How to Deal With a Boss You Don't Like

January 18, 2017

Work can be no fun when you have a bad boss. But these tips ensure you still advance your career.

It’s happened to all of us – you have a boss you don’t like. Maybe it’s their personality, their skillset (or lack thereof) or that they have a different philosophy than you, but either way you just can’t seem to connect.

And yet, you still have to deal with that boss every day while trying to do your best to advance your career, which they have a great deal of influence over. How do you keep your relationship with them professional, while not allowing that bad relationship from holding you back from reaching your goals?

In his LinkedIn Learning course Building Business Relationships, Executive Advisor Simon Bailey touched on this exact issue. Specifically, he gave seven rules to follow whenever you are dealing with a boss you don't particularly get along with.

1. Don’t judge your boss as a person.

Let’s be real, we’ve all done this with bosses we don’t like. They do something we don’t agree with and we jump to conclusions about their personality, values and family life.

Bailey has simple advice here – stop it. It isn’t personal, it’s business. Rather than make assumptions about who they are as a person, focus on the task at hand and find the best solution for the problem.

2. Follow the three-second rule when responding to something you don’t agree with.

Your boss says something you really, really don’t agree with. Your instinct is to snap back with a divisive or argumentative comment.

What is that going to accomplish? Nothing. Not only is that sort of talk not going to change their mind, it's also disrespectful and hurts your relationship with your boss.

Instead, Bailey suggests pausing three seconds before responding to a comment from your boss you don’t agree with. Those three seconds will remove a lot of the emotion in your response and give you a bit of time to see where they’re coming from.

3. Sleep on that email before sending it.

Have you ever sent a nasty email to your boss – or anyone, really – and an hour later regretted it? You aren’t alone, and even worse than making a snappy comment, there’s clear documentation of your response.

Next time you have the urge to write an angry email or an email that disagrees with what your boss is telling you, sleep on it, Bailey said. That’s not to say you should never stand up to your boss if you disagree with their course of action, but giving yourself some time to think about it will make your response less emotional and more effective.

Or, you might realize it’s not worth sending at all.

4. Plan ahead before meeting with your boss.

Whenever you have a meeting with your boss, come prepared, Bailey said. Know your numbers. Have a clear recommendation. Know the questions you’d like to see answered.

The more prepared you are for these meetings, the less friction that’ll come from them, as there’s nothing more frustrating to a boss than someone who didn’t do their homework. By avoiding that friction, you’ll build a stronger relationship with your boss and gain their trust.

5. Exceed expectations.

You don’t like your boss so you are going to do the bare minimum to get by, right?

Wrong, Bailey said.

Go the extra mile. Bring them a coffee as a surprise. Do your best work.

If you aren’t trying your best, your relationship with your boss is only going to deteriorate further. But, if you are, your boss will see that and respect you for it. Even if they might not see eye-to-eye with you on everything, your relationship will improve if they see you putting in the work. 

6. Focus on the company, not your boss.

Maybe you don’t like your boss. But you joined the company not for that boss, but because you believed in the organization itself.

So focus on that, Bailey said. Or focus on the impact your work is having. Yes, you might be working for your boss, but the work you are doing transcends that.

7. Thank them for being your leader.

There’s a great speech by Mother Teresa called “anyway”. The gist of it is that you’ll face bad times, bad people and bad situations, but you should be good, happy and hardworking anyway.

It’s a great message and it applies to this situation. You might not like your boss and they might not like you. But, you know what, you should thank them anyway, Bailey said.

Why? Because managing is hard and it’s inevitable you’ll have a few bosses you don’t like. Respect them always and thank them, as life will be far better that way.

The takeaway

It’s not as if these seven steps will magically fix the problem of a boss you don’t like. You might still vehemently disagree with them or have a major issue with their management philosophy, and you’ll still have to deal with that.

What these seven tips do is ensure that dislike doesn’t begin to hurt your career. Yes, you might not like your boss. But by being snappy and doing the bare minimum, you are allowing your dislike for them hurt you.

Instead, follow the seven steps listed. Not only will they help your career, they’ll also go a long way to improving the relationship you have with your boss.

*Image from Flickr

Click here to watch Bailey’s full course, Building Business Relationships.