Having to collaborate with someone on a daily basis who makes your working life difficult can be the source of untold stress and can make you feel like throwing in the towel. The thing is, they’ve usually achieved a position of seniority for a reason. They might seem over demanding, irritating, ruthless or even incompetent in your eyes, but somewhere along the way they’ve said and done enough of the right things to the right people in order to secure their position.
“A workplace bully is someone who deliberately sets out to undermine your self-confidence and intimidate you in a way that makes you feel powerless to respond”
That means you should never underestimate them. In fact, it’s actually far more effective to try understand how they operate and what makes them tick. Learning to manage your manager might make the difference between staying in a job and leaving it. Studies show that it’s not usually the demands of the actual workload that drives people to seek an alternative, but rather it’s the people and personalities involved that makes them rush for the nearest exit.
A learning opportunity
By thinking of this process as a learning opportunity you can really begin to develop your own leadership skills; unpicking what they do that works and what they do that you don’t like. This way you can create your own blueprint for effective management style when the time is right and it will also allow you to formulate and subsequently convey a clear vision.
“Learning to manage your manager might make the difference between staying in a job and leaving it”
So, to begin the process it helps to understand their worldview. In other words, why do they behave in certain ways? What worries or threatens them in a work context, what do they respond to positively and on the flipside, what gets on their nerves? If they have a boss, how do they behave around them and how do they deal with things when they don’t go according to plan? Equally, understanding their weaknesses is also vital. This way you can try to support their shortcomings and inevitably this will strengthen your position with them. All of these questions are key to getting under the skin of your boss and finding out what really motivates him or her.
Next, always try to retain your own composure and integrity. This is sometimes much harder to put into practice, if someone is really “pushing your buttons” but losing your head and letting off steam never helps the situation. Temporarily it might make you feel better, but as a long-term strategy it often lands you in a worse position than before. If they are someone that tries to motivate through fear, by shouting and getting angry, stay calm, let them rant and rave but don’t respond. Walk away and give yourself time to formulate your response, either by writing it down or running through what you will say beforehand. Office shouting matches rarely achieve anything, so be the bigger person and set an example by behaving in the right way at all times. The contrast between your behavior and theirs will speak for itself.
Knowledge is power
It’s also worth trying to identify what type of leadership style your boss adopts. Work out how they make decisions. Are they inclusive or autocratic? Do they prefer minute detail or the bigger picture? Are they good at assimilating others’ ideas and presenting them as their own and do they play one colleague off against another? The more information you can gather the better. Knowledge is indeed power when trying to navigate office politics. It’s also worth remembering to avoid passing comment on your boss to other colleagues no matter how tempting it may feel to do so. If you maintain your own integrity, you will be above reproach and this gives you a sense of self-confidence if you ever have to air your grievances in a more formal way.
“The more information you can gather the better. Knowledge is indeed power when trying to navigate office politics”
Look to yourself too. It may be that you are placing responsibility for the situation solely at your bosses door, but ask yourself is there something you are doing that could be contributing to the tension? It’s never easy to admit to faults in ourselves and always far easier to blame others, so be objective and ask yourself “could I do things differently?”
The difference between a difficult boss and a bully
However, there is definitely a difference between a difficult boss and a bully. If you find working for a bully, this is far more serious and needs dealing with in a formal manner. A workplace bully is someone who deliberately sets out to undermine your self-confidence and intimidate you in a way that makes you feel powerless to respond. It’s likely that they have behaved like this for most of their lives and the workplace is just an extension of the playground for them. Life sometimes isn’t fair and these people often go on to achieve career success simply because they have honed their skills of intimidation and manipulation early in life. These individuals are usually very good at masking their abusive behavior when it suits them and companies can remain unaware of their bullying simply because colleagues are too frightened to speak up. Unfortunately, the only way to deal with this kind of situation is to make people aware of what’s going on. It’s likely that you’re not the only one it’s happening to and it’s important that you go through the appropriate HR channels to deal with it.
Finally, though no-one likes to admit defeat, if your boss is making your life so miserable that you dread going to work every day and the situation is even affecting your home life, it may be worth considering looking for another job. I realize this isn’t an option for everyone, but the reality is, if you’ve tried your best to do a good job and your efforts go unrecognized and unrewarded, then it might be better to seek out those who will be more supportive of your skills and hard work. Do your homework though and don’t leave until you’re absolutely certain it is right for you!