Quite often, when dealing with a difficult boss, the tendency is to blame him or her. However, in any relationship there are at least two people involved and therefore with that comes an equal responsibility. But, how you might ask, can you influence the behavior when he/she are in control? Yes, they may be able to pull rank on you in terms of decisions, but there are things within your control that you can do about it.
- Walk in their shoes – this is often regarded as empathy and when we take time and truly look at people’s behavior from their perspective, it might help to understand better why they show up as they do. It may not be excusable, but if it goes somewhere toward providing a justification, that can be a major first step in terms of how you process what is actually happening. For example, if you feel you are being ignored, but then realize that your boss is under extreme pressures (that could be work based or even personal), then you are more inclined to understand and help explain what might be happening as a result.
- It’s not always about you – bosses have multiple agendas and are dealing with complex issues all the time. They can be easily distracted or side tracked which can mean less time for you. But you are not the problem (though you might perceive it that way); it’s all these other things they are dealing with and therefore try to avoid taking things personally.
- Seek Advice from Others – perhaps what you are doing might be pressing your boss’s buttons (i.e. his personal dislikes). For example, if he/she values somebody who is direct and to the point and you have a habit of being long winded in your responses, he/she might avoid you unless it’s something critical. Your peers might be able to provide a ‘heads up” in terms of how best to interact with your boss, that you could work on adapting to.
- Speak with your boss – at the appropriate moment discuss with your boss how you might make some improvements, as distinct from fixing shortcomings. This could happen in a casual setting (e.g. while traveling) or you could ask for some time to formally sit down. The key is to avoid any defensiveness and make it about positives and opportunities.
So, if you are feeling a little like this and somewhat helpless, take control and do something about it. Most bosses and even the most difficult ones, are inherently good people. They are human as well and have their own challenges, so that if you can find a way to make their lives that bit easier, it’s pretty well guaranteed that this will be reciprocated. In the end of the day, you always reserve the final option, and that is to find another job. Either way, you are the person in control.