How to manage your manager: 10 tips to survive a difficult manager –
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The saying goes that “people don’t leave bad jobs – they leave bad managers”, and it couldn’t be more true.
Research has found that 57% of people have left at least one job because of a bad manager!
Your manager can have a huge impact on your:
- wellbeing at work 🧠
- career progression 🪜
- stress levels 🥴
- feeling of accomplishment 🏆
- relationships at work 🤝
- pay 💸
- ability to learn at work 🏫
- workload 🏋️♀️
This makes it really important to:
- have a great relationship with your manager 🤝
- understand your manager
- know how to raise problems with managers 🙋♀️
- know how to give your manager feedback to help them improve 🔊
Here are our top tips for surviving a difficult manager!
Tips 1-6: Look after yourself ✨
1. Set boundaries 🧱
A really important part of surviving a difficult manager is to make sure that you’ve got boundaries in place.
As we know – managers aren’t perfect, and can often overstep boundaries which could negatively impact your wellbeing. 👣
Read your contract 📜
Employment contracts can be really useful because they set boundaries for both you and your employer. 🧱
They should cover things like:
- When your contract starts
- When the contract is expected to end
- Your job title
- Where you will work
- When you will work
- Pay – how often and when
- How many holidays you’ll be allowed to take
- Any other job perks you might get e.g. free parking
- The name and address of you and your new employer
- What happens when you’re off work due to illness
You can use your contract to push back on your manager, if they ask you to do something outside of what has already been agreed in your contract. ✋
If your employer doesn’t live up to what they’ve agreed to in the contract, you could:
- raise a complaint against them
- make a claim against them at an “employment tribunal” for not following the contract terms e.g. if you’ve been underpaid
Know your job description 📝
Most workplaces will give you a “job description” that outlines your responsibilities at work. These can be great to help you to:
- know your expected workload
- understand what tasks you’re responsible for
- feel confident that you can push back when you’re regularly being asked to do work outside of your job description
Read your workplace’s policies 📖
Workplaces usually have sets of rules for everyone to follow called “policies”.
These rules can be another great way to keep boundaries at work, by giving you a way to push back if your manager asks you to work outside the agreed rules for your workplace.
Workplace policies can cover a huge variety of topics, such as:
- protecting your personal information
- “code of conduct” – how you should behave
- mobile phone rules
- car parking rules
- health and safety
Rules included within policies can either be there to:
- give you guidance
- be a contractual term that you can get into trouble for not following e.g. they might try and end your contract if you don’t follow them
Make sure you know which policies are guidance, and which are contractual!
Know your legal rights ✅
Outside of employment contracts, job descriptions, and workplace policies, there are also laws in place that help create boundaries for you at work. 👩⚖️
Make sure you know what they are, so you can push back if your manager doesn’t uphold your legal rights. ✋
Your legal rights will be different depending on where you live, but they could include things like:
- receiving “written terms” outlining your job rights and responsibilities ✍️
- getting paid “National Minimum Wage” or higher 💸
- receiving paid holiday days off work 🏖️
- getting sent regular payslips – How do payslips work? 🧾
- not being treated unfairly if you work part time ⌚
Take your rest breaks 😴
Rest breaks are a really important part of looking after your wellbeing. 💖
When you’re at work, you might be tempted to work during all your breaks to impress your manager (or because they’ve pressured you to!)
The problem is – when you regularly work during breaks, it sets the expectation for your manager that they can ask you to work when you’re supposed to be resting. 😏
Take your rest breaks to look after your wellbeing, and to keep boundaries at work.
Leave work on time ⌚
Unless you’re going to get paid agreed “overtime”, it’s unlikely that you’re going to get paid for working outside your contracted hours. 💸
Working outside your hours (for free!) also takes you away from:
- time with family and friends
- personal development outside your work
- time for self-care
- making money outside of work
These are all things that could really help your wellbeing.
On top of this, when you regularly work outside your contracted hours for free, it sets the expectation for your manager that they can ask you to work outside your hours. 😏
Leave work on time to look after your wellbeing, and to keep boundaries at work.
Don’t overshare 🤫
At work you tend to want your amazing work to be the focus, not your personal life.
Often oversharing can distract from the amazing work that you’re doing, and potentially:
- make people forget your achievements
- create drama with colleagues
- encourage managers to cross boundaries with you
- give your manager reasons to question your work quality
- make people lose respect for you because you’ve overshared
Different workplaces have different cultures and team dynamics, where some might be more comfortable with you sharing information about your personal life more than others.
It’s really important to control how much personal information you share at your workplace, to create boundaries at work.
