5 Ways To Navigate Work When You Have A Difficult Boss

When people say they quit their jobs, it's not actually their jobs that they're quitting. Many times, it's their bosses that they can't stand. In fact, a Gallup survey found that nearly 50% of workers who leave their jobs do so for supervisor-related reasons. A nasty boss drives talented people away and makes the working environment a nightmare for those who remain. Lack of wholesome engagement between managers and employees can result in decreased productivity, resentment, and, in more serious cases, health and emotional problems. In Japan, for instance, where many salarymen suffer from work-related anxieties, most employees are supposed to know better than to go home before their bosses, City-Cost points out.


Power harassment and bad bosses are real. But it doesn't mean you have to leave a job you enjoy and great colleagues just because you can't get along with your boss. If you're struggling to deal with a fault-finding, poor-communicating, or disorganized boss, here are some pointers to help you make your work life more breathable while still being professional.

Maintain a clear line of communication

Communication is the key to a wholesome work relationship. According to Asana, effective communication is when you communicate the right information to the right person. To avoid misunderstandings, make sure your boss gets to hear what you're really trying to say. For example, if you have anything you'd like to clarify with your boss, find your boss to set the matter straight instead of going to another colleague. If your boss imparts some information to you through another person, find a way to double-check it with your boss to ensure that you correctly understand.


If you work in an environment where you're surrounded by constant stressors, low morale, and high turnover, Tasniem Titus from the Forbes Human Resources Council suggests you maintain a crystal clear line of communication with your boss, and seek clarification for any instructions. One way to do this is to always follow up with an email or a written message after having a face-to-face meeting. Having a written record of two-way communication means both of you will have to stick to what's already been agreed upon.

Complain to your boss the right way

If you have anything you'd like to complain about, do complain. Whether you think a heart-to-heart complaining session with your boss will solve anything, you need to voice your concerns and let your boss know what's bothering you and hampering your work efficiency. No matter how upset or passionate you are, leave your emotion outside your manager's office, Your Office Coach suggests. Before walking in to meet your boss, calm down, weigh all the cons of flipping the lid, and seek advice from other colleagues first. Excessive emotions affect the coherence of your message and kind of throw your manager off.


It's right to speak up when you take an issue with your boss' leadership management. However, refrain from pouring your heart out to your boss at crunch time without providing a quick solution, Monster advises. It's one thing to let your boss know things aren't going right under their stewardship, but complaining without chipping in won't get anything done. For example, in addition to telling your boss you can't finish a particular assignment according to the deadline, ask them if they can extend the deadline or if you can seek assistance from other colleagues.

Reflect on your behavior and contributions

No matter how poorly you think of your boss, at the end of the day, it doesn't hurt to have some introspection. As psychoanalyst Manfred F. R. Kets de Vries shares in Harvard Business Review, people who find it challenging to get along with their bosses are "nearly always part of the problem themselves." Ask yourself: what is it about your behavior that stands in your way of being recognized and valued by your boss? If you find out the problem with you, and even if that revelation might not change anything, you can still prevent further personality clashes at work. For example, if you're always late for work and never meet deadlines, of course, your boss would have a problem with you.


Another issue that many people don't recognize is that "over-delivering" might also be a problem. As Russell Simmons so aptly phrases it, "Stay in your lane. If you're good enough, people will move to you." If you're a super-talented person and always happy to help, do so without looking like you're overstepping your bounds. For instance, it's not your job to boss your colleagues around or talk over your boss in a meeting just because you have a better idea. It's good to take the initiative and be a problem solver, but try not to act like you can do your boss' job better than they can.

Say no without complaining

Many bosses don't realize that they're giving their employees more tasks than they can handle and turn their staffers into quiet quitters. The thing is, not all bosses over-assign tasks on purpose, and the only way to suss things out is to talk to them. It's important to schedule a meeting with your boss and admit that you're feeling overwhelmed, Indeed advises. To ensure your boss sees your point of view, try to be as specific as possible to avoid sounding like you're complaining. Let your boss know what's in the pipeline, the urgent deadlines you have to meet, and your priorities and bandwidth. Don't be afraid to say no if you are certain that the additional work would reduce your productivity and cause burnout.


Another extreme end of the spectrum, which is also a common sign of quiet firing, is when your boss gives you no tasks. If you feel neglected, initiate a conversation with your boss and ask for guidance, per Chron. Also, speak up more during team meetings, proactively pitch ideas, and look for projects to make your talents visible.

Catalog your achievements and schedule a review

If you want a pat on the back or a big promotion in the company, you need to step up and make your capabilities visible. To set the stage for a raise moving forward, communicate your ambitions clearly in the beginning. For example, tell your boss where you see yourself in another six months, the responsibilities you're ready for, and what you hope you'd get if you achieve your key performance indicators. Keep in mind, nevertheless, to be tactful and professional with how you phrase your expectations lest your boss thinks you're arrogant or disinterested in your current position, Hays warns.


If you perceive your boss to be demanding, ask upfront what expectations they have for you, in terms of productivity and behaviors, and note everything down. Assess your own performance regularly, document your achievements, and schedule a monthly or quarterly meeting with your boss for feedback. A review gives you a chance to "communicate your impact and value to the company," says SaneBox marketing manager Rachel Dotson (via Media Bistro). If you consistently produce high-quality work, a review forces your boss to recognize your contributions and makes it easier to negotiate a promotion. If you've done everything you could and your boss isn't satisfied, consider contacting recruitment agents and letting them know you're open to new opportunities.