9 basic rules for dealing with a ~difficult~ boss

Anyone who has ever worked a full-time job will tell you that your boss sets the tone for the entire office. Their word is pretty much the law, but no one has quite nailed down a perfect method for dealing with a boss who is just too difficult to handle. They may be rude, unreasonable, inappropriate, or just plain nasty. While there is no permanent or all-purpose solution to this problem, these tips may help make your work life just a little bit more manageable.

Try to figure out if compassion is more appropriate than anger,

Sometimes in tough situations, rather than acting out with anger, we should instead try to be our very best selves and give people who are rude or unfair to you the benefit of the doubt. Giving your difficult boss this benefit can help widen your perspective on their behavior — maybe there really is something else going on, something that isn’t your fault, that’s making your boss lash out. It may be hard, but remaining open to finding some compassion could make the difference between daily frustration and a peaceful work life.

Do your best work regardless of your boss’s attitude.

It’s basically a no-brainer: If your boss treats you poorly or is unreasonable, the first thing we want to do is get revenge by doing shoddy work — as if it will hurt them more than it will hurt you. However, we kinda all know that the opposite is true. We can’t get back at our bosses by sucking at our jobs. Don’t give them more ammo to use against you, after all.

Instead, the ol’ “kill them with kindness” routine can be amended in this situation. Do your best work in spite of their bad attitude, and you’re sure to leave this job with references from other supervisors or co-workers. At the end of the day, pride in a job well done really feels awesome.

Back up your complaints with facts, and then store evidence.

Whenever this aforementioned difficult boss gives you inscrutable or absurd direction, make sure you follow up verbal instructions with an email to affirm what they’ve told you to do. That way, you can refer back to the directions if you get stuck on a project, or else put them in your back pocket in case your boss ever contradicts themselves. There’s nothing like saying a —polite —“I told you so” to a boss who’s clearly wrong!

This tactic also extends to any overly inappropriate behavior. If your boss has a history of inappropriate or discriminatory comments, catch it on audio. We’re an overly-litigious society, but protecting your rights is always a great idea.

Don’t take work anger home with you.

I used to rant about my boss to every single family member or friend who would listen, until I realized it was making me obsess about work in a way that was seriously unhealthy. Instead, I tried to leave the frustration at work and pretend it didn’t exist after hours. This kind of compartmentalization means your work life won’t spill into your home life, and you can enjoy your relaxation without feeling the overwhelming desire to vent.

Don’t complain too much to co-workers, you never know what they may spill.

Having friends at work is hugely important, but you never know where their motives lie. You could inadvertently be putting your own job at risk by trusting the wrong person, or your private conversation might even be overheard by the boss. A small complaint here and there is warranted, but blasting your boss to a roomful of your co-workers is pretty much always a bad idea.

Trust your instincts.

If you’re in a leadership position, it could pay off to take a risk by ignoring an incompetent boss. If you know a rejected tactic or plan will definitely work, do it anyway. Show the results to your boss, and back up your decision with evidence of its success. Hopefully, they’ll admire the initiative, appreciate the successful result, and ignore your well-meaning disobedience. It is a risky move, though, so beware!

Tailor your behavior to avoid blow-outs.

If you know your boss hates lateness or taking bathroom breaks during long meetings, just don’t do it, okay? It can suck having to deal with a nitpicky boss’s crazy standards, but tailoring your behavior to match exactly what they want is an excellent way to not get yelled at. Having an extra ten minutes during lunch isn’t worth losing your job over.

Use negotiation tactics.

Always keep your calm. If you’re really angry at your boss, don’t let it show. Instead, use phrases like, “Is that what you really mean?” or “I feel like we’re misunderstanding each other, can you explain further?” instead of letting your anger blow your head right off.

Don’t be too afraid to make a change.

Reportedly, the biggest reason people leave their jobs is because of a difficult boss. That makes total sense, because a boss sets the tone for the entire office. Think of Michael Scott, people! If you just cannot deal with your boss anymore, don’t be afraid to look for something better. I personally hate the idea of quitting any job, especially without another one immediately lined up, so definitely weigh your options and have a back-up plan, but it’s also important to remember that if you trust yourself and work hard, something will always come along. If you’re severely unhappy at your job because of your boss, make a change. You owe it to your happiness!

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