2. Try to keep your emotions in check
Unfortunately, getting emotional at work is still often a tricky topic. 😬
There is still a lot of expectation for you to control your emotions at work, and if you don’t, it could:
- Make people think badly of you 👎
- Give the organisation a reason to fire you e.g. if you show intimidating behaviour 👋
- Ruin your reputation 😳
- Lose other people’s respect 😕
- Create uncomfortable situations 😥
- be calm and composed 🧘♀️
- make rational decisions
- be professional 👩💼
- speak kindly at all times
- avoid getting overwhelmed – people should be able to cry at work, but unfortunately it can be looked down upon 😥
- take a breather when emotions creep in
- step out of meetings when emotions are high 🚪
- prepare what you want to say in advance – especially in emotionally heightened situations
- avoid physical outbursts e.g. shouting, slamming doors, visible anger 🤬
3. Stay positive ☀️
You might absolutely hate your manager, but showing it by being miserable around them is unlikely to help your situation.
When you feel like being blunt or rude towards your manager, it’s important to remember that they can have a huge impact on your:
- Career prospects
- Pay arrangements
- Acting as a reference for your next job
So – try to stay positive.
People like positive people! ✨
- Make them feel like you’re genuinely happy to see them
- Value their opinion
- See them as important
- Respect them
- Celebrate achievements together
4. Don’t talk badly about your manager behind their back 🤫
When you’re struggling with your relationship with your manager, it can be really tempting to let off steam with your colleagues and complain about them. 🤬
Unfortunately, this might not help you in the long term, and can lead to difficult consequences like:
- Your manager finding out what you’ve said 😳
- You being viewed as a gossiper or unprofessional 🤫
- People thinking that you can’t keep your emotions in check 😭
- Losing trust from your colleagues 😬
I mean, you wouldn’t want your manager speaking badly about you behind your back either, would you? 🤷♀️
5. Prioritize your wellbeing 💖
Handling a difficult relationship with your manager can be extremely stressful, and very often feel:
So make sure to look after yourself during this difficult time. 💖
To help your wellbeing, you can do things like:
- Get plenty of rest
- Give yourself positive and exciting things to do outside of work
- Build meaningful relationships outside of work
- Make your home life as stress-free as possible
Ultimately, if your relationship with your manager is having a significant impact on your mental health and you can’t see ways to improve it, it might be worth considering options like:
- speaking to human resources about your struggles at work
- talking to a union representative
- looking at/applying for other jobs
- resigning from your job
- reducing your work hours
Not only does prioritizing your wellbeing help you survive your difficult manager– it can also help improve your relationship with them.
Managers generally want you to be as self-sufficient as possible, which includes looking after your wellbeing.
Managers generally won’t be happy if you:
- feel burned out
- don’t take breaks and complain about it
- get them into trouble because you’re too stressed
- become unproductive because you’re burned out
- work late and let it impact your wellbeing
6. Deliver good work 🏃♀️
It’s difficult to discipline someone who’s delivering great work for the organisation.💃
No matter how many problems you might have with your relationship, it’s important to deliver good work.
If you’re delivering good work, it meets your job’s objectives and what you’re paid to do. ✅
Your manager can’t exactly get you in trouble if you’re:
- doing everything you’re supposed to according to your job description
- behaving in the way the organisation expects you to
Also, if you’re delivering good work, your manager should be happier! 🙌
Tips 7 – 10: Make your manager happy ✨
7. Try to understand their perspective 🕵️♀️
At the end of the day, managers are just normal people with their own:
- flaws 😬
- goals 🏆
- challenges 🚵♀️
- personal lives 🏡
- family problems 👪
- health issues 👩⚕️
- stress 😢
- manager problems 👩💼
- relationship issues 💔
Your relationship is just one small part of their big life – and it’s important to remember that no matter how important, formal, or serious they might seem, they’re still humans.
Managers don’t know everything, and they’ll never be perfect. 🤷♀️
In order to have a great relationship with your manager, you should do the same thing that you do with anyone else – learn about them and their perspective.
How they like to be communicated with 🔊
A lot of relationship issues come about from miscommunication and misunderstandings. This could be things like:
- Them coming across in the wrong way e.g. rude, aggressive, when they don’t mean to
- Misunderstanding instructions
- Not putting things in writing to make it “official”
- Different people being told different things
- Misinterpreting written communication e.g. them sounding blunt when they don’t mean to
Whilst communication issues can be really frustrating, it’s important to not take them personally. 💔
A lot of the time, managers:
- Have good intentions 💖
- Want you to be happy ! 🙂 (it’d make their life easier!)
- Don’t hate you, or are out to get you 😊
- Think they’re doing a great job 👑
- Don’t mean to offend or upset people 🤦♀️
- Feel like they need to act “managerial” to be respected 👩💼
- Haven’t been given a lot of training on how to be a manager and look after others 👩🏫
- Make mistakes 🤷♀️
So with this in mind, sometimes you have to take the lead on improving communication, to make the relationship work.
