How to handle unreasonable bosses

Is your manager being unreasonable? Have you hit a brick wall trying to deal with your boss? Here's how to make a breakthrough.

Last Updated: 09 Oct 2013

Confront them. Call a meeting and come with examples of their unreasonable behaviour. Stand tall, maintain eye contact and keep challenges specific, polite and firm: 'If you have a problem with my work, I'd appreciate you explaining it calmly and giving me a chance to respond, rather than shouting.'

Be positive. If a confrontation is too intimidating, try praise. Thank them every time they do something that helps you. Not only will they be encouraged to repeat the positive behaviour but you'll put yourself in the traditional 'power' role.

Change tactics. Working all hours and still getting grief? Re-consider your boss's personality and priorities. A box-ticker looking for grafters may be impressed if you work late. But a visionary who values creativity and energy will be frustrated if you exhaust yourself. Give them what they want.

Boost them. Research suggests power-holders who believe they're incompetent are more likely to lash out. What's more, boosting self-worth reduces their aggressive tendencies. If you suspect your boss is insecure, then get flattering.

Break the cycle. However frustrated you're feeling, don't take it out on your own team. You can't afford to lose their support and one unreasonable boss is more than enough.

Use them. Are any of their demands reasonable or criticisms justified? Identify three things you could do to improve your performance, then add them to your goals.

Do something. If unreasonable behaviour has become bullying, keep a diary of incidents, save emails, and get witnesses. Don't be intimidated by reporting lines, keep climbing until somebody listens, even if it means going to the board.

Look after yourself. In stressful times, our physical welfare is often the first thing to suffer. Make an extra effort to eat well, exercise regularly and get plenty of rest.

The Mind Gym: Relationships is published by Little, Brown at £12.99 -

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