Don't miss the future of CX at RefineCX USA!  Register Now

Don't miss the future of CX at RefineCX USA!

Our surveys come with superpowers ⚡

Blog Best Of

How to deal with a Difficult Boss

Kate Williams

24 May 2022

8 min read

You have always considered yourself lucky for grabbing your dream job! You love your office, your coworkers, and you enjoy doing your work. But your boss? That’s a story for another day.

If your boss drives you mad, making your working atmosphere uncomfortable and coworkers upset, then you can be sure that you are dealing with a difficult boss. The relationship with your boss plays a considerable role in your success within the company. In an ideal situation, we would all be having a good boss. Someone akin to a mentor who can guide you along your career path.

Most of the time that’s not the case, though. But don’t call it the quits yet!

Here we bring you a survival guide on how to deal with a difficult boss. Learning how to deal with a difficult boss can save you from a lot of stress and make your work life a whole lot easier. The first step is to determine what kind of boss you are working for.

Different types of Difficult Bosses

If your boss falls under any one of these, don’t get discouraged yet! Read these profiles and learn how to deal with a difficult boss and maintain a cordial relationship. 

The Micromanager Boss

Do you feel overwhelmed at work? Does your boss scrutinize each aspect of your work, telling you how to do it to the most minute level? They often grant very little autonomy, making you revise or rework a task till it reaches their perceived standards. 

These are the signs of a Micromanager boss!

Employees with such bosses keep second-guessing their work all the time before handing it over, eventually leading to Workers Burnout. By not giving you the space to do things your way, micromanagers dampen their Team’s Morale and creativity. 

Micromanagers see themselves as perfectionists. Tesla Founder Elon Musk earned himself the reputation of being a “nano manager” for his obsessive attention to detail and utmost perfection, often doing all the work himself instead of delegating it.

Earn their Trust. Micromanagement is attributed to stress, lack of confidence, or anxiety. Regardless of the underlying issue, try to earn your boss’s trust. Show them that you are trustworthy by staying on top of your game. Complete your tasks on time and inform them in case of any delays. Let them know your work’s progress and provide frequent updates( especially for urgent work) without them having to ask.

The Absent Boss

This boss is rarely there at the office. You do not know if he’s on an extended leave or whether he’s working from home. Absentee bosses are worse than micromanager bosses. Such bosses enjoy the privileges that come with their position but have no connection with their team members. The exact opposite of a micromanager boss, the absentee boss is the most frustrating because they never provide feedback.

They rarely communicate with their teammates and are unaware of the challenges they face in their daily tasks. Employees have no one to turn to, and this leads to a buildup of Employee Stress. Try to handle this situation by making it a point to connect with your boss at least once a week. Take the lead and fill them up on what you are working on, the tasks for the next week, and mention if you face any roadblocks along the way. 

The Abusive Boss

The Short-tempered boss gets upset quickly and raises their voices in a fit of rage. They may calm down shortly afterwards and apologize. Certain bosses fall on the extreme end of the spectrum- toxic people who enjoy verbally abusing their subordinates under this category. This abuse may even be in the form of a physical threat. These are extreme abusers, and you should never stay in a job where you have to face continuous abuse. Such bosses affect Employee Mental Health negatively.

Take this issue up to the HR manager, and if still, they continue their abusive behavior, look for another job. The question arises at this juncture- Are your employees satisfied with the company culture and their team? The best way to find out would be through SurveySparrow’s Employee Satisfaction Surveys. The surveys are crafted with relevant questions and are to the point. The feedback you receive from SurveySparrow’s personalized employee satisfaction surveys can help you take adequate measures to make your employees’ work-life happier and more fulfilling. 

You can sign up on SurveySparrow for FREE to start creating employee satisfaction and employee engagement surveys.

The Incompetent Boss

New to the field or industry, such bosses find themselves in a completely new environment and have lots to learn. They make hasty and uninformed decisions that are very poorly planned. Due to their lack of knowledge, they rely heavily on their subordinates to get their work done.

Despite all their shortcomings, the incompetent boss manages to hold on to their jobs. If your boss is friendly, offer them information in a casual manner without being condescending. If you are dealing with an incompetent boss, never be judgmental or try to demonstrate superiority, as this can sabotage your career in the long run.

The Procrastinator

All of us procrastinate -putting off that pending report for another day, delaying the call of a problematic client until next week. But what happens when your boss is a procrastinator? He happens to be a bit disorganized, making last-minute changes to a project and extending important work well into the 11th hour. They take ages to make decisions, consulting many people in the process and dragging tasks well beyond their deadline. 

If you have a procrastinator boss, always factor the delay in processes into an expected project timeline. Create staggered deadlines for projects instead of one final deadline. Also, submitting your work in many sections will make it more manageable for your boss.

How to deal with a difficult boss in a professional way

Now that you have gotten an idea of the different types of difficult bosses you may encounter in your career, here are some tips on how to deal with a difficult boss without losing your cool

1. Look before you leap

It’s always important to not jump to conclusions. Are you sure that your boss is difficult? Especially if you are new to the company, it would be best to give it some time before coming to that conclusion.

It’s okay to be nervous during the first few weeks of joining, and your equation with your boss might improve in the subsequent weeks. Ascertain whether it is their fault that they are behaving like this or is it an outcome of a stressful occurrence within the office.

Carefully observe their behavior. But if their behavior remains unchanged after a month or two, then the following strategies on how to deal with a difficult boss will be useful for you in defusing the cold situation.

