How to Manage a Difficult Manager

We have all had one right? That manager that seemed like a bone in our throat or a pain in the neck? That person that made you feel so uncomfortable, to the extent that you sometimes despised going to work?

You see, there is a stark difference between a “manager” and a “leader”. Some people are just wearing the title of a manager, but have no clue on how to actually manage people or processes. Leaders are interested in building people, while people wearing the title of managers with no inkling on how to lead people, are mainly interested in controlling people, and may be oftentimes driven by the ability to force their ideas and intents on others. So if you are not having a cool ride with your boss, it is possible that person is just wearing the title of a manager, and is not actually a leader.

However, no matter the category the person you report to fits into, you can always manage them, and at least have some respite during the 8 hours you have to spend working with them, each work day. This is a form of managing-up approach, where you go about your duties in a way that you tend to influence your work environment, to become more conducive for you. Here, I show you 8 ways that you can actually manage up your manager, and make the work environment more tolerable for you.How to manage a Difficult manager_girl.jpeg

  1. Take the time to study and understand the personality of your manager-sanguine, choleric, melancholic or phlegmatic. But if your manager is giving you such a hard time, it may just mean that they are choleric. Therefore, when you take the time to study them and their personalities, you become better informed on how to react to them in different situations. For example, some people are very introverted and just want their space even at work. Encroaching into their safe spaces may be a complete turn off for them, which may be a catalyst to fuel the attitudes they put up towards you.
  2. Get your job done WELL. There is nothing so damning to the manager-employee relationship than a sub-optimal output. You want to make sure that you play your cards well by doing a top-notch job. Even a manager that goes out of his or her way to make you uncomfortable at the job, recognizes when you turn in high quality work. Therefore, do all you can to make sure this aspect is well taken care of.
  3. Mind your business. There is no need to go out of your way to be overtly nice. You are there to do your job, and not to be chit-chatty. I know that the tendency for us to go out of our way to see if they would bend the corner is there. But from experience, I can tell you that may be an exercise in futility. A manager that already treats you with an attitude would probably not be interested in hearing about your cute puppy, or how you spent your last vacation.
  4. Pay close attention to your emails. Do not be in a hurry to respond to those emails when they come. Take your time to read through them, and take a second to pause and think before responding. If an urgent response is not required, then you have the time to think about what you want to communicate across before hitting the send tab. When I write emails, I try to keep them as short as possible, by addressing ONLY the issues raised, no more; no less. Most times, my emails are as short as one or two sentences. The reason is that you do not want to create any opportunity that takes your attention away from your primary assignment, which is your job. So be cautious and wise, and more especially, when you remember that there is a BCC option too.How to manage a Difficult manager
  5. Never participate in office gossip by assuming you have an office mate to confide in. Lies! You must realize that everyone in the office wants favors from the boss, or they at least would want to be in their good books. When you gossip with any office mate about the boss, the tendency for them to go behind your back and share those tales with the person in charge is high. Don’t be deceived by that colleague who appears to be on your side, or is empathizing with you. Remember that whatever has been let out of the mouth even in a clandestine manner is no longer secret. Never forget that adage that says, “walls have ears”.
  6. If you can muster up the courage, walk up to the boss and ask them what they need you to do to improve your working relationship with them. I tell you that if you do this, you immediately put them on the defensive, and they would begin to come up with several excuses. Remember that a boss is a human too, and they all have consciences (although I know that a few may have their consciences seared with iron). Walking up to them and initiating the discussion on ways to make your work hours less tense, resets the tone, which may open the door to a productive and revealing conversation, that may make your working relationship better.
  7. If after you have done the above, and nothing seems to be working, it may be time to talk to someone else at that organization. Depending on the organizational policy of where you work, I believe that the next point of call would be with the human resources (HR) people. Go make a formal complaint, and sometimes HR personnel are able to broker peace, or in some instances, you or the boss may be moved to another department, to work with other people, who your personalities align more with one another. Always remember that every boss, has a boss. Fact! So never be afraid to speak up for yourself.
  8. If the HR is unable to make a difference in that relationship and your boss refuses to turn the corner, it is time to start searching for another job, where you will experience peace at heart. You need to enjoy your life, so you do not need any miserable boss to steal your joy or happiness because of a paycheck. You are far better than that!

To wrap this up, the workplace ought to be a place that helps nurture and bring out the best in us. It is a place where we sharpen our talents and put to good use our problem solving skills, for the good of the society. However, if you find that instead of appreciating in your emotional, physical and psychological state, the opposite is the case because of a mean-spirited boss, it is time to either manage them up, or find your way to an environment where you are celebrated, rather than tolerated.

To your continued success. Cheers!!!

Evi Abada


One Comment Add yours

  1. ... says:

    Lots of good advice, I have certainly had my share of difficult bosses.


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