Start by assessing whether or not their behavior is a passing thing or if it has been a problem from the day you started working for them. If they have been consistently at odds with what you think is effective management, chances are they aren’t going to change. As someone said to me recently, you can’t change the spots on a leopard. Accept the fact that in all likelihood, they won’t be changing. I know this can be a hard thing to come to grips with – but it’s almost always true.
Next, determine what you can do to control your environment. Can you change supervisors by asking to work in a different department? Is it possible to alter your work hours so that you are not constantly interacting with the difficult person? This certainly won’t solve the problem but it will give you some space and relieve a little of the stress.
If you can’t control your environment, remember the one thing that you have complete control over is yourself and how you react to situations. Maybe some of these tips will work for you:
- Describe the situation to a trusted advisor (be certain it’s not another employee in the same company. Ask for honest feedback and suggestions about how your approach or attitude might be making the situation worse. For example, does the boss want everything in writing but you are better at giving detailed explanations? Could the boss be getting stressed out because the two of you have completely different communication styles?
- See if you can identify the warning signs for when your boss begins to act the most difficult. Is there a pattern to the behavior? If so, work to find a solution that will help you avoid your boss’s triggers. I used to have a boss who was never pleasant on Mondays. I learned to never schedule a meeting with him at the beginning of the week.
- Think about what your boss would say if they were to describe the challenges they have. Sometimes taking a serious look at how the other person might be feeling can give us an entirely new way of looking at the situation.
- Stay confident. Don’t become discouraged. Allowing someone else’s bad behavior derail your career is giving up on yourself. Watch your language and stay strong and positive. When meeting with your boss avoid phrases like “ I think” or “ I feel” and instead say “I’m sure” or “I believe”.
- Avoid speaking badly about your boss, your company, or your work situation to anyone but a trusted mentor or advisor. As appealing as it might be, don’t talk about how bad your boss is to their supervisor or to your coworkers. It might make you feel better in the short term, but can backfire quickly, and can set you up to look like a troublemaker.
- Make sure you keep a list of the projects you’ve done well and update it at least twice a month. This will help you keep your skills and abilities in the top of your mind, and keep you focused on continuing to hone them. While you may not be able to control the ineffective boss, you are responsible for your future and for presenting yourself as successful.
- Be a model employee. Work to meet all of the requirements of your job description and focus on understanding the principles and protocols for your company. Not only will it keep your mind on the tasks at hand, but it will also help you avoid giving your boss any reason to find fault with your work.
- Finally, keep your eye on the skills you have and work towards bringing your vision of a perfect job to reality. Life is too short to spend it being unhappy at work. If you really feel your situation can’t be changed, spend your energy looking for a new position where you’ll be appreciated.