2. Adapt to your manager’s working style

Figure out how your boss works and his management style. What are his priorities, and what does he find critical. How does he communicate? Does your boss prefer emailing updates, or does he like direct face to face communication? Which parameter of work does he value? Is it speed and completing a task on time, or is he focused on quality no matter how much time it takes? Is he a micromanager who wants to know the nitty bitty details?

Evaluate your working style with his and adapt it to become more aligned with his. It might be something simple like preparing minutes after a meeting is completed or keeping them updated more frequently. 

3. Set Clear Boundaries

Learn to say no to your boss politely. If their requests of working overtime or pushing workload have become unmanageable for you to handle single-Handedly, let them know. By setting boundaries, he will be reminded of the importance of Employee well-being. It’s difficult to say no to your boss but strive to do so by identifying your boundaries. Learning how to deal with a difficult boss can be quite tricky but ensure that you stick by these boundaries at all times. The right boss will help you to attain a healthy work-life balance and give you adequate freedom.

4. Prove your mettle to your boss

Understand your boss’s expectations and what matters to him the most. Try to make your boss’s life easier by understanding the professional goals he is trying to accomplish and contribute towards achieving them by working as a team player. Volunteer to take up new projects and ensure that you give it your all.

If you work diligently and make an effort to do your job well, it will be noted. Perhaps it might even lead to employee recognition. Show initiative by seeking solutions to problems by yourself instead of complaining. Offer suggestions and become a self-starter. Focus on your priorities, exhibit your key skills and prove to your boss that you are a reliable person. This is one of the best ways on how to deal with a difficult boss.

 5. Be Patient

What a stressed worker often neglects is the power of patience. Patience is an underrated trait; it has its rewards, especially at the workplace. When you hear your boss yelling at you and belittling you in front of your team, resist the urge to yell back. Don’t fight fire with fire. You can’t control their actions, but you can always control your reaction. The best response is to remain calm- By doing so, you have the upper hand.

This is your cheat sheet on how to deal with a difficult boss without getting frustrated. Patience and calmness will help you pave the way forward in grueling meetings, and your boss will respect you all the more for your level headed nature.

  6. Always be on your toes.

If you feel that your boss hates you and has you on his radar, you must be careful and cautious. Prepare yourself for your workday beforehand and finish your work before the deadline comes around the corner. This tip on how to deal with a difficult boss can come in handy, especially if you have a boss who is a micromanager.

Foresee the tasks that your boss might ask and complete them before he enquires about them. By being efficient at your work and staying one step ahead, you can eliminate stress in an organization. Inculcate the practice of planning each day and always be on your toes; your boss will eventually learn to trust you. Over time your excellent work ethics may even fetch you employee awards.

7. Document your interactions with your boss

Whether it is a good interaction, such as when your boss appreciates you for a work well done or a bad interaction like a rude conversation, it will always be useful to document everything, especially if you have a difficult boss. These written proofs will be your shield against possible attacks from a toxic boss who could accuse you of wrongs you haven’t committed.

Documenting interactions will help you clear your side of the story in case of an awry situation or if your position within the company is in jeopardy. This is one of the wisest steps you can take on how to deal with a difficult boss.

8. Have an open talk with your difficult boss: Communication is key

According to Career Experts, yet another way on how to deal with a difficult boss is to have an open talk with them. You may feel he has a personal bias against you, that he fails to support you during times of crisis at work, or even the absence of employee appreciation within the team. Whatever the issue it is that is troubling you, a conversation with your boss can help you get it out in the open. State your concerns politely and attempt to clear out any misunderstandings.

Make your expectations loud and clear, in a respectful way. No matter what, avoid blaming your boss outright. Be objective and professional. Face to face meetings would work best, and communications such as these would help resolve conflicts, paving the path for a healthier working environment. 

Unfortunately, if nothing changes after this, and your boss remains difficult, consult with HR and try requesting a transfer to another department within the company.

9. The Last Resort

People don’t quit a job; they quit a boss, or so the saying goes.

You have tried out all the ways on how to deal with a difficult boss. If you feel that there is no progress in your equation with your boss and that it has deteriorated from bad to worse, the next option would be to seek a better job opportunity elsewhere. There is no need to stay in a workplace where you are not valued.

Research suggests that when work-life becomes unbearable, the stress will begin to permeate into other aspects of your daily life, leading to many chronic health issues. Move out and look for better opportunities that could grant you some peace of mind. When interviewing with a new company and before accepting an offer, Word to the wise, always research how your next boss would be.

You wouldn’t want to jump from the frying pan into the fire! Learn about the company culture, the people, and your potential boss from any acquaintances within the company( Try not to sound like a stalker, though)

Wrapping it Up..

Every one of us will have to deal with a difficult boss at least once in our careers. Learning how to deal with a difficult boss while remaining professional is the only way to go. While your first instinct might be to resign, adopting these time-tested strategies on how to deal with difficult bosses is the best option for you. There are different kinds of difficult bosses, and each of them has its strengths and weaknesses. Understanding the root cause of their behavior and seeing things from their perspective may help you deal with challenging situations.

If all the above tips on how to deal with a difficult boss fail, it would be advisable to seek other job opportunities, which would be better for you in the long run.


Kate Williams

Content Marketer at SurveySparrow

Cherry-picked blog posts.
The best of the best.

Leave us your email, we wont spam. Promise!

Start your free trial today

No Credit Card Required. 14-Day Free Trial

Try For Free