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3 tips on how to deal with a difficult manager

After last week’s post on how federal managers can best deal with difficult employees, you probably have some ideas on what to do if you find yourself in that situation. But what can you do if the roles are reversed and you are the one working for an impossible manager? Whatever you do, refrain from becoming cynical, says Stewart Liff, a human resources management expert.

“Whatever happens in government or life, never let them make you cynical,” he said. “Once you’ve become cynical, you lose your credibility, your zest, your enthusiasm for why you came to work, and it will affect every part of your life.”

Here, Liff sums up three good steps to take when faced with a problem supervisor. 

1. Check yourself. Take an introspective look and explore whether the problem lies within yourself, Liff said. “Ask yourself, 'what have I done wrong, why does this supervisor feel that I don’t have a good relationship with him? My attitude – am I doing something wrong and is there anything I can do better?'” he said. “The key here is to control your attitude because if you get cynical, it’s only going to get worse.”

Managers have different management styles and sometimes the employee has to make an adjustment in his or her attitude to match that, Liff added. “There’s not much in government and life you can control,” he said. “But one thing you can control is your attitude. If you’re going to walk around complaining, complaining, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. That’s why controlling your attitude is crucial.”

2. Manage your boss. Getting a better feel for who your boss is and what makes him or her tick is key in building a better relationship, Liff said. “Bosses are under a lot of stress and a lot of pressure and they lash out because they feel they’re not getting support from their employees,” he said. Getting to understand your supervisor and making yourself valuable is an excellent way of changing the dynamics and the relationship between the two of you, Liff said.

“In a sense, you want to be a collaborator,” he added. “The more you collaborate with your supervisor, the more you’re showing your supervisor creativity, the more they’ll see that you’re valuable. And the more they see you as valuable, the better the relationship is going to be.”

3. Quit your job. Sometimes it comes to just that: You need to leave. “You don’t always have to sit and take it,” Liff said. “If you have been in a bad situation for a number of years and you’ve tried the techniques I talked about, maybe it’s time to look for another job. There are 2 million jobs within the federal government you can take. If you look in the mirror and look at yourself, you can make adjustments. You can also weigh your options carefully -- talk to your mentors and people you trust to get a balanced perspective. And from there, you plot your strategy.”



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Reader comments

Tue, Nov 15, 2011

I would love to quit my job and work in another area, but I am getting close to retirement. It has been impossibel to get another job unless you are in a special privilaged class (politically correct (PC). I pray for death as I travel to work. My family would be finacally well off with insurance if I got killed in a car accident! Vice President Biden's televised profanity slip saturates the work environment all day every day. What's worse is upper management is aware and support the verbal abuse of empoyees, their relatives, political, community and religous leaders.

Thu, Nov 10, 2011

Option # 3, Why quit? If the Agency is aware of a difficult or hostile boss, why not have the Agency remove him/her. How can the employee remove the difficult/hostile boss? Agencies are quick to remove employees and/or transfer out employees, but the standard does not apply to a boss. Keep this difficult/hostile boss in the ranks does not help anything or anyone.

Wed, Nov 9, 2011 I Agree!

I agree with last one out. Unfortunately, there are those who just do not want to deal with you, and you are treated with contempt and at best, ignored. I tried to do everything she wished, she didn't want to hear any viewpoints or questions, just "my word is law, good or not". Management wants it to go away. They'll never deal with a poor performer that they have put in this type of power position - that would call their judgement into question. We're in the era of look away and preserve yourself - I think the new Penn State scandal is a sad statement of this.

Wed, Nov 9, 2011 Interested Party

Judging from the responses, nothing will make some workers happy. I have experienced the best and the worst of supervisors. In many cases, however, I find that your relationship with your boss is governed by your willingness to truely support his/her goals. If you are mis-aligned, neither of you will be happy. It may be helpful to understand that when you are not happy, you can be reasonably certain that your boss isn't happy with you either. Many times it is really better to just move on until you reach a place where you fit in. That strategy has worked for me.

Wed, Nov 9, 2011

We currently have bosses that suffer from a variety of psychosis. Problem is, all the employees see it, but none of the Mgt. sees it because they all suffer from he same mental instability. Now where do you think the term going postal came from and why?

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