3 Ways To Handle Your Difficult Boss


People don’t leave companies, they leave managers. Or so the saying goes. While there’s little to love about a mean boss, sometimes such managers are the unfortunate side-effect of your dream job or that awesome company you’ve always wanted to work for.

If you love what you do, don’t ditch your job just because of your boss. Rather, try a little self-leadership, where you proactively look for ways to play to your manager’s likes, strengths, behaviours and attitudes and work with them as opposed to against them. This approach empowers you to take responsibility for your own professional success.


To do this, it’s important to first understand the management context. For a start, bosses are tough, but that’s why they’re in the leadership position. To become a successful manager in today’s competitive climate, managers need to be highly efficient, quality focused and deadline driven. And they will expect the same from their staff. Naturally, this strict command can at times seem unfair or even uncaring.

Next, bosses are more direct; their role demands it of them. Think about it, every time your boss upsets you, you tell someone. You bemoan the fact to a friend, a colleague or your spouse, but never your boss. On the opposite end of the scale, leaders are more direct with their thoughts or feelings regarding your behaviour.

It’s often this inherent strictness and perceived shift in the balance of power – and not the manager’s performance, productivity or even qualifications – that prompt staff to label their managers horrible bosses.

Here are three career-saving tips to remember when dealing with your boss:

Ask yourself why? Whatever the situation, ask yourself in that moment why you are so upset with your boss? Is it what they have asked you to do, or the way in which they asked you to do it? Guard against judging your boss simply by their attitude. If their demands are reasonable and work related, rise above any emotional attachment you feel to what is being asked of you. To help you achieve this, put yourself in your manager’s shoes for a second, and don’t take it personally. Having said that, never tolerate a boss who is offensive or abusive.

Don’t diss your boss. Don’t show your disapproval of your manager’s attitude with a bad attitude of your own, and especially not in front of others. Your manager needs to be assured of your co-operation, the absence of which can be construed as disrespect – an extremely negative trait that will mar the rest of your time in that position and could compromise your future success in the company. Rather, sit down with your manager and explain your difficulty in understanding their attitude towards you.

Take it further. If you truly feel your manager’s requests aren’t reasonable, and your negotiations for improved treatment have proved fruitless, gather evidence of this and take it up with your manager’s superior or your HR manager. Aim for written evidence (emails, sms’es or social media messages).

Managers have a job to do, and it’s up to us as their staff to help them do it in the best way possible. You will encounter many different and sometimes, difficult, personalities during your working career; the sooner you learn to deal with them successfully, the greater the chance of your own eventual management success.

By Lebogang Nakene – specialist consultant Network Recruitment

Lebogang Nakene is a specialist finance consultant at Network Recruitment – a leading recruitment solutions provider in the local IT, finance and engineering sectors.