day-to-day and tend to skate over some important details.
A possible small antidote = For blue sky thinkers it can be helpful to have a physical or digital space where big ideas are kept and clear office processes for how those ideas can be explored. This can be something that you keep individually or that the team works on together. The best thing about having a board or area where those ideas are kept is you can get a clear idea of how many ideas are being considered at once, which ones stack up and whether there are too many ideas on the table at once.
The always distracted boss
The distracted boss is always on the run, going between meetings and working on a variety of tasks. They are hard to pin down and can make it difficult to get things done because you are always waiting to get the tick of approval on projects you’re doing.
A possible antidote = Ask them how and when is the best time to check in with weekly or fortnightly tasks. Make sure you clarify the format that works best for them and if there are any specific things worth considering in how they best look at projects or things they need to respond to (do they hate text messages or always forget to read their emails).
The unclear boss
If you constantly feel like you’re not quite sure if what your doing is right and don’t really understand how your task links in with the rest of the business or team, it is likely that you might have an unclear boss. Unclear bosses often don’t spend the time putting tasks, processes and projects into context, so tasks can start to feel a little bit confusing and difficult to prioritise.
The antidote = Find some time to sit down with your boss and explain how your feeling, with some clear concrete examples and also outline some possible ideas for what would be helpful for you. There is probably a good chance that they don’t even know how you’re feeling, and communicating this effectively could be a win-win for each of you.
In terms of managing projects you could also thinking about setting aside time at the start of each project to put a clear plan together. Having this time to plan initially should help to at least clarify the start of the project and what your boss is hoping to achieve.
The mean boss
This is a really tough one! A mean boss can really make life miserable and it can be hard to decide how best to respond. It might be helpful to get a second perspective on this issue from other members of your team, especially when it is starting to have a negative impact on your engagement and enjoyment at work.
The antidote = If you feel like you’re being unfairly treated it might be worth checking in with your team to get their perspective. There may also be a range of internal processes that you can utilise in your organisation to navigate this challenge like counselling, annual reviews and if it starts to become a serious problem you can always take the complaint higher in the organisation.
Is your boss not on the list?
It is highly possible that your boss has a unique flair and that what is challenging about them is quite unique. At the basis of all of the antidotes we presented is developing your ability to share your opinion in an open, respectful and mutually beneficial way. You never know when a good conversation could reveal something that makes it much easier to work with your boss. Sometimes just having the courage to reach out and to try to find a way to work more effectively together can be the bridge that builds a lasting long-term friendship.