As much as we want to get along with everyone we work with, the working relationship that has the biggest impact on your overall wellbeing is the one you have with your boss.
Many people complain to me about their bosses for a wide range of reasons. The complaints come in different forms:
I am so demotivated
I can’t stand this any more!
He lacks awareness and insight
She takes credit for my work
He blames me for mistakes he makes
I’m about to leave and she gives me a 3 hour job for her 9am meeting
He’s disorganised and incompetent
Never any acknowledgement for what I do
Just a total bully!
Sometimes it’s justified, sometimes it’s a situation that has spiralled out of control and other times it is the fault of the person doing the complaining. The important first step of dealing with this problem is to realise that the cause may not be solely due to the behaviour of your boss. If you find yourself in the unfortunate situation of hating your boss then there are few things you need to do.
1. Understand the power dynamic
It is the manager’s role to align the team towards certain goals. That means influencing your behaviour in a way that gets the required results. We all work in the best way that we know how, so there can be a lot of sensitivity that arises when others try to influence our behaviour. Often it is the little things, like preferred methods of file delivery, which irk the team member. From the manager’s point of view, they’re just trying to get everyone working in a unified manner, to the employee it seems like someone is trying to get on their case.
Some people simply don’t enjoy being part of a power dynamic, so if a boss is any more than a quiet onlooker they can get agitated and frustrated. Make sure this isn’t the case before you start laying too much blame on your manager.
2. See how others interact with your boss
The intense employee/manager relationships can often cause people to lose perspective. The reliance on a manager for feedback, direction and decision-making cause it to be a very highly charged relationship. Look around to see how others interact with your boss. Does everyone hate him/her, or is it unique to the relationship between the two of you?
The perspective gained from looking at how your boss interacts with other people can give a lot of insight into the friction you’re experiencing. A boss may want you to be more authoritative and to make more decisions than you do – conversely they may want you to stop doing so much without first getting approval. These small annoyances can erupt into big falling outs, so it’s worth getting an understanding of why the relationship is in trouble.
3. Talk about your working style
So often the reason that someone hates their boss is because the tension in the relationship causes one or both parties to snap at each other. It starts with mild irritation, of which everyone tries to ignore, which eventually bubbles over in times of high stress. You have to constantly communicate with your boss about what works best for you.
Some like working side by side, others like to be given a long list to work through at their own pace, but if both are wanting different things and neither is articulating then both will become gradually more frustrated with the other. If both are clear of what is preferred then the manager will probably be okay with a different working style as long as the results are being achieved. If deadlines are being missed or details being overlooked then the manager will obviously pressure you back to his preferred style of work, which you need to accept if the work isn’t being done properly.
Discuss your work and, instead of assuming, ask questions and open the dialogue.
4. Give your boss some feedback
As much as we want our bosses to be perfect leaders that give us everything we need without also giving us any kind of grief or stress, we have to remember that they are fundamentally human. They may be accidentally driving you crazy, doing things mindlessly that they don’t even realise have an adverse effect. Of course this can be daunting – and if your boss isn’t very receptive to feedback and criticism then this may worsen the situation, but you are least giving the relationship a chance to improve. Simmering over existing frustration and stresses without airing them is only going to result in increased frustration.
Don’t let an issue go on and on. Talk about it. Explain why it’s a problem, and be specific, and ask for how things can be changed for the future so you both work best. Ask for feedback at the same time, and ask the manager for help to reach your career goals. Learn to rise above annoyances, as they can set you back into a sick stuck place. And if things are really bad – go and talk to HR or your manager’s manager. And consider finding a mentor to enable you to continue to grow and develop if you feel so blocked by your boss.
5. If all else fails, find a new boss!
Not every working relationship can be productive. Sometimes personalities are just too different and volatile to ever work out. If you think that the hate you have for your boss is limiting your productivity, creativity or career progression then it is time to find a new boss. So often I see people grind themselves down for years in unsatisfactory working conditions rather than recognising that things have already gone too far and need to be addressed.
A boss/employee relationship is like any other. Clear boundaries, strong communication of expectations and a solid foundation of trust lead to a great experience. When these things break down then so too does the relationship, and it’s at this point the decision needs to be made: do I address this situation, or leave it?
Eve Ash has a wide range of resources and books that can help people change their thinking and habits in a constructive way.