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By Essie Bester

The relationship you have with your boss is the most important one in the workplace. A negative relationship can influence practically every aspect of your work life negatively.

Do you have such a boss? Your first instinct could be to resign, but experts are of the opinion that the best and most productive option is simply to learn how to deal with a difficult supervisor.

The benefits that will follow from that include less work-related stress, less chance of illness, higher work satisfaction, better relationships within the workplace, as well as heightened work productivity and greater potential for advancement.

Tips that can help you determine how you should deal with a demanding boss, include:

  • Determine his motivations and show empathy

Try to better understand why your supervisor acts a certain way by placing yourself in his shoes. There are many factors that could have an influence on his conduct (of which work pressure could be but one).

A better understanding of his conduct could help you to see things from his perspective and create possibilities for discussions about your difficult relationship and how it influences your work life.

More importantly, it could help you to accept this challenging situation more readily and to handle it, as you will understand that you aren’t the problem.

  • Take responsibility whenever necessary

Sometimes a relationship with a leader in a workplace can be challenging due to both individuals’ behaviour. Consider your role in the relationship and accept responsibility for any contribution to the challenging nature of the relationship. It’s necessary for you to know when you encourage the negativity so that you can work on it to improve your own behaviour.

  • Choose your words wisely

Although it is important to be honest and open, it is also important to be tactful and to choose your words well when you have to deal with a difficult supervisor. To say the wrong thing at the wrong time, be disrespectful or experience disrespect, will probably heighten the tension between the two of you.

Make sure you speak to your boss in a professional and effective manner by taking care to keep your conversations result-driven. This means you do not focus on his personality or problems in your relationship, but on work or other topics that will help you reach your ultimate goal.

  • Don’t discuss your boos with colleagues

To speak to someone about your difficult relationship with your boss can be an important part of your self-care. It can also be a way of getting rid of your frustration.

However, it is important that you don’t have these kinds of conversations with other colleagues as it could encourage negativity in the workplace even further. Rather try to talk to a trustworthy friend or family member whose opinion you respect.

  • Be prepared to meet expectations

Take the time to familiarise yourself with your boss’s habits, demands and expectations. In this way you will be able to avoid heightening any tension in your relationship.

Showing your boss that he doesn’t have to micro-manage you, might just result in him offering you more freedom. Possibly you might then won’t have to report to him so often.

Don’t wait for him to ask you for information that you know he wants to have at a specific time – send it to him as early and as detailed as possible. It shows you respect his requests and take your work seriously.

  • Hone your leadership skills

Use your difficult situation as an opportunity to practise your leadership skills. Take the initiative and where possible make decisions that you know will lead to positive results for the organisation.

Your colleagues might just be influenced by your initiative and start following your steps to obtain results. In this way a negative environment can be changed into a positive and proactive one.

  • Study his communication style

Take the time to study your boss’s preferred communication style. It could help to promote more effective communication within the workplace. If, for example, your boss prefers to communicate mainly through email, you should make a habit of first sending him an email before confronting him in person regarding a work-related matter. The better you understand how to communicate with your boss, the greater the chance that your relationship will improve.





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