4 Techniques to Help You Deal With a Difficult Boss

difficult-bossEditor’s Note: This is a guest post from Adrienne Carlson.

If life could be split into two general parts, work would take up one compartment and personal life the other. While we tend to put our personal relationships on a higher rung, work too is significant in the larger scheme of things because it puts food on our table and provides us with the money we need to lead a comfortable life.

So when your work life is not satisfactory, your personal life suffers too, because as much as we may try to keep the two like parallel lines that never meet, the fact is that they are like train tracks that tend to cross over and merge once in a while. So if you have the misfortune of working with a boss who is difficult, your work tensions may spill over into and ruin your personal life, which is why you must know how to deal with superiors who make your work life a heavy cross to bear.

A few ways to deal with a difficult boss are to:

1. Keep a low profile

If you feel your boss is picking on you for no reason at all, the best thing to do is keep a low profile and stay out of his/her hair. Give them fewer chances to take off on you by keeping to yourself and letting their ire subside before you run into them again. Most bosses go through phases where they tend to pick on employees for a certain period of time. A friend of mine ran into some trouble with his boss even though he was not at fault. The problem arose because a few people who were against him at the office bad-mouthed him and their boss was biased enough to believe them without giving my friend the benefit of the doubt. Instead of arguing his case (which was a pointless exercise as his boss was a jerk), my friend chose to avoid getting in his way, and in a few weeks, this issue was forgotten. So if enough time goes by and you deliberately avoid adding to their irritation, something else invariably crops up and you find that you’re off the hook.

2. Don’t neglect your work

If you’ve been doing your job effectively and continue to prove yourself, you don’t give your boss additional reasons to be difficult towards you. There was a problem at work recently that arose because of payment issues – my boss felt I was taking too much time off and also demanding a higher salary. I felt that I was entitled to raise because my work proved it, and my time off was due to mitigating circumstances. Instead if arguing my point, I dedicated myself to proving my worth through my work so that my boss would not grudge having to pay me more. Some superiors tend to pile work on those who they know are capable of getting it done (even when it is beyond the call of duty) and who they know cannot refuse to comply to an order. Instead of stressing yourself out because you’re not able to complete all this extra work, explain to your boss firmly but politely why it is not possible to take on more work than you have at the moment.

3. Know when to stay silent

Very often, superiors hate being proved wrong, especially if it is in the company of people who work under them. So in situations where you know you’re right and your boss is wrong, it’s ok to be magnanimous and stay silent instead of risking your boss’s ire and fire. Even if you’re being taken to task for no fault of your own, sometimes it’s better to just apologize and get on with your work. You save yourself further harassment from your boss if you restrain yourself from arguing with him/her. None of us like to be proved wrong, especially if we’re in a position of considerable power. So putting yourself in your boss’s shoes (no matter how distasteful that must be), could help you understand and accept this situation.

4. Leave the office at work

No matter how difficult your boss is, you must learn to leave the office behind after your work day is done. If you carry all the tensions and stress associated with the job back home, your personal life is going to suffer too, so if things are really bad, it’s better to ask to be transferred or search for a new job and quit once you’ve found one. Your health is important and if your relationship with your boss is affecting it adversely, you must not hesitate to quit.

This guest article was written by Adrienne Carlson, who regularly writes on the topic of accelerated online degrees . Adrienne welcomes your comments and questions at her email address: [email protected].

Need a boost to your work happiness? Then check out the Happy at Work Project and start one yourself.

* Evita over at Evolve Beings has a really amazing guest post called Redefining Success: Why I Quit My Job.

If you enjoyed this post then you will probably like this one too:

Day 1of 30 – No complaining

* Image courtesy of Symic


  1. I love the four tips you use here. I think the most important one, though, is #4. No matter how stressful your boss is, you have to be able to leave it at work when you leave. When I have a hard day, I’ll recap the bad events to my significant other, just to relieve the stress but then not discuss it any further, so that I’m not dealing with work stuff in my safe haven, my home. Thanks for the great guest article. 🙂

  2. All very good points but I especially like the one about keeping silent. Very often it saves us from getting in a whirlwind of trouble. Great post and thanks for sharing!

