Somehow I’ve always ended up being the one that people in the workplace come to when they have a problem with someone else. Many times I’ve heard, “How can you work with her?” or “Doesn’t he drive you crazy?”
What I’ve learned from working with lots of difficult people is that you always have a way out if you know where to look.

My gift to you is this cheat sheet of six tips you should follow to survive those management barons who press all the wrong buttons in your life. At the end, I’ve also included an infographic to help you remember them and share with your fellow comrades in the line of fire at work.

How to Deal With the Boss You Hate:

1. Do the Sit-Down.

Start your face-to-face, private chat by briefly summarizing your main frustration as objectively as possible. Then ask them what you could do to improve. Listen to them even if you disagree. Then try to follow their advice just for one day to see if it’s actually logical or not. You may be surprised at the results.

2. Develop More Initiative.

To kill micro management before it blows out of control, try to only tell your boss the most-critical pieces of information. Most bosses don’t want an info overload anyway! By anticipating their requests on smaller tasks, you can get ahead of the game, and they’ll probably start trusting you more.

3. Take Back Your Power.

Evaluate exactly when and how your boss irritates you. What can you do to gain an advantage in those circumstances? For example, if your boss throws a bunch of tasks at you as soon as you arrive, then you can try coming in before they arrive to prepare yourself to handle the day better.

4. Get Backup Recommendations.

If your boss genuinely hates you, then they could kill any chance of good recommendations for your next job. Therefore, before you make any drastic changes at work or decide to quit, ask a fellow employee or other supervisor who’s on your side to confidentially write a letter of recommendation for you.

5. SOS: Report to Upper Management.

If you’ve already tried all of the previous steps and your boss still crosses the line in a serious way, then ask around to see if others also feel the same. If so, then it’s more than a personality clash. Contact upper management and give them the full disclosure — You could end up with a better job!

6. Get an Insider’s Advantage for a New Job.

When all else fails, you can always talk to your friends and relatives. Ask them to recommend you to their bosses so that you’ll get your foot in the door to work at a better place!

Now, it’s especially critical to understand the first step because that move will ultimately determine if your conflict is resolvable or not. Since it’s the lynchpin of this whole operation, let’s delve into it further:

Enjoy this bonus infographic summarizing these six steps to deal with the boss you hate and pass it on!

boss square

1. How to Do the Dreaded Sit-Down

The more you avoid confrontations, the more miserable you’ll become. Ultimately, you have to ask yourself:

“Is it really better to remain grumpy and chronically stressed by dodging that one conversation that could change everything?”

My experience has proved many times over that whenever you duck out of an unpleasant conflict, it comes back to haunt you in another form. Only next time, it gets even worse and harder to ignore. Honestly, sitting down to talk with your supervisor doesn’t put your head on the chopping block to get fired.

What does put your job more at risk is when you never say anything so that your boss has no idea what’s going on in your head. Then they’re often less likely to trust you and will probably replace you eventually. Either that, or you’ll find an excuse to quit when you can’t take the conflict anymore.

Do yourself a favor. When you’ve got a problem at work, sit down and talk to your boss about it instead of keeping your complaints inside for months. Your life will turn out a lot better if you do. Here’s how you can do it in a way that gives you a better chance of success:

First, start off by casually approaching your boss whenever they’re not overwhelmed at work. That means you don’t sneak up behind them in a dark corner of the office and give them glaring or otherwise menacing looks! Try to smile at them a little at least once and politely ask if you could sit down and discuss how things are going sometime. Agree on a time that works for you and them. It’s best to pick a neutral location where you won’t be overheard but still feel comfortable. If you’re really nervous about it, then schedule it for at least one day in advance so that you can mentally prepare yourself.

At the table:

Start by expressing at least one thing that you’re grateful for at work — anything — but make it a genuine comment. This approach relaxes them and helps them become more receptive to what you need to say.

