How To Deal With a Difficult Boss

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 24 October 2022

Published 12 June 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

As you enter adult life you'd likely spend many of your days working, so having a demanding boss can be quite a challenge to overcome. Despite the difficulties involved, though, quitting your job is usually not the answer. Understanding strategies you can use to address a challenging relationship with your boss can help you improve your professional life and your problem-solving skills. In this article, we discuss how one can deal with a difficult boss, as well as why it's important to address such challenges.

Related: Types of Leadership Style

How to deal with a difficult boss

When faced with a challenging relationship with your boss, you may think that the only solution is to find another job. However, there are other ways to manage this situation:

1. Understand your difficult boss's behaviour

Try to identify if your boss is behaving this way for a reason. Without a known cause, there can be no solution.

If your boss is simply under pressure and taking out their stress on you and other employees, open up a channel of communication and discuss how this affects your work negatively.

Related: Boss vs Leader: What's the Difference?

2. Take responsibility when necessary

Every employer-employee relationship is a product of 2 individuals. Assess your situation objectively and take responsibility for any fault of yours which may have contributed to the resulting difficult relationship. Once you've identified your own flaws, you may communicate them to your supervisor in an attempt to mitigate the situation.

3. Choose your words carefully

Being honest and open in the workplace is important, but so is remaining tactful and professional. Being rude or disrespectful to your difficult boss can only escalate the situation, so choose your words appropriately and try to stay result-oriented in your communication.

Related: Interpersonal Skills Definition and Examples

4. Empathise with your difficult boss

Empathising with your difficult boss can only help soften the tension inherent in the situation, and enable you to see things from outside your own perspective.

Read more: Reasons Why Empathy Matters in Leadership (With How-to Guide)

5. Refrain from discussing your situation with coworkers

Spreading negativity or gossip in the office will not do you any favours, be it in the eyes of your boss or your colleagues. Keep your troubles to yourself and address them discreetly only to the parties involved. If you need advice, seek out a trusted friend or family member to hear you out instead.

6. Study your boss's communication style

The better you understand how to communicate with your difficult boss, the more likely your relationship can improve.

Why is it important to find a way to continue working with a difficult boss?

Your relationship with your supervisor can be the most important relationship within the workplace, one which affects nearly every aspect of your work life. These are some reasons to try to address your relationship with your boss before choosing to resign:

  • Reduce work-related stress. Working with a challenging boss can be a stressful experience, but you may experience the same issue again even if you leave and go to work somewhere else. Thus, learning to deal with the situation can help you find success wherever you work.

  • Increase productivity. Working with a good boss and a supportive team can increase your productivity at work, as well as your chances for career advancement.

Related: How to Improve Communication Skills (With Definition and Examples)

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