5 Tips to Handle a Tough Boss

Since the release of 5 Conversations to Help a Struggling Employee, I’ve received questions about how to manage in the other direction. How do I manage a boss who seems to be struggling?


Here are 5 tips to help navigate that situation.


  1. Determine communication style


Look for the person’s style of communicating. Do they respond better to email? Meetings?


Also look for learning style. What methods seem to work best? When your boss really feels like s/he “gets it,” how did they get the information? Some people retain and comprehend better with images or in-person meetings.  Our brains work in different ways, and there are a lot of people who have trouble fully absorbing a message if they have to read it.


Also look for those who have trouble hearing or listening. This doesn’t mean you’ve done anything wrong — it just means that receiving messages audibly is not the easiest way for them to process the information.


  1. Try to understand their perspective


What are their motivators? Their pain points? If you can identify what drives them and what they want to accomplish, it will be easier for you to determine how you can help.


Also ask yourself about what other pressures this person might be facing. When people treat us unfairly, we often feel personally disrespected.  Sometimes, though, it doesn’t have anything to do with us. Instead, that person is getting flack from another direction and they’re simply passing it along.


  1. Look for trusted advisers


Who seems to have your boss’s ear? Sometimes creating a relationship with that person can help you interpret the situation with your boss.


Be careful not to complain — be sure to approach the situation as an opportunity to increase your own understanding. This doesn’t work well if you’re looking for someone to bash your boss with, but it can work really well if that person wants to help both you and your boss.


  1. Understand their values


What’s important to them? Honesty, punctuality, protecting others? Understanding this will help you find ways to build the relationship.


  1. Know when to part ways


A mentor of mine once told me that you have to take responsibility for how you feel. It’s up to you. No one else can have control over how you feel today. That’s your power and you should never give it away.


He had an excellent point.


But it’s a lesson most of us take a very long time to learn.


If you’re still on your path to learning that lesson — and not letting someone else’s temper or personality ruin your day — be gentle with yourself. It’s ok to start thinking about parting ways. You don’t have to make any decisions until you’re ready.

Blue thin line

© 2016 Jessica Walter, MS, APR

All content provided here is for informational purposes only and does not necessarily reflect the opinions of any organization with which the author is involved. Although the author makes an extensive effort to provide a complete representation of facts, there may additional helpful information provided by other sources. Whenever researching your own situation or devising a strategy, it is recommended to gather information from many sources. The author sincerely hopes that you find this information helpful and urges you to be inspired, to inspire others, and to be gentle with yourself as you continue on your path.

About the Author

Jessica Walter is a Communications Strategist with a passion for inspiring companies to live into their full potential.  She’s found that the essential equation for long-term success includes Marketing, Culture, and Leader Development.

Jessica has been a marketing executive for a regional bank, a communications director for a health system, a public affairs officer for a Dept. of Defense command, and the assignment editor for a TV newsroom.

She holds a master’s degree in Leadership & Business Ethics from Duquesne University, a bachelor’s in Mass Communication from Towson University, and the Accreditation in Public Relations (APR) from the Universal Accreditation Board. She is also a Certified Lean Systems Leader.

You can reach her at jessica.walter.apr@gmail.com.


Published by Jessica Walter, MS, APR

Speaker, Consultant, and Certified Leadership Coach

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