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Men build too many walls and not enough bridgesIsaac Newton

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Dealing with a “difficult” boss

Dealing with a “difficult” boss

What can you do when faced with a “difficult” boss? Rather than enduring him/her, you should rather seek to modify your relationship with him/her. By understanding the underlying triggers behind your hierarchical superior’s stance, how can you influence his/her attitude and behaviors?


The judgements we express about our bosses, when they unnerve us, are not always kind: “nitpicking”, “despotic”, “volatile”… if only to mention the most courteous ones. As much as our frustration, these criticisms highlight the sometimes excessive expectations we have of them. Our bosses should be exemplary, whatever the situation. And when they show a frailty, we quickly forget about the complexity of their function or the weight of the circumstances. They are thus branded “difficult boss”. A convenient verdict, since it clears us from any responsibility in the dissension with them!

Indeed, difficult bosses do exist. In some cases, fortunately extremely rare, they can even prove totally dysfunctional and noxious. More often though, these difficult-to-manage bosses have been promoted on their technical competencies’ ground, not on their managerial ones. Or, they have shortcomings in equal weight to their qualities, such as the legendary tantrums of Steve Jobs. Finally, it may happen that adverse conditions reveal their dark side. Fear or anger reinforce certain personality traits, which then become unbearable. 

In most cases, these shortcomings can be widely counterbalanced by an adapted attitude by the subordinate. Indeed, if we cannot change our boss, we can nonetheless adjust our mode of interaction with him/her. Whether the latter is focused on micromanagement or disconnected from reality, peremptory or “too kind”, you do not need to suffer him/her. If you manage to figure out their operation mode, you will be able to influence behavior, and protect yourself from their most tiresome traits. 

In this synopsis, we will explain to you how to avoid frontal attacks, how to develop strategies to anticipate and prevent the blows, how to use to your benefit the constraints imposed by your boss, and how to maneuver with flexibility and ruse.

In this synopsis: 
- Express your disagreement to your boss
- Inconsistent, nitpicking, overbearing… How to deal with your boss’s shortcomings
- Defending yourself against an abusive line manager

Synopsis n.277a


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