How to Deal with a Difficult Boss!

My first few years after college, I worked in the film industry in Los Angeles, and so I have definitely had my fair share of dealing with demanding, micro-managing, or even downright mean bosses.

And the most important lesson I’ve learned over the years is that you can never change another person, you can only change how you RESPOND to them.

Complaining or venting about your “pain in the ass” boss does nothing except keep you feeling frustrated and stuck.  The simple thing, not easy by any means, but the simple thing to do is to accept the reality of who your boss is and choose to change how you react to them.

How do you actually go about doing this so you can enjoy your work life more? Here are the most effective strategies that I’ve learned along the way:

  • Practice gratitude more intentionally.

Make a list of everything you are grateful for in your job and read it every morning before you start your workday.  This helps to shift your focus off of what you don’t want and onto what you do want. Be intentional about focusing on what you like and appreciate about your job – we tend to receive more of what we focus on.

  • Ask your boss to clarify his or her expectations of you.

If you feel that you are never pleasing your boss, ask them what it would look like, in detail, for you to meet all of  his or her expectations. Then, if you can live with his or her expectations of you, work hard to meet them!  If you need help, ask for it.

  • Get to know your boss better.

I’ve found that more often than not, bosses can be demanding and dis-empowering because it makes them feel important. When people want to get to know them or when they have the opportunity to teach others what they know, this also makes them feel important. Ask your boss questions about their experiences, show a real interest in learning from them. Distinguish yourself as someone who really wants to learn and improve and grow. This can help establish trust with your boss and earn more of their respect.

  • When your boss sets you off, repeat this mantra in your head – “I am frustrating myself by expecting him/her to be different than how I know he/she is.”

When we recognize and verbalize that we always have the power to choose our response to our boss, it empowers us. Our bosses cannot make us angry, upset, or feeling powerless unless we let them. Staying in your job is a choice. You might be thinking, “I can’t leave, I need the money” and of course, needing the money may be true. But is it not still a choice that you would rather have the money than leave your job?

  • Change your response.

Avoid complaining, blaming or excuse-making at all costs and, instead choose a different response. Take a new action, make a request or a demand, say no, and if none of those work, change your attitude. Start small. Commit to going on a one-week complaining fast and see if you feel differently after. Embrace the feedback or instruction you got from your boss and accept it for what it is. Do what they ask of you without complaining and see how it feels.

  • Decide what your core values are in your work life and set boundaries.

Only you can know what is worth it to you and what isn’t. For instance, let’s say your boss actually curses at you when you make a mistake. You may decide that that is worth it to you to have this job and provide for your family. If it’s worth it to you, then you are only making yourself feel worse by complaining about it. So the next time your boss curses, repeat the mantra from step four and remind yourself how grateful you are for your job. However, if one of your values is that you will not be cursed at or demeaned, no matter what the job is, then you have two choices: 1. Make a request or demand – tell your boss that you will NOT accept that kind of behavior or 2. Find a new job that matches your values.

You can’t change the people around you, but you can change who the people are around you. Remembering that we always have choices in life is where we find real empowerment.

Don’t forget that your boss can never make you feel anything, because you can always choose your attitude.

But if your boss is getting in the way of where you really want to be, I would encourage you to consider – what new actions can you take to change who your boss is? How can you take control of your career?

I believe everyone is capable of creating the career they really want, so if you need help figuring this out, I would love for you to reach out to me! It would be my honor to help you get to where you want to be.

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