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How To Deal With A Difficult Boss - Howdini

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How do you deal with a difficult boss? Do you try to stay "under the radar" or work twice as hard to impress? Is it even possible to please your boss, and if it's not, how the heck are you supposed to handle the situation? Career consultant Maggie Mistal has some tips for dealing with a difficult boss.

DENISE: Hello, there. I’m Denise Richardson and this is howdini.com. For those of you that have ever had the boss from hell, we’re going to let you know how to deal with them right now. Our guest is Maggie Mistal, she is a life purpose and career coach and you can hear her regularly on Martha Stewart Living Radio on Sirius. There are some bosses who, the only way they can communicate is to yell, to scream, and to carry on tantrums. How do you deal with that?

MAGGIE: It is a challenging situation, Denise, and unfortunately, a lot of people find themselves with these overly demanding bosses or even, in the worst case, bosses who scream and yell. So what I try to tell my clients is to really just relax and try not to take it personally.

DENISE: Here’s the difficulty: that person may have a history of that kind of behavior. So when you come into an office, you’re going, ‘well, that’s Sam Smith, and Sam’s a screamer and a yeller.’ But not necessarily everyone gets the same behavior from Sam.

MAGGIE: Right.

DENISE: And so what kind of a person elicits a different response?

MAGGIE: If you’re someone who can keep their cool around the boss, no matter what he or she says, and doesn’t overreact to what they are saying but can keep their cool, they don’t get the reaction; it’s not as much fun for them or whatever they’re getting out of screaming and yelling.

DENISE: Let’s graduate to sexual harassment on a job. There are a lot of young, beautiful women on the job. Young being the operative –

MAGGIE: And men, too; I don’t mean it like that, I’m just saying men can get sexually harassed, too.

DENISE: Yeah, and there’s, they, they don’t know how to handle it because they’re looking to move up in the company, and so there is that intimidation factor. So how do you handle it in a way that lets that person know, you’ve crossed a line with me, and I have a line that you can’t cross?

MAGGIE: Right. You know, if you get the sense that this is a one-time thing – person made a slip of the tongue, or something stupid – you can kind of look at them and say, ‘ha ha, Joe, yeah that was really funny. You know, let’s keep those kinds of jokes to ourselves in the future.’ You know, kind of laugh it off, and it’s a one-time thing, then you can, you know, think about letting it go. But if this is systemic problem, where consistently, the person is either coming onto you or making inappropriate remarks or posts inappropriate things, either online or sends you inappropriate emails or text messages or phone messages, that’s a deeper problem and you really have to protect yourself by going to HR and letting them know the situation. I also tell people who are in any of these situations to document what’s going on because the company’s going to want to know the documentation, and for your own protection you ‘re going to want to make sure you’re documenting the reality of the situation. ‘Cause the worst thing that can happen is that you start to get blamed for any of this happening as well.

DENISE: There’s the boss that you can do nothing right for. I mean, that boss is going to complain about everything. You’re going to give in a project and it’s just, he has to or she has to change it. How do you handle, its, its criticism, but it can be demoralizing criticism?

MAGGIE: Yes, and defeating. It can really take a toll on your self-esteem over time. And, you know, when you think about your persona in the work world, your self-esteem is something you really want to protect. So I have a serious conversation with people who are in these types of situations and say, do you really think is a place you should be staying? You know, can you find another position within the company with, perhaps, a different manager, someone who’s going to support you and encouraging you? And if, for whatever reason, they feel they can’t move on, I at least say find a mentor, find somebody else who can tell you your real quality of work; both constructive criticism, yes, but also the positives of what you’re doing because unless you get that positive feedback somewhere, slowly but surely your, you know, confidence will erode and that’ll start to affect your possibilities in your career and your future.

DENISE: So in your demeanor in the office, demeanor is important.

MAGGIE: Absolutely. I mean, I always coach people to be professional. No matter what anybody else says or does, you always have control over being a professional.

DENISE: And if you don’t like the job, leave it.

MAGGIE: Yeah, and if you don’t like the manager, leave it too. Your manager – studies have shown that – your manager is the number one determinant of your job satisfaction. So that person usually won’t change their spots per se, so rather than try to change your manager, perhaps it’s better to change your job, either within the company or somewhere else where you can be a better fit with that next manager that you have.

DENISE: Oh, you’re so good Maggie Mistal. Thank you so much for being with us.

Thanks, Denise.

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