6 Tips on handling a difficult boss at work

1.Be clear on your on-job goals and objectives

My friend John is a very hard-working front desk officer (administrative assistant). John arrives early for work and leaves late most of the working days. He is the perfect worker you could imagine having for an employee. Despite the hard-working nature of John, the boss  see nothing but a monster in him. This is due to lack of focus in the way John executes his tasks.

Some types of bosses will always want to catch you doing something wrong. It will be a little difficult for you when caught outside the boundaries of your on-job goals and objectives under such a boss. For this type of a boss, it makes explaining and defending your actions almost impossible, in addition to lacking the right energy to explain whatever the circumstances are. This is where a crook for a boss will tear you up for his or her own delight. Always be clear on your tasks and the possible outcomes before you embark on them.

Try to make any job undertakings formal if you are dealing with a catch-you-in-the-wrong type of boss. If your office has got a corporate mailing system, initiate a mail before embarking on a questionable but important task. This can be a consultation or seeking approval from your boss. From that point on, be sure not to break the mail conversations with your boss until your objectives for the task at hand have been realized. After the initial mail, maintain a thread for the same conversation. Use the 'reply' button instead of hitting the 'new mail' button when contacting your boss on the same task. Try also as much as possible not to change the subject until the job is accomplished. Always be on your guard about your goals and objectives, and trust me, you will avoid a lot of troubles with your boss.

2.Take time to understand your boss very well.
It is public knowledge that it takes more than one person to tango. The most difficult thing in the whole tangling business is to understand the other party or parties. Why not investing some time in getting to know your boss to some degree? His wants and don’t wants, his moods, when he is happy and when not, what is more likely to piss him off and so on. Many people often want to be understood and will go on to even complain or accuse others for being insensitive, careless or selfish when it comes to other people’s issues. The list will include even the bosses and superiors. But have you taken time to understand the other party? 

Think of a very talkative person in a conversation who never keeps quiet to listen to what others have to say. Apparently, the same person will complain that he is not being understood. May be the people you are talking to are trying to throw in a question or correction but you won’t let them.

 It might pay you dividends in peace and happiness at work if you take time to understand your boss. If your boss is not a humorous person, then you are possibly annoying him more by throwing in a good joke. To him it’s probably a bad one. With such a character, you might want to act as serious as a surgeon in an operation theater every time you are around your boss.

3.Take time to fully understand the office rules, regulations and the company or organization’s policies.

Endeavor to observe and respect the rules, regulations and policies of your workplace. At my organization – an International non-Governmental Humanitarian Organization, observing and respecting rules, regulations and policies is far much important than executing the tasks at hand. One such policy is about the safety and security of the workers. We call it the safety operating procedure rule. It mainly concerns the movements of personnel in the fields of operations. My friend – a community officer, in his hardworking nature has a bad habit of coming back to office past 7pm yet the safety procedure dictates 6:30pm at the latest. After a few verbal and written warning letters to him, he had to be dismissed from work albeit being very hard working. Many other people have lost their jobs in a similar manner just by not observing the simple rules and regulations of their workplaces.

For a dress code which stipulates not above the knee apparel, it is uncalled for to show up like a night bar strip dancer on a busy Monday morning. It is provoking your already difficult boss. Do not let the dogs out if you don’t want them to bark at any one – including yourself.

4.Do what is necessary rather than what is right sometimes.

You may want to sometimes please the boss rather than yourself. As long you do not go to the extremities. You don't have to injure yourself or compromise your job. In such instances, doing what is necessary takes precedence to doing what is right. Sometimes, making the boss happy one or two times might lead to your happiness at work.

Say the right time to leave office is 5pm after completing your solid eight working hours for the day. And that you are not supposed to be paid overtime according to the company’s’ policies and your position –I, myself does not qualify for overtime at my organization. But your autocratic boss is a workaholic who has never thought that leaving the office at 5pm is something next to normal. He is the type which gives a mean look every time you leave your desk at 5pm. He even deliberately refuses to reply your, “good night sir” wishes pretending to be super busy.

With this type of boss, you might want to chip-in an hour or couple of minutes after 5pm for his happiness’s sake. It is definitely not something you are comfortable with due to the fact that you have kids to tend to, but you will do it just to soften your boss a little – a necessary thing to do. In such circumstances, make sure your stay is put to good use. Put some objective measures to confirm to your boss that actually your stay overtime is for the company’s benefit not Facebook or Twitter.

Try your level best to quantify your work during such hours and let it go on record. With such throw-ins ounce in a while, don’t be surprised when your boss starts initiating the, “good night dear” wishes when you are leaving at 4:55pm.

5.Avoid the boss’s path where possible.

If your work schedule does not dictate interacting with your boss regularly, it might be wise to avoid his or her path where possible. It should not be misinterpreted into fear or disrespect though. You shouldn’t let your colleagues notice your new found behaviors lest it will cause more problems than solutions.

My first corporate job got me working for a major service provider in my country. This is a government parastatal providing the only service of its kind in the country on a large scale. The managing director was a learned, celebrated but very difficult individual. On one of his visitations at our branch office, the managing director did not like the cleanliness levels at the office. The administrative officer was put to task to explain the situation. The Engineer sought it imperative to help. The MD, not amused by the explanations by his fellow colleague and 'learned,' just bent and touched the floor then smeared all the dirt on to the smart-in-tie Engineer’s shirt. The MD then asked him, “what is that on your shirt if you say the place is clean?” The Engineer just walked away. If only he had stayed out of the MD’s path and let the administrative officer carry her cross.

If the top most boss is the one who is difficult and you report to another mid-level manager, then you can take a full year without crossing the top boss’s path if you calculate your moves properly.

Avoiding problems might be as good as solving them, but in my opinion, the former beats the latter.

6.Never use the, “an eye” for “an eye” principle

In many instances, responding in exactly or similar manner to your boss’s treatment might seem like the best thing to do at the time. Please resist the temptation. Under any circumstance, never shout back, retaliate or try to revenge for anything you take to be unfair to your boss.

Are you working with a boss who always avoids risk? Avoid putting yourself in situations where you do not bear any risk at all for your own career development and recognition by other would-be interested parties. Remember it’s too risky not to risk.

Is your boss this kind of a person, who always put-off your new ideas however sure you are that they will work after extensive research and thought about them? Do not loose heart and start doing the same to your boss’s ideas. Unless your boss’s idea cannot work under normal circumstances, please try to accommodate it as long as your position as a worker is not compromised by the end result.

Where the idea can’t work, take all the necessary precautions before explaining to your boss why it can’t work. Instead of slapping-it to his face that it can’t work, you might consider promising him/her to think about it and giving it a try. Then start from the end with your explanation as to why it can’t work. Bring in the possible results or no results if the idea is put to test. Talk about the time, resources and costs involved plus the possible implications the company might face at the end of the day. Be sure to point out some positives of his idea as you close your explanations. This will make him feel better about his idea. Where the negatives outnumber the positives, trust me, he will promise you to think about it and the next thing you will hear, “we shall try it later if the budget reviews support it.”

For an absent boss, never respond by absenting yourself too to cover up the times you have been sitting in for him. These types include the locked-in-office bosses, too plain busy bosses and the never-talk-to-juniors type unless in a monthly meeting. Resist becoming another type of a crone for your boss, but this time an employee.