Most employees will experience having a tough boss at one time or another, and a good number will start looking for work elsewhere when things become unbearable. Many will opt to stay, however, and those who do need to learn some strategies in dealing with a tough boss.
1. See your boss as a client.
Instead of thinking of your boss as a difficult superior, try thinking of him or her as a client who has to be served. This new perspective will help you focus on the product or service you need to provide and divert your attention from the negative interaction that underlines your work relationship.
2. Understand how your boss's mind works.
If you know how your boss’s mind works, it will be easier for you to create a productive work environment for yourself. Find out what your boss does and why, what he or she considers important, what he or she considers less important or even irrelevant, and what expectations he or she has for each project undertaken.
If you understand how your boss looks at work and how he or she evaluates it, you can begin to synchronize your working style with the way he or she wants things done.
3. Commit to doing your work well.
Take an objective look at your work and see how you can improve it. Factor in what you learn about your boss's expectations and revisit the objectives of each task assigned to you. Find out what standards need to be met. Assess your work load and prioritize so that you are able to meet deadlines.
4. Learn to communicate with the boss.
Learn to decipher what the boss is saying, even if this is expressed in a less than pleasant tone. Ask for clarification when you are not sure what the expected delivery is or how this is to be accomplished. Do this in an affirmative rather than contentious manner. For example, you can tell your boss that you really want to do an excellent job and for a clearer picture, you would appreciate more details or an example.
5. Learn to document your work days.
Keep a journal of tasks assigned to you and how you completed them. Take notes during meetings – this is especially helpful if your boss has the bad habit of changing his or her mind or forgetting previous agreements.
6. Be supportive.
If you can stick to the idea that your boss does want to get things done successfully, it will be easier for you to be a supportive member of the team. Be proactive. Be ready with information needed for meetings, and pitch in whenever you can – for as long as it does not mean neglecting your own assignment.
7. Stick to ethical behavior.
It is easy to be discouraged and to lose interest in your work when you have a tough boss, but this will not help you at all. Stick to doing your work according to the best standards, and resist any tendency to be belligerent, resentful, or indifferent as you accomplish tasks assigned to you. Most of all, do not indulge in whining and gossiping with your co-workers even if they probably have similar issues with your boss.
8. Take good care of yourself.
Taking care of yourself becomes especially important when you are working with a toxic boss. Rest, exercise, and set aside time for relaxation and recreation. Make sure you eat healthy food, and don’t fall for the false comfort of having an extra drink to make things bearable. Instead of the buzz that alcohol can bring, draw on positive thought patterns and what you hope to achieve for yourself in a couple of years or so.
Working for a tough boss is very stressful, but you need to look beyond that one not-so-pleasant individual and focus on improving yourself and your work. In the years ahead that boss will be no more than a memory but you will always have your work record and the skills you learned.