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5 ways to ‘manage up’ difficult bosses

5 ways to ‘manage up’ difficult bosses

Plenty of us will have a difficult boss during our careers. Here’s our survival guide for managing your manager.

There comes a time in every professional’s career when they notice that their manager is making life harder rather than easier.

Most of us will encounter a bad boss at some point – and it can be very difficult to stand up for yourself, especially if you’re in the first few years of your career.

1. Stay calm

Whether your manager tries to undermine you to colleagues and clients, micromanages your every move or shouts every time they’re unhappy; panicking and getting angry are the two worst things you can possibly do. They will make you harder to work with and affect the quality of your work, which will just make the problem worse.

Develop some strategies for staying calm. Listen to music, take a walk or a long bathroom break, keep something with you like a lucky charm or a photo that will cheer you up. Then you’ll be in a much better place to handle your boss.

2. Find out what makes them tick

When they’re making life so difficult it can be hard to care about your manager’s intentions. But they’re people with interests and motivations, and are often under a lot of pressure themselves. It may be that their approach reflects these challenges.

Invest some time in trying to get to know your boss. Try and start the occasional chat about the weekend, holidays, families – anything that might shed light on who they are.

3. Praise success

Dealing with more senior colleagues is sometimes known as “managing up”. Try to treat them in the way that you would want a manager to treat you.

Make a point of praising their successes and thank them when they help you out. At the same time, when things aren’t going so well, ask them politely for whatever you need and be prepared to justify your request.

4. Speak your mind

Your manager may seem unapproachable. You might even be nervous about asking them if you can have a private chat, but if your job is being made unbearable because of your manager’s behaviour don’t suffer in silence. They might be unaware of any problem.

Don’t present yourself in a hostile manner. Explain some instances of their behaviour that concerns you and your colleagues, and explain how this makes you feel. Then, simply ask what pressures they face and if you can help. It’s guaranteed to work better than an angry resignation letter.

5. Don’t turn into them

Use the experience as a learning curve. When you’re working in a tough environment, it’s easy to take that on board and become a harder person to work with. One day, you might be a manager yourself, and it’s important to make sure you don’t pick up any of your current boss’s bad habits.


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