What If My Boss is a Jerk?
1) Don’t Withhold Praise
Lord knows if you’ve got a good boss, it’s a rare blessing—ask your friends! But what if yours doesn’t quite fall in that category or is a difficult person? Often this type of manager is a perfectionist, micromanager, or bully—or vague, volatile, or arrogant. This can be caused by insecurity, low self esteem, or limited skills, experience, or education.
However, just because they may be a jerk doesn’t mean you shouldn’t compliment them. Complimenting a difficult supervisor may feel unnatural, but it can help raise their self esteem and possibly improve their interactions with you and your coworkers. Studies have shown that when employees thanked their difficult bosses for their feedback—regardless of the specifics—that aggression decreased, signifying that their gratitude affirmed the social worth of the manager.
2) What to Do
Typically even difficult managers enjoy recognition and sincere compliments. You’ll just need to make an effort to figure out how yours best receives praise.
Bosses who are hypersensitive or paranoid should be handled with care to avoid their reading negatives into the positive feedback you’re giving them. And if yours is present in a situation where you’re claiming success on something you accomplished, be sure to acknowledge his part in it, if he was involved.
Nobody in the world is doing everything wrong, so look for and compliment what your difficult boss is doing right or handling well.
3) Other Advice
Another plus of shaping your difficult boss through compliments is hanging on to your job! Mary Lou Quinlan, former Advertising Director for Avon Products stressed that employees who help their boss feel less insecure will stay employed when the economy dips.
But at the end of the day, if you’ve been patient giving your trying boss a fair shake but aren’t getting anywhere and remain in a toxic environment, it’s best to just find a new job elsewhere—within the company or at a new organization. Life is too short to be miserable at work every day under a manager who won’t improve.
So step outside your comfort zone, and don’t be afraid to spread some love to your boss. When done properly, not only can it begin to improve your relationship and rub off on others, but you might just help the person you report to feel a little more noticed and appreciated. And who doesn’t want that?
Thanks to Clay Faircloth, Pam Meek, Paul Havlik, and Terry Warren for their insight. Other sources:
- “Office Hours: Bowing to the boss: Everyone Likes To Be Praised, But It Can Go Too Far.” Guardian [London, England] 9 Dec. 2002. Business News: page 4 by Sally O’Reilly
- “To brown-nose or not to brown-nose?” USA Today. (Nov. 18, 2009): Business News: p01B. © 2009 by Del Jones
- “Ways To Compliment Your Boss.” Asianetindia.com, 3 Nov. 2015
- “Your Difficult Boss May Be Insecure.” Khaleej Times [Dubai, United Arab Emirates] 24 Aug. 2013 © 2013 SyndiGate Media Inc. by firstname.lastname@example.org