Dealing with Difficult Managers

Are you sitting comfortably? Welcome to my series of podcasts that will help you to navigate those inevitable difficult events at work that are part of being a manager.
Today I want to talk about how to deal with a difficult manager.
Having a difficult manager can really affect how you feel about your job overall, and you may even consider looking for another job. Never underestimate the negative effect that having a difficult manager can have on your mental and physical wellbeing; you can go from loving what you do to feeling sick to your stomach about going into work every day very quickly if issues aren’t addressed.
Research from Denmark has suggested that many people leave jobs not because of stress or being overworked, they leave them because of bad or difficult managers. The study of 4500 public sector workers found that workplace depression was more likely to be related to having a bad manager than being overworked.
But before you take any drastic action and leave a role you enjoy, ask yourself if there are ways that you can better deal with the manager you have.
All managers, good and bad, can teach you things about leadership, even if it’s what not to do when you’re managing people.
What makes a manager difficult?
These are just some of the traits a difficult manager might have; you might just recognise a few of them!
They have a ‘do as I say but not as I do’ attitude
They never want to get their hands dirty and delegate tasks they really should be doing
They insist on being in control of every detail, so much so that they get in the way
They never accept responsibility and blame others when things go wrong
They don’t listen to others
They tend to be generally unkind and unapproachable
Many of you probably just conjured up a mental image of a manager you’ve encountered, though fortunately, not many managers have all of these traits!
So how exactly can you deal with a difficult manager?
You can try to understand what they do and why- What do they care about? What does success mean to them? If you know what motivates your manager, you can better understand their values and priorities, which leaves less room for misunderstanding and more room for cooperation and collaboration.
The next thing is try to help your boss succeed- If all you do is point out the shortcomings of an incompetent manager, you risk making yourself feel worse about your job and it’s not going to be great for your reputation. Instead, help them out by supporting them. If your manager is disorganised, find a way to help them keep things in order, or if they tend to take an age to reply to your emails, work on tasks that you can do while you wait for a reply.
Helping someone do better can lead to more success for you; it doesn’t go unnoticed.
If being successful in your job is what you want, try not to let the fact that you have a difficult manager make you lose interest in your work or slack off. Stay focused on doing well. If you want to complain about a manager, complain to friends and family; don’t do it in the workplace. Stay positive and fully engaged in your work, even if the people around the water cooler try to draw you into conversations about how bad things are. Be professional.
It’s important to be calm and professional when dealing with a difficult manager, even if they’re shouting or resorting to being petty. You’ll learn important lessons and you never know who’s watching.
It takes far more courage to address the fact that you have issues with a manager than it does to just complain to co-workers. Speaking to the manager may not be easy, but it opens up a channel of communication, gives you the chance to voice your concerns, and offers the possibility of finding a solution. Don’t make assumptions about how they are going to take what you have to say and be respectful, and you might even be able to achieve a better level of mutual understanding.
And to achieve a better level of understanding, you can go even further and try to match your manager’s communication style. Do they prefer to communicate via email or in person? Do they like to make decisions quickly or do they prefer to take their time? Matching their communication style will improve your chances of getting heard and understood.
But if you feel that you become unable to deal with a manager, despite trying to take the high road, don’t complain to anyone who will listen. Speaking ill of others, especially those you work with doesn’t portray you in a very good light. Instead, put in a formal complaint with HR and always follow procedure. Remember to document everything that happens if you want to make a complaint. If you bring up a lot of issues but don’t have evidence to back them up it can make things more difficult for you.
You can always talk to other managers too. Bringing in an outside perspective is helpful, and it can even help to reign the offending manager in.
If after all, you decide you can no longer work with your manager and you’re looking for another role, it’s a good idea to research the culture, management, and working practices of a potential new employer before you apply for the job. Does the company seem like they have good values, and do the managers inspire people or inspire fear? It’s worth knowing just incase you end up in the same situation, or an even worse one, in your new job.
I hope that you got some good tips from today’s podcast, and I’ll see you next time for the next one in the series which looks at how to coach.
This is The People Mentor, signing off.

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