  3. I loved this guest post, and am so glad that Adrienne included that last sentence. Ultimately (and I say this from experience), no one should be afraid to quit an unhealthy job and/or boss. No amount of money is worth staying in a bad relationship.

    These were good tips that I think a lot of people will benefit from reading. Thanks for featuring Adrienne’s expertise, Karl!

  4. Hi Adrienne,

    Whew, I have to say as soon as I read the title, I had a moment of gratitude that a)I do not have a boss now, and most likely never again will, and b) that I never had a “nasty” boss. Any people I worked for in the past were just so wonderful.

    So having said that I feel for people who work with people who try to make others’ lives miserable. However you listed some great tips on how to effectively handle such a situation. And I have to say number 4 is perhaps the best. Just because things are not going well in one area, does not mean we have to carry them with us into other parts of our lives too. In the end it is all about the perspectives we choose to take on any and every situation that can free us from any unpleasant situation.

  5. I think it’s good to be able to compartmentalize when you need to, like a portfolio of results.

  6. Great article. My daughter works in a surgeon’s office with 40 other women. Oh Karl they need your help there! Her boss has been there 20 years and my daughter 3 years. She took Monday off and a young woman who shares her office called her to ask a question because she thought her boss was wrong about the answer. My daughter had the correct answer and said if she had any doubts she should speak with one of the surgeons.

    The insane thing is this information could be vital to the patient’s health! Shelly consistently makes waves because she goes the extra mile and the others then look bad.

    I will forward her this post. I think she’ll find it very helpful. I’m not sure how she can or if she does keep quiet in a setting that could mean disasterous health results. Any suggestions for this one?

  7. Adrienne,
    This topic reminds me of a leadership seminar I attended recently. Out of that, one of the big things we delved into was how work can affect home life and vice versa. And so – leadership thoughts really focused around both of these areas, and really with a large focus on our own self-awareness. Really great stuff! We also dug into the “games” that people play – and how personality traits play into it all, as well. Anyway, great points to consider!

  8. Target turned Tigress says:

    An interesting article. I’m not so sure about shrugging off being “picked on” as the result of an unfortunate phase that many bosses go through–that seems to be enabling what should be unacceptable behavior in a workplace. I’ve certainly never experienced that kind of behaviour as the “norm” for bosses in all the years I’ve been in the work force. I’ve only seen it in the last place I worked–and that’s why I’m not there anymore–toxic work environments really don’t work for me.

    I’d say that if you have a boss who seems to have an extended period of picking on different people in the office you have a bigger challenge on your hands than a “difficult” boss; you have a “bully boss” who is busy picking out her or his target(s).

    Unfortunately, what works with a reasonable person who is simply having a bad day (or 10)-keeping a low profile, staying on top of your work, and knowing when to keep your mouth shut–does not work with bullies. A bully will go out of their way to pick on their target even if the target follows all of Adrienne’s good advice to the letter because bullies enjoy destroying their target’s self-confidence and good reputation at work. In this situation the best bet is to document all the incidents as you may need to present it as a valid reason for getting transferred elsewhere. If you have an HR department that is not willing to move you and appears to side with the bully, read the writing on the wall and start planning your exit strategy to get out before it ruins your health and well-being. No job–no matter how prestigious or high paying–is worth paying for with your health.

  9. Headhunters Philippines says:

    Thanks for the good article. But I think the best you can do is make him/her impress on how you work. How you perform in the field, and how you communicate with your boss, In that way, your boss won’t always keep an eye of you.

  10. In the theory this sounds nice, but in life is difficult to control own emotions. Especially, when you love justice:)

  11. When you are own boss – an ideal situation)) haha


  1. […] > 4 Techniques to Help You Deal With a Difficult Boss […]