How to Deal With a Difficult Boss
Do you ever feel like your boss is holding you back in your career?
One of my readers asked:
“I'm a mid-level manager in a Fortune 500 company and, after spending 15 years in the company, I'm finding myself alone on my journey. The leaders I trusted are no longer in the company, and my immediate leader is subjecting me to a lot of toxicity and gas lighting.
He is tarnishing my reputation step by step, and I am feeling like a victim. I was due for a promotion, but he has turned the entire leadership against me. I want to stay in the company, but he has made this impossible. What should I do?”
This would be a challenging situation for anyone so, first off, I want to say well done for remaining strong and sticking with it.
As for what you can do, here are three steps you can take when dealing with a difficult boss.
1. Analyze the situation
Before making any big moves, it’s important to step back and take stock. When you’re in the thick of the emotions of a situation, it’s hard to be objective.
That’s why I like to talk to someone I trust who can help think things through. Someone who has some distance and can provide a third-party perspective.
If you conclude that it’s truly impossible to stay – let’s say your reputation has been tarnished beyond repair, you feel like a victim and it’s harming your well-being – then give yourself permission to take the lessons and move on.
For the person who asked the question, they’ve enjoyed their career in their company but things have changed. When that happens, it could well be time to cut your losses and move on to move forward. As they say, the only sure way to fire your boss is to leave.
Which brings us to the second step.
2. Take care of yourself
A key to handling these situations well is engaging in self-care. When you feel alone, isolated or like a victim, it’s important to reach out to your community of support and take care of yourself physically, mentally and spiritually.
This is the time to give yourself some grace. A lot of grace.
When you feel unsupported and even undermined at work, it takes a toll emotionally which affects your energy, motivation and performance. It’s important to balance that out with a healthy dose of kindness and caring wherever you can.
Spend time with people who are supportive, take time out to do things that bring you joy and be gentle with yourself.
How do you show yourself compassion? What will you do to give yourself some self-care? Who in your community of support will you reach out to?
And when things are going well for you, remember to look out for others in your trusted community who may need your support.
This brings us to the third step.
3. Remember you have options
You always have options, even when times seem dark. One of the most important things you can learn for your career is how to create options for yourself, and this may be the perfect opportunity.
When you have options, you can make choices. And that's when things become really positive in your career and life. When you come from a mindset of abundance rather than scarcity, you project positive energy that attracts opportunities. In essence, you create a virtuous cycle that lifts your career (and your spirits) higher.
One of the best ways to start creating options is to build out your network and re-energize and re-engage with your contacts. Reconnect with people you know.
For example, you can reach out to one of the former leaders you trusted who left the company. Find out what they're doing now and see if you can reconnect with them. Who knows, they may know of something you’d be the perfect fit for or be able to introduce you to some new contacts. Either way, it’s important to focus on reconnecting rather than reaching out to ask for a job.
You can also reach out to friends of friends or former mentors, whether they’re internal or external. After reconnecting with people and rebuilding those relationships, you’ll start feeling less isolated and alone. And that will make it easier to expand your network to bring in new relationships.
If you ultimately decide to leave, remember that people hire people and it’s all about the relationships.
It’s time to take action
When you’re truly stressed, frustrated and unhappy with your job because of a difficult boss and toxic work environment, you’ll feel stronger by taking action.
As you act, remember to begin with these three steps:
- Analyze the situation – step back and take stock
- Take care of yourself – do what you need to do to maintain a sense of well-being
- Remember you have options – you always have options and that means you can make choices
Especially when you start to feel like a victim and like you’re suffering, it’s time to take action to further your career.
Have a question about your career? Ask me here.