It’s important to understand:
- The ways they prefer to communicate
- The ways that they want you to communicate to them
In order to do this, you could:
- Ask your manager about how they prefer communication to work at work 🎤
- Pay close attention to when your manager is happy – what communication did they respond best towards? 😁
- Pay close attention to when your manager is unhappy – what communication did they respond badly towards? 😠
- Ask others how they think your manager would prefer you to communicate 🧑🤝🧑
Make them feel listened to 👂
Just like normal humans, managers tend to love talking, feeling important, and feeling listened to. 🤩
To make sure that your manager feels like you’re listening, you can do things like:
- Repeat back to them what they’ve said 🔁
- Write notes on what they say ✍️
- Thank them for their advice – recognise when they’ve helped you 🙏
- Welcome their feedback, even if you don’t plan on making changes as a result 🥳
- Ask them about themselves 🎙️
- Leave space in conversations for your manager to talk about themselves 👂
- Let your manager speak more than you do in conversations 🗣️
- Ask for their opinion on things (but not in a way where it sounds like you don’t know what you’re doing!) 🤔
Your manager’s goals 🏆
Every manager has their own goals.
- Career goals – getting a promotion, a bonus, or a pay rise 💸
- Impressing their boss by being good at their job 😏
- Team goals – wanting achievements for their team 🧑🤝🧑
- Personal goals – supporting their family, paying for holidays 👪
- Getting as much productivity/work from the team as possible 💪
Understanding your manager’s goals can go a long way to improving your relationship with them. 🪜
The more you support your manager towards reaching their goals, the more they will feel:
These are all things that can go a long way to make a great relationship.
Their biggest challenges 🥴
Managers LOVE it when you help them to solve their problems. 🤩
So – find out what they are!
You could even make it part of your regular conversations with you manager and ask them what their biggest challenges are, and how you can help solve them.
Their pet peeves/triggers 😬
As normal human beings, managers have their own pet peeves that annoy them day-to-day.
Make sure you know what they are, to avoid accidentally triggering your manager! 🧨
How they want you to behave 😇
If you were a manager, what would you want your team to behave like?
If you behave in the professional ways that your manager wants you to, your relationship is likely to be much more comfortable.
Some of the top qualities managers look for are:
- Accountability – you take responsibility for your work and mistakes
- Good interpersonal skills – you’re a great listener, and communicate well
- Resourceful – you have the having the ability to find quick and clever ways to overcome problems.
- Open to sharing ideas
8. Try to always bring them solutions, not problems ✅
Some key mistakes that people fall into with their managers is:
- Complaining a lot 🙄
- Expecting managers to solve their problems 🧙♂️
- Not taking responsibility for your problems 🤷♀️
- Emotionally offloading onto your manager 🤬
- Highlighting problems instead of giving clear requests to fix them 👎
Doing these things might give your manager the impression that you’re:
- Not good at taking accountability for problems 👶
- Bad at being proactive or action-oriented 😴
- Not very self-aware 🪞
People only bringing problems to the table (and not solutions) can be one of the biggest frustrations for managers. Image what it’s like hearing to people complaining all day! 🤪
So – whenever you speak to your manager, rather than bringing them problems, try to bring them:
- ideas for improvements 💡
- positive news of how you’ve solved a problem or fixed something 📰
- permission requests for you to make an improvement ✅
If you have to bring them a problem (and you don’t have a solution!), make sure to:
- demonstrate that you’ve tried to think of solutions 🧠
- acknowledge that you haven’t found a solution 🤷♀️
- make your manager feel important, by asking for their advice 🌟
9. Keep it short, get to the point 🎯
Most people hate waffling, and managers are no exception! 🧇
A lot of managers can get frustrated if you waffle and struggle to get to the point. 😠
To keep your manager happy, you could:
- write notes before meetings with your manager, to prepare what you’re going to say in advance ✍️
- keep emails short and straight to the point – use bullet points, and short sentences 🤏
- only talk about things if you think it will be important to your manager or impact them ⚠️
10. Be proactive – think ahead 🔮
One of the best ways to manage managers who:
- give you lots of requests/additional tasks 📜
- get annoyed when you’re not prepared 😠
- won’t leave you alone 🙋♀️
- make you uncomfortable – so you want more space from them 😬
is to be proactive, and anticipate their needs in advance.
The more you anticipate their needs and solve them, the more space they should hopefully give you, to get on with your job!
This can involve doing things like:
- writing preparation notes before your 121 catch up meetings with your manager ✍️
- proactively asking your manager what they need help with 🤷♀️
- thinking ahead – looking at upcoming events at work, anticipating problems 🤔
- tracking your performance against targets and making the information readily available 🕵️♀️
So that’s it!
To survive a difficult manager, you should:
Look after yourself ✨
- Set boundaries🧱
- Try to keep your emotions in check
- Stay positive☀️
- Don’t talk badly about your manager behind their back🤫
- Prioritize your wellbeing💖
- Deliver good work🏃♀️
Make your manager happy ✨
- Try to understand their perspective🕵️♀️
- Try to always bring them solutions, not problems✅
- Keep it short, get to the point🎯
- Be proactive – think ahead🔮
Hopefully this article has helped you to feel more confident about managing a difficult manager.
If you know any friends or family members who might benefit from learning about how to manage your manager, share this post with them!
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