You’ve heard it time and time again. People don’t leave a company — they leave a boss. According to one Gallup study, 50% of employees left their job “to get away from their manager to improve their overall life at some point in their career”. Fifty percent! But what if you aren’t ready to leave your job just yet? There are ways to manage a difficult boss; just tread carefully.
As a career coach, I advise my clients to keep their emotions in check when dealing with their manager. Normally I’m an advocate for speaking up, but in this situation, please proceed with caution. You don’t want to burn any bridges. Not only do you need to deal with this person on a near daily basis, you may need the reference down the road.
If you aren’t ready to leave your current job just yet, there are ways to make your work life more tolerable. Whatever your reason for sticking around (for now), here are four ways to manage a difficult boss.
1. Practice mindfulness. Incorporating mindfulness at work can be a game changer. It drastically lowers stress levels, which is critical when dealing with a difficult boss. Practice focusing on the present moment. This means not dwelling on what your boss said to you yesterday, or worrying about what she might say tomorrow. Another mindfulness tip is to focus on your breathing. The next time your boss says something that it about to throw you into a tailspin, sit and practice deep breathing. Inhale through your nose, hold briefly, and exhale out your mouth. Repeat until you feel calmer. Simple exercises like these will help you keep your cool and allow you to look at things with a clearer head.
2. Be empathetic. While this step may feel difficult, try to be the bigger person and reflect on what your boss might be going through. Is she dealing with a difficult manager or under extreme stress? Perhaps there’s something going on in her personal life that is affecting how she handles things at work. Practicing empathy can help you understand their perspective and perhaps even realize that their behavior towards you isn’t personal.
3. Take responsibility. Is your boss bringing everyone else on the team down, or is she mainly focused on you? If you notice that you’re one of the only people that has a negative relationship with your boss, take a step back and ask yourself how it got that way. Did something happen that you can take responsibility for? If that’s the case, step up and rectify the situation right away. If it isn’t the case, go ahead and vent…just don’t do it inside of the office.
4. Vent outside of the office. It’s healthy, normal, and totally necessary to process your emotions, especially when you’re under constant stress. Otherwise, you may find yourself with pent-up anger, ready to blow at any moment. Feel all the feels by talking it out with a friend or family member, and then let those feelings go. This will make you more pleasant to be around, and you’ll have a greater capacity to handle whatever your boss throws your way. Whatever you do, don’t unleash the drama on your colleagues; that’s how rumors start.
Dealing with a difficult boss is no joke. If you’ve practiced these techniques and still find your boss to be intolerable, brush up your resume and consider leaving ASAP. Staying in a toxic work environment isn’t worth it. The last thing you want to do is compromise your sanity or your health.
The next time you find yourself in a tough situation with your manager, remember that while you can’t control your boss, you can control how you react.