Express what you’re not happy about. Then summarize why. Share one idea about how you’d like to see that change. If you’re deeply angry about the topic, then a better way to approach this part is to simply ask them why they do that thing, or allow the particular thing to happen, that makes you angry. Asking why is a great way to disarm an especially controlling, manipulative type because it forces them to reflect on themselves at least for a moment.

Listen. Don’t pretend to listen. You don’t have to agree with them, but you do need to try and understand them at least a little.

Your boss can respond to you in a variety of unpredictable ways, so don’t expect things to go a certain way. The important point is that you will start feeling a little better because you’re finally expressing yourself rather than holding onto your resentments while they poison you inside.

Finally, end the talk by surprising them. Ask them what one thing they think you could do to improve at work. If they tell you something truly ridiculous that makes your blood boil, then do your best to take a breath and reply:

“I’ll think about it.”

If you can follow these steps without losing control of your temper, then congratulations! The hardest part is now over. The following steps in this series will only get easier.

Here’s the takeaway:

You need to express some of your frustration to your boss to honor yourself as a person … and to protect your mental sanity. Your boss may be grateful for your honesty, or they may just say a lot more things that make your nerves boil like fresh lava. Either way, you can feel proud of yourself for maturely expressing yourself and taking a responsible first step toward improving your work life.

Now do this:

Just for one day, make a real effort and doing the one thing that your boss suggested you could do to improve. Think of it as a scientific experiment. You can find out if they are actually trying to teach you something that will help you. If their suggestion is really a bunch of hot air, then you can prove it to them … but you should at least find out the truth for yourself before moving on to step two if things don’t improve.

Step 2:

Now, step two is actually my favorite one, and it has been known to change lives if you do it right! Sometimes the only way to beat a challenging boss is by becoming more like a boss yourself — a better one.

What’s the biggest difference between someone who gets promotions and someone who stays in the same position for years without getting much attention? The difference is initiative. You can define initiative in lots of ways, but here’s my favorite one:

Initiative is seeing something that needs to be done and just doing it right away. Initiative is the polar opposite of:

A) Complaining about something at work to everyone else without actually doing anything about it.

B) Ignoring problems in the hopes that someone else will take care of them or that they’ll just go away. 

C) Refusing to deal with problems because they’re technically “not part of your job description.”

Guess what? If you start doing little extra things that need attention, the higher-ups will notice and respect you more because of it. Then when that new job opening comes up, you’re the one they’ll remember.

I’m willing to bet that your difficult boss is under lots of stress and is probably tense all of the time, which is the perfect combination of factors to create an office tyrant. However, if you start doing smaller tasks without asking that help relieve some of the stress in their life, then they are highly likely to treat you a lot better than they are now.

Also, try speaking to them only when absolutely necessary about critical tasks. When you give lots of information to your boss on a regular basis, then you also give them more opportunities to control what you’re doing and get on your nerves. Your life becomes much better if you just tell them only what they asked for and just do your job the best you can.

For example, I had a particularly manipulative boss who would ask me to write up assessments of problems at work so that she could basically analyze how I think and evaluate me regularly. Yes, it literally felt like I was the subject of a psychology experiment. She wanted me to tell her everything so that she could always give me feedback, but she didn’t even have the time to listen to the very information that she “wanted to hear.” Finally, I just started making my own decisions about the obvious stuff that needed to be done and told her about it afterward briefly. Not only did she trust me more, but she also stopped interrogating me about what I was doing everyday.

Now don’t jump off of a cliff without a parachute just yet. Focus on doing what really needs to be done without someone asking you. Don’t start doing things that subjectively “need” doing. If you start doing things that objectively benefit more than just one person at work, then yes, by all means do that. If you’re doing something that only benefits you, and maybe your best friend sometimes, then you’re not solving a real need that will earn you a promotion.

I trust you guys have gotten the hang of this now that we’ve covered the two hardest steps. Good luck with your boss, and I hope you use this guide to rock your workplace and become a better boss yourself one day.