We’ve all been there. Whether you’re new to your company or you’ve been at the same company for a long time, at some point you will have a boss that you don’t feel likes or respects you. It’s inevitable, and it’s up to you to do something about it.
If you sense that your boss has a problem with you, walk yourself through these six steps to manage the situation before it impacts your career:
1. Be Sure You Are Reading The Situation Correctly
We all have different levels of sensitivity in the workplace that vary based on things like stress, emotions, past history and workplace politics.
Here are some things that could be happening:
- Your boss is having stress within or outside of work, and is unintentionally taking it out on you
- You did something to anger your boss and he can’t get over it without a catalyst of some kind
- You are being overly sensitive and need to learn to see things a little differently.
- Your boss doesn’t know your personality well enough to know how to best approach you and there are communication issues
- A better relationship needs to be established
- Your boss is actually a jerk
Determine your reality, absent stress or emotion. Run your thoughts by one or two of your trusted confidants at work. Are they seeing what you see? Is it happening to them also? Have they seen behavior like this from your boss in the past? Any insights that you can get will help you determine your approach. Take some notes about what’s going on from your perspective, validate or align them by talking to others, and document the resulting reality.
2. Figure Out Why
Next, get to the bottom of why this is happening. Think hard about when the problem started and whether there was a precipitating event or time period. Put some thought behind the drivers of your boss’ behavior, whether you are fully or partially to blame, or if you are clueless as to why it’s happening.
A healing relationship is a two-sided process. Each of you has your own gripes to air and want to come out with a “win.” Understanding and being honest with yourself about your role in the problem, even if you don’t agree with your boss’ perspective, puts you in the best position.
3. Determine What You Can Realistically Change
This is your career, not your boss’ career. A boss who is mistreating you is not likely to promote you and can derail your career with his or her personal views and actions.
Figure out what you can and can’t control in the situation. Start by asking yourself:
- What is the extent of this problem?
- Do you feel you aren’t being treated nicely?
- Is your boss badmouthing you to other managers?
- Does your boss treat everyone like this, suggesting that it’s a personality issue?
- Did your boss’ behavior change suddenly after a project or interaction?
- Is your boss approachable and open to feedback?
Asking yourself these questions helps you assess if the problem is fixable or just the way your boss operates. If your boss has been at the company a very long time, he may operate in a, “I’ve always managed people this way,” mode and be hard to change, but most bosses are open to discussion and feedback depending on your approach.
4. Take The Right Approach
What I recommend is to privately approach your boss and have an open discussion about how you are feeling. Depending on how the conversation goes, you may need to swallow your pride and apologize to make amends. This provides a win-win situation vs. the “blame game” that adds fuel to the fire.
If you do not feel comfortable directly discussing things with your boss, try taking the lead on establishing a better relationship between the two of you. Or, just kiss his ass a little more. Everyone wants to feel effective and useful. Pumping up your boss can turn him into your greatest supporter. Tweak behaviors you know bother your boss. Make the changes and make sure your boss is aware that you are working hard to impress him. In all of these cases, you are proactively attempting to repair the relationship.
If you feel a discussion or behavior changes won’t work you can:
- Approach Human Resources about the issue (if you have an HR department)
- Ask one of your boss’ peers who you trust for advice
- Put it behind you, cross your fingers, and let your performance speak for itself to repair the disconnect
- Ask for a transfer to a different department
- Leave the company
5. Time It Right
This is important. Think about your boss’ rhythms and when he would be most approachable on this potentially squirrely subject. Be aware of catching your boss off guard. No one likes to be blindsided.
Write a quick email saying something like, “Do you have any time this week where we could discuss your expectations of me? I have a few things I’ve been working on and wanted to get your perspective.”
This note does a few things: it prepares your boss for the subject matter, allows him to choose the timing, shows respect for him by asking for his perspective, and shows your commitment by noting that you’ve been working on things.
So think about your boss. Is Monday morning a great time to catch him, or the worst time possible? Is he the kind of person that might prefer to discuss this over a beer at an upcoming event you’ll both attend? Is later in the week the best time? Giving thought to the best timing for a discussion helps tremendously.
6. Know The Result You Want
Before you take any action have a clear idea of the outcome that you want so you will know if the situation has been remedied.
Repairing a relationship takes time, possibly months. Keep an eye on how your boss makes you feel, whether you are getting more positive recognition, if you are being treated fairly among your peers, and if other leaders are being influenced negatively regarding your performance.
This is a two-way process and you have to hold up your end of the bargain. If you make any promises to change, be sure to focus on that change and be consistent over time. “Acting” like you care or are willing to change, but not changing, only hurts you and can make the situation worse. Working on changing for a week or two, then returning to your old behavior has the same effect. You may have to make real changes to your behaviors to fix the relationship long term.
Don’t bristle at the changes required. Embrace them as part of your developing career skill sets and you will have found a powerful new tool in your toolbox.
Did you ever have a boss that didn’t like you? How did you handle it? Be sure to let me know in the comments below and be sure to subscribe to my blog for more great career tips!
Tags: bad bosses, boss problems, career advice, career help, communication, communication skills, conflict, consflicts at work, people skills, productivity, professional development, soft skills, work relationships,