What if You and Your Boss Don't Get Along Well?

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Jaap de Jonge
Editor, Netherlands

What if You and Your Boss Don't Get Along Well?

If you don't get along, dislike or even hate your superior, that is an awkward situation to be in. Sometimes this situation occurs when a new person is appointed as your supervisor.
According to Gallup research, typical grievances about a “bad boss” include micromanagement, bullying people, avoiding conflicts, not taking decisions, stealing credits for successes, shifting blame when things go wrong, keeping information to themselves, not listening properly, setting a poor example, and not developing staff.

INSEAD Prof. Kets de Vries, a reputable leadership expert, recommends the following tactics to resolve dysfunctional dynamics with your manager:
  1. PRACTICE EMPATHY. Be empathetic and put yourself in the shoes of your manager. Consider why (s)he is acting in that way. Is (s)he really inherently such a bad person? What pressures is (s)he under?
  2. CONSIDER YOUR OWN ROLE. Look at yourself in a critical manner. Could it be you are part of the problem? Also observe and ask colleagues for their view on the situation.
  3. OFFER A CHANCE TO CHANGE. If you are still convinced you’re not the problem, carefully prepare a meeting with your boss in a safe, private setting like a restaurant where you won’t be disdurbed and where it will be difficult for both people to leave prematurely. Announce beforehand that you have some serious personal concerns to discuss.
  4. ORGANIZE A MUTINY. Make a substantial business case and collect documents and proof of your superior’s bad behavior and impact on the organization. Ask colleagues to support you in written form. If you can't build a strong case, you are well advised to skip this option and consider the next option instead. Remember mutiny and whistle-blowing may damage your current and even future job prospects.
  5. PLAY FOR TIME OR MOVE ON. You can wait for some time to see if your bad boss leaves or things improve for another reason. If they don’t, simply leave. It's better for your stress levels. And after all, the world is so much bigger than the company you’re currently working in…
⇒ What are your experiences and recommendations regarding this awkward situation?

Source: Manfred F.R. Kets de Vries, “Do You Hate Your Boss? How to Deal with it.”, HBR Fall 2018, pp.30-33.

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