Think about the most important relationships in your life and your boss probably doesn’t come to mind. You might think of your best friend, your SO or your mom, but make no mistake—your relationship with your boss is one that requires just as much attention and care. We’ve seen our fair share of movies and TV shows that depict a hilariously destructive relationship with a boss, like The Devil Wears Prada or Horrible Bosses, but although they made us laugh, the truth is, having an unhealthy relationship with your boss is far from amusing. It can really mess with your head and potentially wreak havoc on your professional life.
HelloGiggles spoke with Stacy Kaiser, Editor at Large for Live Happy, licensed psychotherapist, and relationship expert, who says this is a topic worth thinking about in a serious way. “Many of us spend more of our hours awake at work than anywhere else, and therefore it makes it extremely important that work is as happy and a peaceful place as possible,” Kaiser tells HG. “Your relationship with your boss has a great deal to do with that.”
If you’re unsure about whether you and your boss are on good terms, we’ve gathered some information that will be of great help to you. Because nobody should have to deal with crappy relationships at work.
Here are six signs you have an unhealthy relationship with your boss.
1You’re both highly critical of each other
A boss is supposed to help you improve your skills and strengthen your weaknesses. However, that’s not the same thing as constantly criticizing you, whether it’s to your face or behind your back. If you feel like you’re always under fire for your performance, or you feel as if you’re being too harshly judged, that’s a pretty clear sign that things aren’t great between you and your boss. The same can be said the other way around. Although it’s not your duty to improve your boss’s skills, being overly critical of them indicates that you don’t have much respect for them.
“Having the ability to appreciate one another for their skills and personality are important key factors to having a good relationship,” Kaiser tells HG. That certainly applies to your relationship with your boss. Not being able to see each other’s values means you probably don’t work together well at all.
2There’s a lot of distance between the two of you
You and your boss don’t have to be besties (actually, you shouldn’t be), but there should be a healthy rapport between the two of you. Kaiser says unhealthy conflict between two people can often result in isolation from each other, so interpret it as a red flag if you and your boss hardly speak to one another and it feels like you’re distant. “If this happens in the workplace with your boss it can impact your emotional well-being and productivity,” Kaiser adds. Don’t let the quality of your work decline just because you and your boss have some unspoken beef.
Kaiser recommends scheduling a sit-down session where you two can talk openly about what you’re experiencing. Make sure it’s in a safe space where you can be clear and direct—and don’t be afraid to have an unbiased third party come in as a moderator.
3You get angry or frustrated when they simply walk into the room
Kaiser says, when you have a suboptimal relationship with your boss, it’s normal to feel angry when they walk in the room. She tells HG you might even get frustrated simply hearing them breathe next to you. These are all signs of bottled up resentment, which reflects on the poor relationship you two have.
“If you have not been managing the issues the two of you have, this built up resentment could lead to greater conflict and unhappiness,” Kaiser advises. That’s why you shouldn’t let this build up any longer. She suggests venting your frustrations outside of work, so that you don’t have the urge to unleash your feelings at the office. Then, try to do some little things that will improve your relationship, like grabbing them a coffee or complimenting them on something you admire. You might be surprised to see a little bit of that resentment fade away.
4You’re apathetic about each other’s performance at work
It may not sound like apathy would be that toxic of an experience at work, but Kaiser says it can sometimes be more challenging to handle than anger or hate. “If you or your boss has reached a place of apathy or indifference it means there is no longer care and affection,” she says. This means both of your work will suffer and you’ll likely feel very unfulfilled in your career, since there’s nobody pushing you and encouraging you to be better.
Start by assessing yourself, Kaiser says, and see if there’s anything you can do to change the situation for the better. Are you slacking off? Are you not responding to your coworkers in a way that’s useful? Before you go pointing fingers at your boss, see if you can start to mend the relationship by taking responsibility for your own actions.
5You often find yourself stuck in miscommunications
“When a relationship is becoming unhealthy, communication suffers,” Kaiser says. “More conflict arises, there are more misunderstandings, and people’s communication skills tend to fall apart.” If you and your boss keep arguing, miscuing, or just misunderstanding each other, that’s a clear sign that your relationship is on the rocks. This is definitely a moment where you might want to sit down and talk about what’s really going on, and what you can do to fix it.
6You interrupt each other often
This clearly means that you don’t have much respect for each other. Anyone who interrupts you or puts you down doesn’t value what you have to say—and the same is true the other way around. You likely don’t care very much about your boss if you continuously dismiss what they’re saying, so take a moment to ask yourself where you stand, and then you can decide from there how to approach the topic.
“Turn the negative into positive by making a concerted effort to improve your relationship with your boss,” Kaiser advises. You have control over the situation, so don’t think you have to just give up if your relationship with your boss isn’t fulfilling. Be honest with yourself, be bold, and do what you need to do to create a healthy work environment for yourself.