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.

Dealing with Emotions at Work

Dealing with emotions at work podcast

Are you sitting comfortably? Welcome to the second in 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 dealing with emotions at work.

The workplace can be a challenging environment at the best of times. There’s constant change, increasing workloads, and conflict to deal with, and that’s just for starters. During the course of a working day, we can experience a range of emotions, which is normal. But the way we deal with emotions determines how we perceive a situation and how much we’re affected by it. You’re always free to choose how to react.

This is why knowing how to manage and deal with emotions at work is an important skill to have, especially for managers. You can’t manage others well until you know how to manage their emotions at work, and your own.

So how do you become better at handling emotions?

Here’s some general advice;

Learn to accept emotions at work. Emotions can’t be prevented, but it’s okay to have emotions as long as they are dealt with properly. Emotions at work aren’t necessarily a weakness, they can be a strength.

Question your perceptions about a situation. Are you reacting to a situation in a certain way because you’ve already made a judgment about the person or people involved? Ask yourself whether there’s any evidence to suggest that your perceptions are correct.

Keep your emotions in check. You don’t need to avoid expressing emotions at work, but next time you experience a negative event, or you’re faced with a difficult situation, take a few deep breaths, and ask yourself what you can do to make things better, rather than just reacting. Can you see a situation from someone else’s point of view? Can you offer help? This is using emotion in a positive way by turning it into positive action.

Educate people on handling emotions. Putting on workshops or courses on how to deal with emotions is a proactive step you can take to reinforce the importance of understanding emotions and responding to them in a healthy and positive way.

Encourage engagement in the workplace. If staff are encouraged to contribute ideas and are fully engaged at work, they will be more comfortable sharing their emotions and will better understand what makes others tick.

So, they were some general tips for dealing with emotions at work. Now let’s look at the most common negative emotions that people tend to experience at work.

In 1997, Bond University in Australia conducted a study called “Emotions at Work: What Do People Feel, and How Should We Measure It?”

According to this research, there are some emotions that many people commonly experience at work. These are:

Frustration or irritation, worry or nervousness, anger or aggravation, dislike, and disappointment and unhappiness.

Let’s look at each of these in turn and think about strategies to deal with them.

Frustration or irritation often results from feeling stuck or trapped in some way. One example could be being kept on hold on the phone for a long time when you’re busy. Dealing with frustration quickly is important because it can turn into a more serious emotion like anger. How can you deal with frustration?

Well, you can stop and look at the situation. Is there anything positive you can do about it? For example, if you are being kept on hold on the phone, can you put it on speaker and carry on working while you wait?

You can also think about the situation differently and don’t take it personally. If it’s a person who’s annoying you, take heart from the fact that they probably aren’t doing it deliberately. Don’t get angry, just move on. Dwelling on feelings of frustration will only make you feel worse.

Then there’s worrying and feeling nervous at work, which will happen to everyone at one time or another. This can impact on your performance, productivity, and mental health if you allow it to get out of control. Deal with it by avoiding people who add fuel to anxieties, like talking about job cuts in the staff room for example. Try focusing on your breathing for a few moments when you feel overwhelmed which will trick your body into feeling more relaxed. You can also try writing your worries down in a notebook so they’re not going around and around in your mind.

Anger can be very destructive in the workplace and if it gets out of hand, you could find yourself in a situation where you’re in danger of losing your job. Learn to recognise the signs when you are becoming angry and remember you can choose how you react. If you feel anger building, just stop, and take a deep breath. Imagine how you appear to others when you’re angry; would you want to work with someone like that?

Hands up who has disliked someone they work with. I bet almost every one of you has been in that situation. Unfortunately, we can’t choose our colleagues, but we can choose to remain professional. Be respectful of the person you don’t like, and if they behave unprofessionally, it doesn’t mean you have to follow suit. Be courteous, but also be firm if the other person is rude towards you. Explain that you aren’t going to be treated that way and remove yourself from the situation. Take the high ground.

Lastly, if you are disappointed or unhappy, it can affect your performance at work, probably more than any other factor. If you feel disappointed because you missed out on a promotion for example, just remind yourself that things won’t always go your way in work, or in life. There’s more than one way to achieve what you want, and sometimes a perceived setback is a blessing in disguise.

If you’re unhappy at work, identifying what is making you unhappy can be the first step to solving the problem. You always have the power to change your situation.


Understanding and managing your emotions and those of others, is the first step to improving your emotional intelligence. Better emotional intelligence makes for a healthier, happier, and more productive workplace.

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 dealing with a difficult manager.

This is The People Mentor, signing off.