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Dealing with a difficult boss? It might be time to move on

By Alison Rodericks

As the saying goes, ‘People don’t leave jobs; they leave bad bosses’. Are you nodding in agreement because your boss’s management style clashes with your own? Do you want to quit because your superior takes credit for your own achievements? Read on.

Given that most of us spend around 40 hours a week at work (apart from when we’re working from home due to COVID-19), it’s important that we enjoy what we do for a living and get along with our managers. 

How does a difficult boss affect your career?

male employee looking stressed out

If you don’t get constructive feedback or proper direction from your manager, you are rudderless. Unfortunately, you often get too comfortable and complacent with your jobs, even if it means tolerating the treatment your boss doles out to you. So, instead of leaving to find a healthier workplace, you stick it out. But the longer you stay in a job where you report to a difficult boss, the bigger the toll on your physical and mental health.

The atmosphere at your workplace affects your health and happiness. A study done by Gallup showed that toxic workplaces can increase our stress levels. The fact is, if you have a difficult manager, getting out could be better for your physical and mental wellbeing.

How do you cope with having a difficult boss? 

Firstly, you need to practise self-care. You can’t control your manager’s behaviour, but you can control how you deal with it. Make sure you have a good support network of colleagues, friends and family you can lean on. Also, take care of your health – exercise regularly, eat healthy meals, get enough sleep, practice yoga/ meditation

Engage in activities/hobbies outside of work that bring you pleasure. Also, seek advice from a career coach or mentor, if possible.

You need to set clear boundaries on acceptable behaviour from your boss. Let them know that you’re unhappy and address what you need in terms of direction, support and feedback. 

If their behaviour still doesn’t improve, you need to discuss this with the HR department, or the person your boss reports to. See if you can be transferred to another department within the same company. Of course, if all negotiations fail, it may be best to look for another job. 

What’s your exit strategy?

manager reaching out for a handshake

If you’re on a collision course with your boss and don’t see things improving, it’s time to move on with a premeditated exit strategy in place. Don’t quit after a big blow-up; you’ll find yourself without a paycheck until you find a new job. Resign with professionalism and grace once you’ve secured a position elsewhere.

In some cases, you might be able to work out an exit strategy that suits you and the company by providing a severance package in return for termination of your job. Try not to dwell on the bad times or let this bad job affect your wellbeing and morale. 

Ensure your resume is up-to-date (paying close attention to your transferable skills if you want to change careers), begin networking in earnest and start saving so that you have a financial safety net. Make sure to review your employment contract so that you’re not bogged down by contractual obligations. Keep up with industry trends and, if you need to update your skills, now’s the time to enrol in a professional course to update your skills. 
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