Florida Keys Business
Sunday, April 14, 2013
Dealing with demanding people Part III: Handling a tough boss

Without a boss who respects you and treats you fairly, the best job in the world can turn into a nightmare. Most bosses have at least some control over our future. We are therefore seemingly stuck if we can't get along.

Whether bosses are controlling, absent, demanding or just plain difficult to understand, there is one rule you must follow: Give up trying to change them. Instead, focus on changing yourself so the situation becomes beneficial to you.

Let's start by examining your three options. You can align, confront or use Plan B.

1. Align. The idea of alignment isn't about emulating bosses or being a pet. Aligning yourself means two things: First you understand their personalities, strengths and weaknesses, and second, you try to give them what they need. If a part of you feels resistant to doing that, remember that giving your bosses what they need is part of your job. That doesn't mean you should stay at work until all hours of the night, or do anything else that is unhealthy for you. It means you should be able to predict behavioral patterns and adjust to their working styles to the extent possible.

If you want to align yourself with your boss, start by asking yourself some simple questions:

• What common characteristics or behaviors does this person seem to value in other employees?

• What kinds of behaviors or characteristics seem to upset this person the most?

• What are this person's strengths and when are they most visible?

• What are this person's biggest shortcomings, and how can I best handle them?

Once we understand these things, we must try daily, in small ways, to meet their needs. For example, bosses who micro-manage need a lot of detail and information. Bosses who are neat freaks may be more grateful for a clean work space than just about anything else.

2. Confront. Sometimes aligning isn't enough, and that's when we need to sit down and talk with our bosses about the dynamic. This can be tricky because it can make matters worse. Techniques for doing this are therefore different than confronting a co-worker, or someone in your personal life. The next few columns will go into greater depth on how to do this, but for now, remember a few key points:

• Script your speech and choose your words carefully.

• Don't complain. Offer or ask for solutions.

• Find the right time and place to have the conversation.

• Be prepared for every possible response.

• Be specific and use examples.

It's important to get clear on how you want to speak and to troubleshoot possible responses or questions your boss might have during the discussion.

3. Use Plan B. This is your option when all else fails. It consists of two choices: Live with it or get tough. Living with it means you find a way in your mind not to let your boss's behavior bother you. If that's impossible, you can go over your boss's head, change departments, or find another job.

The good news about difficult bosses is that you ultimately have many options. You don't have to stay stuck in a bad situation. The first thing to consider is which option is right for you. Then start putting it into action. If it doesn't work, remember there's always another path.

Elisa Levy conducts seminars on conflict resolution and anger management. For more information, contact her at 305-296-5437 or visit

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