How to Communicate With a Bad Boss

Managing a difficult boss is all about learning different communication styles.
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A lousy manager can clear out an office faster than a fire alarm. Research by Right Management shows that 22 percent of employees list a bad boss as their prime reason for finding another job, according to Unlike a miserable cubicle neighbor, a boss with devil's horns cannot be ignored because that person controls your performance reviews and pay increases. Managing a difficult supervisor takes practice and risk, but you can forge a workable business relationship with that person.


    Your boss may be a control freak who is compelled to muddle through every detail on your projects. Offer ongoing emails or memos so your manager continuously knows what you've accomplished and what's still pending. These communications give assurance that you're making progress. Let your manager know that you'd like to take a stab at tackling work on your own and will share a rough draft when it's ready. This bit of breathing space is especially helpful if your micro-managing supervisor stands over your shoulder and dictates how to do something such as writing a report or preparing a presentation.


    If your boss is notorious for talking in circles, take a hard look at your communication style. You may think that you're offering thorough answers to your supervisor's questions, but your boss keeps pressing you over and over again for clarification. You probably are wading through too much minutiae when your boss simply wants a quick affirmation that something is on target. Respect that your supervisor is managing multiple priorities and other employees, not to mention interacting with higher level superiors. Give big-picture answers and let your boss ask for specifics.


    Your boss may be quick tempered and prone to yelling. When that supervisor goes into a verbal tailspin, your best bet is to explain that you'll come back when the person is not so emotional. Always announce that you are going to hang up the telephone or walk out of someone's office, and be polite about making your exit. This sends out the message loud and clear that you won't tolerate office theatrics. Later, ask your boss for specifics on what set off the tirade and what can be done to prevent future outbursts. If the behaviors become abusive, consult with your human resources department for advice and document your experiences.


    A boss who's too relaxed can generate as much stress as a high-strung office personality. This is the person who offers no direction or guidance to the team. A laid-back management style requires you to take the lead in scheduling regular meetings with your boss so you can volunteer updates and ask questions. Use these sessions to solicit advice. This also can be your opportunity to assume more responsibility, such as managing projects or people.

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