Category Archives: Difficult Boss

Supporting Your Boss Effectively

(For ease of reading in this article, I have used the masculine gender pronoun to refer to the boss. This in no way implies that bosses are predominantly men.)

Working With a Boss Who Withholds Information

A friend recently lamented to me that her boss seems unwilling to share information with her.

She would be the last to know about projects and updates. It was also humiliating to hear the latest news about her own department from colleagues in other departments.

Of course, your boss is not obliged to tell you everything that is going on. However, if by not telling you, it negatively affects the way you perform the job, you must deal with it.

Here are some ways to manage this:

  • Gather evidence. Don’t just complain vaguely to your boss. Have some concrete evidence of actual pieces of information that you did not receive from him (when you should have).
  • Explain clearly why the withholding of information bothered or affected you. Just being dissatisfied, for example, is not going to convince your boss that it is important. Tell him how it affected your morale, made you waste more time, or affected your productivity.
  • Emphasise the positives. Instead of just stating the negatives, tell him some positive consequences of sharing the information with you.
  • Show your enthusiasm about projects by asking to be given information.
Working With a Boss Who Doesn’t Seem to Like You

Another friend had some concerns that her boss did not seem to like her. She felt that he would avoid talking to her, and if he had to, he would be curt and cold.

Your boss does not have to like you, but he must respect you and the work that you do.

However, work will be a lot more pleasant if your boss likes you. Try to find out what he doesn’t like about you (but the answer could be hard to take).

It is awkward to ask outright why the boss doesn’t like you. It may be easier to ask if there is anything you are doing (or not doing) that he would prefer to be different.

The best time to ask this would be at your annual appraisal. However, if that is a long time away, then you may need to ask to speak with the boss privately.

And sometimes, you may just have to accept that you and the boss have a personality clash, and he is never going to like you. But he must respect you and the work you do.

Why Figure Out How to Support Your Boss?

Your working relationship with your boss could be the most important one at the workplace. If this relationship is weak or negative, it could lead to dissatisfaction, frustration, stress, and below-expectation performance.

Sometimes, speaking to your boss about your feelings and concerns could be the best way to deal with issues with your boss.

At other times, it may be worth your while to analyse and understand your boss’ work preferences and leadership style, and try to work with this understanding.

Is Your Thinking Causing You Stress?

You cannot totally avoid stress at the workplace.

Some amount of stress is necessary to motivate you; however, being overwhelmingly stressed can have negative effects on your mental and physical health.

If you constantly feel stressed, examine your own thinking. Do you need to change your own paradigm?

Here are some thinking errors that can lead to stress:

(1) You have an “all-or-nothing” mindset.

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Re-evaluate the importance of tasks or their components. Strategise and focus on the most crucial ones.

Be realistic about what you can and cannot do in a finite amount of time with a finite amount of resources.

(2) You tend to magnify the consequences of situations.

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In the process, you make yourself worried and panicky.

Stop torturing yourself! Use logical thinking to analyse the situation. If you are really worried, talk to the people involved to find out more.

(3) You tend to focus on the negative.

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If negative thoughts are keeping you up at night, you have to make a conscious effort to think positively.

(4) You believe that you can read other people’s minds.

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No you can’t.

You don’t know why your boss did not assign that job to you – without asking. You don’t know why your colleague did not return your greeting this morning – without asking.

Ask. There may be a simple reason.

“Adopting the right attitude can convert a negative stress into a positive one.”

– Hans Selye (Hungarian researcher of stress and its effects on the human body)

What Makes You Angry at the Workplace

I met a former colleague, Alan, for coffee recently. He was apparently having some difficulties with a colleague, Pauline.

Accordingly to Alan, Pauline frequently interrupts him at meetings when he is putting across his ideas. She also disagrees with his suggestions and makes him look bad.

Matters had come to a head the day before. Alan was scheduled to meet his boss to get his approval on a project. This was the most important project Alan was handling in his job, and it could very well have implications on his advancement in the company.

