Dealing with a Difficult Manager

Workplace Disputes

A relatively common theme we have seen in recruitment over the years has been individuals seeking new employment because they have a manager or colleague who is making their work life less than enjoyable. Moving jobs isn’t always the answer, especially if, in the main, you have a job you enjoy and are working for a company that you believe in.

Dealing with a “difficult” manager or colleague can be challenging, but there are several strategies you can use to handle the situation effectively. Here are some examples of steps you can take:

Assess The Situation

Before taking any action, take some time to evaluate the situation objectively. Consider your managers or colleagues behaviour, the impact it has on you and your work, and whether it’s a one-time occurrence or a consistent pattern.

Maintain Professionalism

It’s important to remain calm, composed, and professional in your interactions. That can sometimes be easier said than done but avoid responding emotionally or engaging in confrontations that could escalate the situation further.

Understand Their Perspective

Try to gain insight into their perspective and understand the underlying reasons for their behaviour. Consider their workload, pressure from their superiors, or any personal challenges they may be facing. This understanding can help you empathise with their situation.

Communicate Openly

Schedule a meeting with your manager or a coffee with your colleague to discuss your concerns. Prepare a list of specific issues or incidents that you find challenging and express your concerns in a constructive and non-confrontational manner. Use “I” statements to describe how their behaviour affects you and provide examples.  They may not be aware of their actions and how they are making you feel.

Seek Support

Reach out to trusted colleagues, mentors, or HR professionals to discuss the situation and seek advice. They may provide guidance, alternative perspectives, or strategies for dealing with the situation. Additionally, they might have experienced similar situations and can offer valuable insights.

Find Coping Mechanisms

While you work on resolving the issue, find healthy ways to cope with the stress. Engage in activities outside of work that help you relax and recharge, such as exercise, meditation, hobbies, or spending time with friends and family. Taking care of your well-being is crucial during challenging times.

Document Incidents

Keep a record of any incidents or interactions, including dates, times, and a description of what happened. This documentation can be useful if you need to escalate the situation later or discuss it with HR.

Seek Mediation or Escalation

If your attempts to address the situation directly with the individual do not lead to a resolution or if the behaviour persists, you may need to escalate the matter to higher management or HR. Familiarise yourself with your organisation’s policies and procedures regarding workplace behaviour and conflict resolution. Be aware of the steps you can take to address the situation formally if necessary.  Provide them with the documentation you have gathered and explain the steps you have taken to resolve the issue.

Remember that every situation is unique, and the appropriate approach may vary. It’s important to trust your instincts and take action that aligns with your best interests and well-being. 

Communication is important, if you “hold things in” what started as a something relatively small can grow into something that consumes you and that is never a good thing for you at work or at home.