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Manage your Manager: How to Deal With A Difficult Boss


Dealing with a difficult bossIf you have a job and you do not always “click” with your boss, read on. Whether you believe that your boss is too demanding, incompetent, crosses professional boundaries, or regularly pushes you to your psychological limits, there is hope! This article will highlight some strategies for improving the professional relationship between you and your ” difficult boss”.

Our work environment can become psychologically toxic when we don’t have a good functional relationship with our work superior. Many of us spend a large amount of time at work and some even spend more time at their work place than home. So it’s beneficial to have healthy professional relationships with those whom we work alongside. Poor work relationships can add unwelcomed psychological stress which may have a detrimental effect on work performance, motivation levels, and overall job satisfaction. So what can you do when you have a poor relationship with your boss?

Work place relationships are not always harmonious and it is natural to experience occasional disagreements and conflicts. Like other types of relationships (i.e. romantic, friendship), the relationships we have at the work place (i.e. with our boss), can be worked upon and improved. Remember, change starts from within and with enough time and effort you will see results. The following guidelines are designed to help you to better understand and cope with your boss.


  • Get the whole picture: Before you can start to work on improving your relationship with your boss you need to evaluate your relationship with him or her. Start by thinking about your overall relationship with them. Frequently people focus only on negative aspects about their relationship with their boss, i.e. “I hate the way he speaks to me” or “She demands too much from me.” When we focus on the negative elements in our relationships we miss the greater picture and filter out the positive aspects of our relationships. The result is a skewed and unhelpful perspective.
  • Identify: Ask yourself the question: “What exactly about my relationship with my boss do I find difficult?” Try making a list of the things that you find troubling about your relationship with him/her and then put them in order from the most troubling to the least problematic. Organizing the issues in this manner will help to clearly identify problem areas about your relationship and show you what needs the most attention. Once you have made a list you can use this as a kind of “Relationship Improvement Plan” (R.I.P.). Having a R.I.P. will provide the starting point where you can begin to work on laying to rest the troubling aspects of your relationship.
  • Evaluate: After identifying what you are going to work on. Ask yourself if this is something that can be improved by thinking differently, behaving differently, or both? If it is thinking differently, try to come up with alternative ways you can think about your relationship with your boss. Casting a different light upon your professional work relationship could be the solution you are seeking. If you feel that behaving differently is the solution, identify what you are doing that fuels the issue. Once identified, you can come up with alternative behaviours to replace current unhelpful actions that complicate things. Thinking critically will help you to come up with solutions you may not have thought of before. Many times the things that bother us about our relationships can be improved if we make the proper efforts to address the root cause of what bothers us. Using your critical eye should help you ensure that your solution does not become part of the problem and exacerbate the situation.
  • Begin: Your relationship will not improve automatically on its own. You must work on it to improve it! Using the R.I.P. list you made, choose a single issue to start with. You do not have to choose the most difficult issue nor the easiest. The essential point is that you begin and that you choose one thing to focus on at a time! Doing this will help ensure you are concentrating all your efforts on one area at a time and thus maximizing your chances for success! Remember, when choosing an area to begin working on, choose something that is manageable. Most importantly choose something that is within your control and ability to actually change. If it is not, choose something else – you want to set yourself up for success not failure!
  • Practice: You must be consistent with trying out your new thoughts and behaviour in order to gage whether or not you are headed in the right direction. To be successful in improving your relationship, you must consistently use your new helpful thoughts and behaviour often and frequently. Without this, you will probably not achieve the results you desire.
  • Patience: Your relationship with your boss did not become how it is overnight; it took time for it to develop. Remember that it will also take time for you to improve it as well. In the beginning, using your new R.I.P may prove to be difficult. However, when you find yourself in the midst of what you are trying to change remember that acknowledging that you are in a challenging situation and that you are working on improving it. Simply stating to yourself that a situation is challenging and that you are making efforts to improve things will help to frame the situation in a way that can help keep you on track with your “Relationship Improvement Plan”.


Relationships are not always easy and our relationship with our boss can prove to be especially difficult. Evaluating your behaviour and thoughts about your association with your boss can provide important clues on how to improve this relationship. No matter how difficult they may seem at times our rapport with others can be improved. Often by changing how we view and interact with those around us can significantly improve our relationships. Finally, if you are struggling with your professional relationships speaking with a therapist can prove to be helpful. Harley Therapy – Psychotherapy and Counselling London work with a team of skilled therapists who can provide the emotional support you may need as you try to deal with a difficult boss and improve your working relationship. The Counselling Psychologists at Harley Therapy additionally offer general counselling for work issues.

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Blog Topics: Anxiety & Stress, Work Life

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