In an average life cycle, all of us pass through three different worlds, namely, the world of learning, the world of work and the world of retirement:

The world of learning. From the name itself, this is the world where we spend our years in school to obtain knowledge, training, and experiences essential for us to acquire a promising career.

The world of work. This second world compels us to apply the lessons we have gained from the first world. Such efforts are compensated with salary, which is ideally proportionate with our credentials.

The world of retirement. In this world, we are expected to reap what we have sown during our stay in the second world. People in this world are most likely in the twilight of their years, so this is really the time when they enjoy their hard earned labor.

Of the three worlds, we spend much of our years in the second. We work in various organizations composed of people from different backgrounds and profiles. Inevitably, we are confronted with different kinds of issues which range from personality clashes with our team mates, constant gossiping, lack of good communication, confusing and overwhelming workloads, bullying, harassment, low motivation, unsatisfying job, poor job matching, performance issues, just to name few.

At the moment, I wish to focus on that guy/woman which happens to be our bosses. We can find them in any organization. Sadly, they are the usual pains in our neck, making the workplace a miserable world. More often than not, our usual way of dealing with them is avoidance. As much as possible, we find ways not to interact with them. Or else, we find ourselves in a bad day.

There are subordinates who still try to establish rapport with their difficult bosses with the hope that, at the very least, professional dealings will surface. But, these difficult bosses seem experts in pushing their subordinates’ button, which worsen personal conflicts between and among personnel.

Being in that exhaustive condition, we consider leaving our job and finding another one. But here’s the warning: first, there is no assurance that our future bosses will be good; second, job hunting nowadays is too expensive; and third, adjustment to a new set of job, people, and culture is also difficult

So, what other options do we have?

Since I am now at the “been-there-done-that” stage, I wish to share some tips on how to effectively deal with difficult bosses. I wish to acknowledge that some tips are generated online and I have expounded them with my personal reflections, as follows:

1. Make sure that the Boss is really a difficult person. It is only fair to keep in mind that there is a reason behind every person’s behavior. Thus, it is also due to observe if that difficult boss constantly exhibits similar behavior. You can also ask yourself if you trigger him or her to behave that way. Consider also his/her reactions to other circumstances. Confront yourself with this question, “are you the only one receiving that bad treatment?” Yes, before you label, it’s good to conduct just observation.

2. Find out what motivates your boss to behave that way. People have their own sets of motivation and goals based on the social roles they play. As individuals, they have their own unique ways to express and execute them. Try to find out what is the unseen motive of your boss. Is it a call of duty or professional matter? Is it just about to impose organizational rule or company policy but nothing really personal? Or, you must have done something which he/she thinks you need a constant reminder to improve your performance? Try to assume that there are compelling and acceptable reasons for being “that” way.

3. Don’t let “that guy/woman” affect your work performance. Of course it’s not easy to work enthusiastically when you and your boss are not in good terms. Whether you admit it or not, you try to get even with your difficult bosses in a subtle way. You take “unexpected” leaves, extended breaks and even extended work deadlines. But, if I were you, my competency and job performance would not be dependent on my working relationship with my difficult boss. After all, you have colleagues and other superiors who can observe your performance. Also, you need that job and you cannot afford to see the entire organization suffering because of you.

4. Stay one step ahead. For every assigned project, plan and anticipate well. Clearly enumerate all the required tasks, documents, logistics and what have you for that certain project. Much better if you could deliver them or at least you have updates before your boss comes to you. In that way, that boss may realize that you are “accountable” and his / her monitoring is no longer necessary.

5. Set Your Boundaries. Most unlikable people have behavior that displeases us. It is thus important that you urgently discover how to disengage yourself from that “behavior”. More importantly, never allow yourself to become the victim of the situation by letting his/her behavior affect, influence and spoil your day. Instead, be the one in control!

6. Don’t assume they know everything. This is a reminder that your boss is still a human being, who has flaws and shortcomings. Hence, they are not all knowing. There are instances when they cannot provide right answers or viable solutions to pressing concerns. Having a title does not translate to expertise. Sometimes, they also have limited perspectives in viewing certain situation. That’s why you are there! You can politely present your views filled with convictions. Since both of you are imperfect individuals, why don’t you initiate in complementing each other’s strengths?

7. Identify Triggers. Keenly observe and discover what triggers your difficult boss’s bad behavior. I’m sure there are patterns of behavior that you can discover. Be very attentive about these signals and try to make extra effort to avoid those triggers. Providing a peaceful working atmosphere is beneficial for both of you and to your officemates.

8. Try to verify his/her statements. Disagreement or conflict is part of every relationship and your relationship with your boss is not an exemption, of course! When it is handled properly, people involved can grow as they learn from each other. It can also foster understanding gearing to nurturing ambience. Conversely, if it’s mismanaged, it will definitely create an irreversible impact on the relationship and concerned individuals. To lessen and even avoid misunderstanding with your boss, try to confirm your interpretation with his/her statement by paraphrasing it. This is also to give your boss a chance to reflect on the message being conveyed while eliciting a respectful attitude.

9. (If Possible) Avoid Difficult Bosses. After your horrible experience with your difficult boss, I strongly recommend that you be careful not to be on that same plane again. If you can possibly conduct some research on your future boss’s behavior, do so! Search reviews about the company and find out the comments of its former employees. Does it have a high attrition rate? Absenteeism? Why do their personnel leave? Is it really because they want to find greener pasture and to advance their career or their intention is to get away from a difficult boss? Again, squarely examine the facts before you dive into your conclusion.

I ardently hope that you gain insights from this article. Always remember two things: first, you always have a choice; and second, your life is the sum of the total consequences of all the choices that you make. So, be mindful in coming up with your decisions, particularly during challenging situations. Play fair, but choose the best strategy to win and conquer the longest battle in the world of work!

Things will get better,


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