I once worked at a supermarket during a time when it was changing ownership and management. The old owner was an affable old man who much preferred to flirt and joke than to actually manage the place (explains why they were selling anyway). The new owner was, on the other hand, overly zealous, probably trying to get back the money invested. He talked too fast, smoked like a chimney and barely said a kind word (except when he was drunk). The head of the department I worked in, Zahara (not real name) was caught between these two worlds. She was used to slacking because of Mr. Affable and Flirty, but Mr. Over Zealous demanded that she do more, and supervise us more closely. One day, Zahara found a fellow cashier closing up her till for the day at about 4:30 pm. Her shift was ending at 5, but in “Mr. Affable’s” reign, nobody cared what time you closed up, as long as it was close enough to the ending time. Zahara and Lazy Cashier got into a fight, right in front of the customers. Of course pre-new owner Zahara had been a friend and suffice to say Lazy Cashier had enough information ammunition to embarrass Zahara. (I heard something about Zahara’s boyfriend leaving her for a younger woman) Predictably, Zahara became a difficult boss from that day, exacting and irritable, probably to show Mr. Zealous that she could handle employees like Lazy Cashier. You know what they say about every experience teaching you something new. So, you can call the following the Zahara Tips on Dealing with a Difficult Boss:
- Be Above Board
The best way to stay out of trouble with that difficult boss is to follow the primary school motto: do the right thing at the right time in the right way in the right place with the right people. Of course you cannot be perfect, but anybody would find it difficult to pick a fight with you if you turned in your work a day or two before the deadline. It is possible to be above reproach, and that way your work can speak for you even if that “Difficult Boss” tries to accuse you falsely.
- Maintain Your Cool
Difficult Boss may rouse you to anger with a snide remark, a false accusation, or even irritate you with her high heeled shoes or his lecherous tone, but you have to stay calm. Lazy Cashier got fired after her shouting match with the boss and so will you if you are exchanging angry emails with your boss or yelling at them in the corridors for everyone to hear. Your own words can be used against you, quite literally. Also, it alienates the person and strains your relationship even further.
- Keep Track
It is imperative that you have a record of all dealings with Difficult Boss. Carry a notebook with you and write things down when they give instructions verbally, so that you do not forget something and give them an excuse to start a quarrel. Follow up with e-mails (where possible) and have everything on record so that nobody accuses you falsely. Have an organized desk so that no documents go missing and cause trouble. In short, be alert.
- Assert Yourself
Having a difficult boss does not mean you should cower and become part of the furniture out of fear. Remember that you were hired because someone thought you would be a valuable asset to the organization/company. Be sure to say what you think in a respectful and clear manner especially if there is a disagreement. It does no good to grumble and gossip about Difficult Boss with your workmates.
To sum all this up, when you become the boss, don’t be like those bosses you complained about. Be the kind of boss you wished your difficult boss could be.