Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Mental Health Center

Font Size
A
A
A

Work it Out: Dealing with a Difficult Boss

Got a toxic manager? Here's how to survive and even thrive.
By Stephanie Stephens
WebMD Magazine - Feature

You couldn't wait to get that job -- and now you can't wait to leave, thanks to your boss. It's a situation that is, unfortunately, commonplace. Nearly half of employees surveyed by the national administrative staffing firm Office Team say they've worked for an unreasonable boss.

Maybe yours is a micromanager or a bully. Or an insensitive, abusive, or just plain dysfunctional person -- supervising you in a job you had hoped might lead to more meaningful work or greater accomplishments. Believe it or not, your response to the situation may be the ticket to getting both.

Recommended Related to Mental Health

Melissa Rivers Advocates for Suicide Prevention

Melissa Rivers is used to voicing her opinion. Funny and outspoken -- like her mother, comedian Joan Rivers --she's best known for E!'s pre-Oscars fashion and interview show Live with Joan and Melissa. She’s candidly shared her views in forums ranging from NBC's Celebrity Apprentice to her popular self-help book, Red Carpet Ready: Secrets for Making the Most of Any Moment You're in the Spotlight. Now, she's partnered with the Jed Foundation to raise awareness about mental illness and help prevent...

Read the Melissa Rivers Advocates for Suicide Prevention article > >

"At first, you have ‘boss love' and then you have a rude awakening," says work-life expert Tevis Rose Trower, founder of Balance Integration Corp. in New York City. She's been there herself, and says you can squeeze lemonade from that lemon of a job you can't afford to quit. But you'll need to make some changes, just as Trower once did with a problematic manager.

Learn to Adapt

"This boss held court and psychoanalyzed my life while I was pinned to the chair across her mahogany desk," Trower recalls. Instead of retreating, Trower took the high road, learning "to hold the boss in compassion" even when she monopolized Trower's time. The boss's need to talk at Trower for hours on end was her way of expressing a basic human desire, says Trower, who reluctantly broke her own hardline rule of not getting sidetracked from "mountains of work" and listened to her boss. The tactic worked, creating a path for Trower to move forward.

To cope when a difficult boss threatens to hold you back, first ask yourself honestly and objectively, "Now that I'm living this job, how do I give it permission to be exactly as it is?" If you're a "comfort-seeking" person, keep in mind that you'll never find the perfect workplace or perfect anything. "Whatever you don't tolerate will show up for you somewhere else. Patterns repeat themselves," Trower says.

For example, maybe you're so upset that you obsess over every little thing your boss does. That won't help improve your work satisfaction. "You'll live in hatred for most of your waking, even sleeping, hours," says Trower. "You don't go to your job to fall in love with everyone, but to use talents and abilities as best you can to achieve an outcome. Any goodness, smile, or camaraderie is icing on the cake." So let people be people, including your boss, knowing they won't change.

"Your real job is to make yourself as adaptable, responsive, intelligent, and skillful in as many situations as possible," Trower says, and that includes your relationship -- good, bad, or in between -- with the person who happens to be your boss.

"Then you can choose where you ultimately want to be."

Today on WebMD

Hands breaking pencil in frustration
Quiz
Woman looking out window
Article
 
woman standing behind curtains
Article
Pet scan depression
Slideshow
 
Woman standing in grass field barefoot, wind blowi
Article
Plate of half eaten cakes
Article
 
Phobias
Slideshow
mother kissing newborn
Slideshow
 
Woman multitasking
Article
thumbnail_tired_woman_yawning
Article
 
door knob to lever converter
Slideshow
Woman relaxing with a dog
Feature
 

WebMD Special Sections