As professional recruiters, we are consistently amazed at the ability of front line managers and senior executives to chase away otherwise very productive and high potential “direct reports”. In the list of reasons for job changes, having a difficult boss ranks as the second highest reason given for desiring a new job change. However, what about those “caught in the middle”? You know who you are; those that simply cannot afford to either outright quit or simply do not have enough time to job hunt given their schedule.
Here are three strategies for those who have a difficult relationship with their boss and quitting is simply not a viable option:
1. Be proactive outward, not reactive inward. Stop thinking, even for a moment, that you can control the actions or reactions of your boss. Instead, focus on creating an environment where you actions are proactive towards the overall goals of the organization and are in synergy with the goals of your boss. Nothing makes a boss look better to his superiors, than a proactive employee that goes above and beyond the call when it comes to accomplishing tasks. This can be a very fine line, but if you remain focused and non-reactive to your boss’s mood swings, it can be done successfully. Do not take any reaction inward; do not internalize or personalize the moods or unfair criticism from your boss as a reflection on who you are as a person.
2. Focus on tasks at hand and joint accomplishments. Work with your boss to create project plans or strict guidelines in terms of your duties and responsibilities. One way to do this is to have a formalized job description written out and agreed upon between you and your boss. The less “grey area” the better should be your motto when dealing with a difficult boss. Once you have established areas of responsibilities, be certain to include the boss with progress updates and the opportunity to share credit for your successes when it is appropriate. This way, you work to diffuse the situation and make the boss an ally instead of an adversary.
3. Remain positive but look to network. Finally, if all else fails, remember to stay positive and network to secure a better opportunity. Chances are, if you do have a difficult boss inside an organization, you are not the only one that has had to suffer. There are, even in these difficult economic times, opportunities out there. Be certain to proactively network throughout your current company but also try to reach out inside your current industry to build relationships with peer groups and other senior managers. Employee turnover is part of every business and industry. There will be chances for you to move onward and upward if you remain positive and network properly.
Surviving a difficult relationship with your boss can be very difficult and emotionally taxing. Remain focused on your overall career goals and use the strategies listed above to get you through the transition to a better future.
William Werksman is a professional recruiter and frequent columnist to job boards focusing on pertinent recruiting and human resources issues from both the candidate’s and employer’s perspective. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.