5 Strategies to Handle a Difficult Boss

5 Strategies to Handle a Difficult Boss

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If you’re reading this because you find yourself working for a difficult boss, fret not; you’re not alone. Many people have encountered the same predicament and learned to cope with it. It’s harder if you love your job, your team and the overall office environment except for your boss. In the interest of work-life balance, we’ve listed down five strategies you can employ to help you survive the situation.

  1. Focus On Your Growth

Don’t let it stop you from doing your best because you still need to work with others. Keep your attitude in check as your personal branding. Your reputation and integrity at work is not a reflection of your superior’s, hence; no slacking off. As for leadership, there are other leaders in the organisation you can learn from and look up to since your direct superior isn’t as inspiring. Moreover, train yourself to be the type of leader you wish he or she was because your time will eventually come to be scaled up as a future leader. 

Related: 5 Tips to Maintaining Self-Discipline at Work

  1. Professionalism is Key

You meet and learn to work with various types of people at work. Beliefs and views may differ amongst you but the common goal is the shared happiness and hope for success in the company. With your difficult boss, be direct, respectful and calm when communicating; particularly when he or she is giving you attitude. If you need to rant about work, do it at home. It’s best to share your frustrations with people outside of your work circle to avoid tension and sabotage at the office.

Steer clear from sharing with your co-workers as it could backfire and hurt you, personally and professionally. By remaining unflustered, you command respect from your peers and set an example to others in the same situation. Getting labelled as the whiner in the company is never a great thing!

“I once had a manager who was bad-tempered, rude and practiced favouritism. She was insufferable and a bully. As subordinates, we did not dare to ‘fight back’ so we kept to ourselves. Eventually, she got reported by another colleague on par to her ranking about her negative attitude and HR took it to the upper management level for discussion. Needless to say, we had a new manager after a week.”  – Ifa Abidin, 29

  1. Identify Their Motivation and Goals

Learn about your boss and the company, find out what makes them tick and what inspires them. By putting yourself in their shoes, it’s easier for you to identify with their concerns and work around their weaknesses. Knowing their weaknesses can be a starting point for a better relationship and a plus for you. Be positive and choose to be a solution finder or a problem solver. For example, if they don’t like latecomers, low sales results or people who take frequent medical leaves, avoid doing so. Follow the rules and push hard as an employee because your manager will notice results from you in due course; which leaves them with nothing to complain about. Always remember you’re hired for a reason and one of it is to benefit the company.

Don’t tick your boss off! Read more here

  1. The Choice is Yours

A famous quote, “People leave managers, not companies,” serves as a reminder to the working community. Keep in mind that the choice is yours to leave the company. With this said, it’s not a new thing in the industry, that problematic managers do exist and it’s one of the main reasons people decide to leave a company.

Thoroughly research on various companies before you jump ship. You don’t want to be heading towards another headache in the coming months or years. Be proactive as you search for new opportunities and don’t bad-mouth your current company when you network. Don’t let desperation lead you to deeper waters. Sometimes being in tough situations can cause you to lose sight and make the wrong choice.

If you do choose to stay, make something out of it. You could request for a department transfer or as mentioned in the other point, cope with it in your best way.


  1. Seek Advice From HR or Legal

If things get too sticky, do not take matters into your hands but refer to the department with authority. Speak to the right people for help. Be wary though, it is not advisable to threaten your bad boss with a report or complaint because it can come off as disrespectful and trigger him or her. Confront and solve disputes like adults and give a wide berth of being emotional or angry.

“I made a complaint to the integrity and human resource department of my previous company about my senior manager. He was telling clients about the company’s internal plans and forged another manager’s signature to get project approval from the upper management. My aim wasn’t to get him sacked, I just wanted to be under the leadership of an honest, inspiring and hard-working boss. I didn’t like how he was cutting corners unethically.” – Mark Tan*, 27

*Names have been changed in the interest of privacy

In conclusion, no matter how tough the situation is at work; be true to yourself. Treat difficult bosses as part of the growth process to be a successful, career-driven individual. Managing people can be a skill mastered and if it starts with handling your boss, you’ll be prepared and trained to handle future obstacles similar to this in the coming years.

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