Before his meeting with the boss at 10.30am, Pauline was seen asking to see the boss. She and the boss then had a 15-minute closed door meeting.

Subsequently, during Alan’s meeting with the boss, Alan’s proposal on the project was met with a lukewarm response, and the discussion ended with the boss saying that he needed some time to review the whole project.

Before the meeting ended, the boss also mentioned that he had just received some interesting ideas from Pauline, and that he would like to review them.

The more Alan spoke about this, the angrier he became.

What is Causing Alan’s Anger?

Anger can be explained as an emotion of self-preservation. It can be defined as your need to preserve your: 

(1)  Personal Worth

When we feel that our personal worth is being attacked, we can be made to feel stressed and vulnerable.

The fact that Pauline frequently interrupts Alan at meetings could be perceived by Alan to be a lack of respect, and this can make him feel angry.

(2)  Essential Needs

People define their essential needs differently, and we all hope that these needs can be met.

In this situation, Alan was hoping that his project would meet with the boss’ approval and ultimately be a success, because his advancement prospects would then be improved.

When he learned that the boss wanted to review the project after the conversation with Pauline, this essential need was perceived as being threatened, and this would have contributed to Alan’s anger.

(3) Basic Convictions

Alan believed that people should play fair at the workplace.

He was upset that Pauline did not play fair, and he perceived that she “hijacked” his project by speaking to the boss about it privately just before his presentation.

Should Alan Suppress His Anger?

Alan can choose to suppress his anger, or he can choose to deal with it.

If he chooses to suppress his anger, he must understand that the aggravating factors are not likely to just disappear.

Pauline will not be given a chance to explain her side of the story. She will also not be able to know how her actions are affecting Alan.

If the situation gets from bad to worse, the stress may ultimately affect Alan’s health and well being.

How Can Alan Deal With the Anger?

With the understanding that we feel angry when our personal worth, essential needs or basic convictions are threatened, we can analyse logically and objectively if this is our reality.

Remember, perceptions and reality can sometimes be very different.

(1) Personal Worth

When Pauline is disrespectful and interrupts Alan at meetings, it can make Alan feel small, but only if he allows it to.

Alan could look at it from another angle. Could it be that Pauline, by interrupting, is simply ill-mannered? Or maybe she is not even aware that she is causing distress by interrupting.

If that is the case, why should it make Alan feel small? Maybe Alan should tell Pauline that he would like to finish speaking, instead of allowing his personal worth to be affected.

(2)  Essential Needs

A lot of our stress and anger can be caused by our own pessimism.

Before he has had a chance to hear the boss’ final decision, Alan should not be too quick to predict that the boss is not going to accept his proposal, and that his career is going to be affected as a result.

Yes, that could very well be true, but here are more practical way that Alan could deal with this:

  • Ask the boss respectfully if there are aspects of his proposal that can be improved.
  • Ask to hear other views when the boss is ready, and see how these could be incorporated into his proposal to make it even better.
  • Volunteer to work with whatever new ideas are being explored.

Any of these ways would make Alan’s boss see him in a better light than if Alan were to just show his disappointment or anger.

(3) Basic Convictions

As mature adults, we need to have a firm foundation of beliefs to guide our lives. However, it is important to remain composed when others do not share the same beliefs.

On the other hand, if we are convinced that another person’s actions have flouted the rules of common decency, we should have the courage to deal with the conflict.

In Alan’s case, he should have a talk with Pauline. Tell her that he respects her right to speak with the boss, but that he feels she could have discussed this with him beforehand as this is his project.

Whether Pauline agrees or not is not the point; the point is to let her know how he feels.

Handle Anger Professionally at the Workplace

At the workplace, when you are really angry, the best thing you could do might be to remove yourself (physically or mentally).

Give yourself time to cool down and analyse the situation rationally before deciding on how you choose to respond.

Remember, how you manage your anger at the workplace directly affects your professional image.