“I really dislike my new boss!” Mena told me in her office the other day. So, what should you do if you really don’t get on with your immediate manager?

One option might be to ask for a transfer to another department, but that is not always possible and, in any event, you could lose out on seniority and slow down your career progression.

There is no question that in a situation in which you experience a personality clash with your boss, it is recommended that you try every possible strategy to resolve the situation. Always remember that changing jobs can take you to another company in which there may be problems with your new boss. Then what?

What can you do about it? Well, let’s think first about whether your boss is a “difficult person” or a “difficult manager”.

If it is that the person is a bad manager, then the chances are that they don’t offer essential leadership in giving direction or in establishing priorities. You feel the path to being successful in your job is being impeded. If this is the case, then you may have to compensate for these perceived issues through carefully modified planning and a revised structural work process.

However, if he or she is just a difficult personality and there is a character trait that you really don’t like, then you’ll have to examine your feelings to see if you can modify your mindset and emotional reactions.

Here are some questions that could help:

  • Does your boss get on with others in your team?
  • Could you be contributing to the mutually poor relationship?
  • Are you being hyper-sensitive because you perceive him or her as a barrier to your chosen career path?
  • Are you letting emotional responses get the better of you?
  • Is the animosity mutual or unilateral? If so, which side?

A productive discussion with a colleague or with HR may enable you to work on strategies to keep your mind on your work and not on your boss’s personality, by helping to control your emotional response on the things that irritate you, and to figure out ways to adapt and adjust the differences so that both can move forward.

I’m not saying that this is easy and your reply might be that you don’t have any respect for your boss. You may think they are not properly qualified for their jobs, are poor communicators, or inefficient at setting expectations and priorities. But the reality is that as your designated manager, they have a right to demand your respect and co-operation because they have been authorised to take responsibility for you and the work that you produce, usually as a proportionate part of a larger project or work contract.

It should not be forgotten that they themselves have a responsibility to their immediate manager. In every organisation, each employee is a link in a chain that produces a specific item, product or service. Any link that is weak can fail, and any failed link means the chain is broken.

Let’s look at some tips to help you along the way:

• Learn to focus on the content and not the delivery of any instruction.

• Accept that very often an attitude projected that is not conducive to friendship is not necessarily intentional, but merely indicative of mood or pressure, or stress.

• Try to not take a difficult situation home with you… although I know that this is easier said than done.

• Talk to your boss. See what common ground you may have. Discuss working more effectively as a team and what improvements could possibly make this happen. Ask about his or her priorities to see how you could better match yours to theirs.

Let’s not forget that many apparently impossible situations can be resolved with good communications. Managing to live and/or work with people we may find difficult is a lifetime skill that we all have to learn.

Key points

  • Better to find common ground than to change jobs.
  • We all have character traits — learn to live with those of others.
  • As with many situations, good communication is vital.
Carole Spiers FISMA, FPSA, MIHPE FISMA, FPSA, MIHPE is a leading international Business Stress Consultant and currently serves as the Chair of the International Stress Management Association UK (ISMAUK). On their behalf, she founded Stress Awareness Day ... (Read More)

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