Dr Mary Casey is a conflict resolution specialist and founder and CEO of the Casey Centre, a leading integrated health and education service
Maintaining a professional working relationship with your boss is important, so how do you address their behaviour without it souring? Every boss is different and so you need specific strategies to most effectively deal with them.
Instead of trying to change someone, the best course of action is to enact strategies that focus on dealing with their behaviour, rather than trying to change their personalities.
Does your boss want a meeting with you several times a week, be cc’d in every
email, and check your work on an hourly basis? While this behaviour can be annoying initially, eventually it can make you doubt your own abilities.
Micromanaging has nothing to do with your work quality – it’s about your boss. Develop a strategy to find a good balance between the micromanaging and your freedom. Suggest a dedicated meeting time and create a list of successful projects you’ve worked on to prove your work quality. Be honest – let your boss know you feel they’re monitoring your work too closely.
They come and go without telling you, don’t give staff an opportunity to contact them when they need them and never give performance feedback.
Observe if they use the same behaviour with all staff. If so, it is not something to take personally. Communicate through notes or emails, and set deadlines for responses – such as “please respond by Tuesday, and if I don’t hear from you I assume the proposed action is okay”. As these bosses are emotionally withdrawn, it may be hard to communicate with them, so ask open-ended questions.
The drama queen
This type of boss seeks drama in the workplace, or tends to worry or panic over every incident. It’s important not to give them the attention they crave. Remain calm and, if possible, ignore over-the-top behaviour.
Gossip mongerWhat do you do when your boss is the source of office gossip
and conversations eventually lead to discussing people? Work on constantly changing the subject from people to positive things. Let your boss know in the first few minutes of gossiping that you’re not interested. You can do this simply by refraining from commenting.
The slave driver
A master delegator, this type of boss ensures staff work well into the night, with no mention of time in lieu. When another employee leaves, you may also suddenly find yourself doing their job, too. Set the boundaries of what your hours are; work within these hours and within your scope. A good idea is to check with your boss that your job description is the same.
Does your manager shift the blame to you or other staff whenever results fail to come in or something goes wrong? Do they take credit for good results you have achieved on your own? This type of boss is not just insecure but a master manipulator.
The best way to deal with this situation is to put your concerns in writing. It’s important that you outline the issue and the outcome. You may write something like “I’d like to say exactly what occurred so that you know why I’m upset”. They will more often than not agree with you. They will also be careful of blaming you or taking due credit away.
If someone uses their physical presence to intimidate, shout at people around other staff, or is not open to hearing or taking on suggestions or ideas, then they’re a classic bully. Stand up to them and you may find they back down. Ask them not to yell or interrupt. When a situation gets heated, use their first name and ask them if they can outline exactly what the problem is.
The bottom line
In some instances, be prepared to leave if necessary. An employer’s habits won’t change overnight, but if after many attempts to improve fail, it may be best to move on. Weigh up whether the effects on your health, your emotional state and your personal life are worth staying in the job for.