10 Signs of A Difficult Boss and How To Deal With It

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While a good boss will help you thrive and bring out the best in you, the impact of having a difficult manager extends beyond your career and professional working life. According to a survey commissioned by Lynn Taylor Consulting, a whopping 19.2 hours are wasted each week worrying about what a boss says or does — 13 of which occur during workweek, and 6.2 over the weekend. Regardless of your managerial status, it is crucial to watch out for these red flags – to empower yourself as an employee, and to avoid these pitfalls as a boss.


1) The boss operates by irrational fear

If your boss acts as if the world is coming to an end for the slightest matter and spawns fear, it can be a sign of insecurity. Your boss may have had to deal with significant amount of politics to get to where they are today and may be crippled by the idea that one wrong step may send them tumbling down the career ladder. Try to be a beacon of rationality by pointing up the positives of the situation with real facts.

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2) Your work is never enough

After all the hard work you’ve put in your work, it is time for your well-deserved vacation. However, amongst the sound of crashing waves at the beach, you hear your mobile phone going berserk with vibration from the calls you are receiving from your boss. You could work 24/7 and still find your boss dissatisfied. If not answering will not make a significant impact to the business operation or cost the company a huge sum of money, leave it. Your manager must realize that you have limited time in a day, and can’t do all things (well) at once. If you don’t speak up, your boss will keep pushing.

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3) The boss plays favouritism

This clouds their ability to recognise your skills and the value you add to the company. They also fail to see that they’re treating you unfairly. No matter how hard you work, or the results you achieve, they will be dwarfed by your colleague. It is worth modeling good behavior in this scenario, praising others on your staff or those in other departments, for their team effort. You’re giving recognition to those who deserve it and demonstrating the powerful impact it will have for people like you.

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4) The boss never admits fault

It takes a lot of courage to admit one’s mistake and if your boss refuses to admit that they are wrong, this means they are not willing to go out of their comfort zone for you. Admitting to mistakes sends a message to your employees that it’s a safe environment to take smart risks — and without that, you’re draining innovation. While you may not be able to win an argument with them, you may be able to change their mind given patience and humility. Make a good argument, leave the door open for them to agree with you without feeling like they ‘lost’ the battle.

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5) The boss over-promises

An over-promising boss is an untrustworthy boss. You might have been promised a series of promotions, increased responsibility, or a raise, but all you get is silence. It is often helpful to get to the truth through emails, if one-on-one discussions are getting you nowhere. If the boss does not deliver on a task or job they have agreed on, you are in line for a series of disappointment and you may shoulder the blame for an uncompleted task resulting from their incompetence.

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6) The boss lies

A boss who lies is untrustworthy — not a good foundation for a productive relationship. This is perhaps the most shocking type of boss.  Some can become so immune to their own stories that they can convince themselves that the lies are true. Other bad bosses just can’t face the result that will arise from telling the truth. Examine what motivates your boss to lie and make sure you have all your facts before you start any questioning. Remember that it’s best to encourage honesty than to go on the offense or use sarcasm.

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7) The boss is a micro-manager

Is your boss so pushy and overbearing that you find yourself unable to accomplish anything efficiently? This may be a perpetual problem, so get ready for it early. If they want a play-by-play of every meeting, email, and call, then take detailed notes of every business interaction and send them to your boss. Your boss will think that they’re on top of things and will leave you alone. By over-communicating with a micro-manager or needy boss, you’ll diffuse their desire to constantly check in, while you build all-important trust at the same time.

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8) Projects cancelled for no reason

You’re given the plum project of the year on Friday, but on Monday, someone else is now in charge. It feels like the rug was just pulled from under your cubicle. You have the right to get clarity, albeit tactfully. Use a cool down period to collect your thoughts, diffusing any signs of emotion. Try something like this in a face-to-face meeting: “I want to do the best job I can here and was really looking forward to managing that project. What happened that changed that plan?” You may not be the only one on the receiving side of this form of mismanagement, so don’t assume you’re being singled out. If you’re seeing a pattern of losing work assignments, ask to handle specific new projects and gauge the responses before making your next move.

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9) The boss takes all credit

Does your boss constantly use the word “I” when associating with success? Do they fail to invite you to meetings to present your own work? They may be intentionally keeping you out of the limelight so that they can stay in it. They can become glory hogs and take credit for your hard work. Your best option is to manage up and understand the real root of the problem.

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10) The boss never discusses your future with you

Are the discussions with your manager mostly transactional, with rare discussions about your future growth path? A good boss will discuss your prospects for long-term growth within the company — and not just during your performance evaluation. Savvy bosses check in with their team on a regular basis, rather than being reactive or waiting for an emergency, such as your brand new job offer.

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If you have a knot in your gut every time you have to face your boss, or if it’s taking you twice as long to drag yourself out of bed every morning, take notice – You may just have a terrible boss. The worst thing you can do is nothing. It is better to first examine if this is a relationship worth salvaging with some diplomatic, high-road tactics. Otherwise, you may be better off seeking a better mentor and manager elsewhere.

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