Is it Difficult to manage Difficult Boss (or People)?

Yes, if you believe it is difficult, it would be. And if you can learn to manage, you would find it simple! Difficult people, bosses included, are all around the globe and there is definite reason, why the class of bosses is often like that.

What I am sharing below applies to both, who is a boss and who is not. Actually, it applies to difficult people in general, you need to deal with. Many of you must be wearing 2 hats – you are a boss and also have a boss. Observe your behavior under these under 2 hats; most probably you would find that you behave differently as boss and with one, who is your boss! Why? Think it over and ask yourself why your behavioral pattern cannot be same under both hats? And if you are married, you also have your spouse as your boss at home!

Definition of “Being difficult”

People are perceived as difficult, when they put others to difficulty time and again, by raising unreasonable demands, irrational decisions, seeking to find flaws and nag or hurt others emotionally through their actions or expressions.
Most are vocal and vociferous; but some could be surreptitious, while being sweet and smiling from the looks! It is more important to understand the latter!!

Symptoms of Difficult Boss or People

It is a good idea to understand these, as some symptoms could be open and some could be obscure. These could be any combination of the following:

  • Stern or Stressed face
  • Secretive or Solo (Not open and does not share information)
  • Spontaneous to react or Snapping conversations
  • Loud or Loose temper
  • Finds flaws or not a solution seeker
  • Demanding
  • Poor listener
  • Irrational
  • Imposes own views
  • Emotional

What makes a Boss Difficult?

It could be a mix of one or more of following factors:

  1. Blood pressure
    A higher blood pressure of a boss would make him (with no gender bias, I would henceforth use he or him) stressed, short temper or impatient.
  2. Successes getting into his head
    If boss does not manage his successes well, these can get into his head, make him high handed and arrogant.
  3. Failures getting into his heart
    If a boss does not want to acknowledge and learn lessons from his failures, he can easily lean to rebellion and reactionary mode and mood.
  4. Perfection and Passion
    These are great qualities of a leader. If a boss imbibes these; but is not conscious of consequential pitfalls, he can turn impatient, indignant or impersonal.
  5. Ego, Emotions and Envy
    If one misunderstands his pride and position, superiority complex would sway him, giving rise to ego and emotions and his emphasis would shift to “I”. Further, if you are a stronger personality and performer, you could well attract your boss’ envy and fury, in case he feels insecure from you.
  6. Personal Ambitions
    Some bosses could be quite ambitious to grow. Therefore, their empathy with employees evaporates and focus on figures boils up.
  7. Pressure to Perform
    Often, a boss may have stretched targets for his management or market scenario could be challenging or he may be new to his role. Under all such cases, heat is in his head to show performance. Reasonable approach and attitude towards people may take back seat.
  8. Inability to Perform
    It is possible that one is prematurely promoted or he is not fit for the job. Rather than being rational to address his weaknesses, a boss can turn belligerent.

11x Golden rules to manage

Our natural tendency is to act difficult against difficult people. Many like to do it, justifying that is the way to deal. They may claim having no patience, may get short term effect and more importantly, it satisfies their ego. That’s it; nothing beyond! I can tell you this approach has helped no one worldwide. It has only made one more miserable.

If you are looking for a sure recipe to give you results and respite, look at the following golden rules. These can only help and never hurt.

  1. Greet with heart and hand (shake) daily those, who are difficult, including your boss, looking into his/her eyes.
  2. Offer your understanding and acceptance of what he is.
  3. Listen attentively and patiently, when he is communicating, with no emotion; but just smile.
  4. Don’t argue, even when he is wrong or irrational; remain poised and patient. Just tell him that you want to share your thoughts what would work and what would not; but you are willing to do what he wants (as long as it is ethical and does not harm or hurt anyone).
  5. Ensure that no bias against him bugs you.
  6. Never break communication with him, get into controversy or be critical of him.
  7. Reflect on his strengths and weaknesses, pluses and minuses. He is bound to have some good qualities. Learn from those and tell him how you are benefitted from same.
  8. Use every opportunity to complement him, when he does it right and share your views how it impacts others, when he goes wrong. Also, look for opportune time to give him your candid feedback how his attitude or approach troubles you.
  9. Leave him alone, when he is erratic or in wrong frame of mind and let go your frustration or pain with him, if any.
  10. Extend your support and wiser counsel, when he is in trouble or crisis or grappling with issues or falling short in his targets.
  11. Show your sympathy, dignity and courtesy consistently to him; he has human side too!

If you could follow as many or all of above 11x Golden Rules, you should be able to  manage more than 90% of difficult bosses or people in general, you come across. These would give you colossal comfort and confidence. More importantly, these can have impeccable impact to enhance your Emotional Intelligence Quotient (EQ)!

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13 Comments
  • Shankar
    Jul 5,2012 at 8:53 am

    Excellent article!

    • Jul 5,2012 at 5:48 pm

      I am indeed thankful for your feedback.

  • Maria
    Jul 3,2012 at 1:44 pm

    wonderful post, and very true, acting difficult with difficult people leads to nowhere…. very valuable suggestions, i remembered a saying i always keep in mind, what cannot be cured has to be endured 🙂

    • Jul 3,2012 at 3:31 pm

      I am pleased with your valuable comments and feedback!

      The “Saying” that you have quoted is very appropriate.

  • Rudra
    Jun 26,2012 at 12:19 am

    Actually, it isn’t… it isn’t (shouldn’t be) difficult to manage difficult people… if you treat both the parties right – yourself and himself.

    Everybody is different and so is their attitude. If you treat people at their own level, in their own comfort-zone, you can deal with anybody in this world. And that’s what most successful leaders do when it comes to managing different types of people in a team. Just treat them within their limitations – you’ll find nobody “difficult” on planet Earth!!

    You mentioned the term “Boss” many times in your post along with the word “Difficult”. I personally feel these two things can not go hand-in-hand. If you’re difficult, you can’t be a (successful) boss. You must have seen very often that a ‘difficult’ boss’s empire never sustains long – it can’t for obvious reasons!!

    Your G.O.L.D.E.N.R.U.L.E.S. does stand a very good point though. Hope more and more “difficult”” people go through this post and think about bringing some change in them (that probably includes me as well :P)

    Show kindness whenever possible. Show it to the people in front of you, the people coming up behind you, and the people with whom you are running neck and neck. It will vastly improve the quality of your own life, the lives of others, and the state of the world… and there will be no difficult people!!

    Cheers! 🙂

    • Jun 26,2012 at 1:19 pm

      Many thanks for putting together your comprehensive thoughts, which have triggered mine.

      We are not in an ideal world; nor we can oversimplify the real one we live in. By and large, people act as per their whims and fancies; do not like or do not take trouble to understand what is right, what are others’ limitations or comfort zones. This the crux of the issues and hence this post to help resolve.

      Some bosses are difficult and people unfriendly; but, they do survive. They may be successful, as they deliver figures, in their own management’s eyes!

  • Jun 22,2012 at 4:11 pm

    Pradeep Pottipati – Transferred from Face Book
    8:44pm Jun 21
    Wow, Sir, the article you posted about being a Difficult PERSON and handling a difficult PERSON is nice. Looks like I have many of those qualities that may make me termed as difficult by others. I dint use the word boss because, its more about a person, as he is than a boss. I was never a boss, but still I was a difficult one and to my boss as well.

    Pradeep Pottipati
    8:46pm Jun 21
    When ever I was behaving DIFFICULT, I felt I had a reason. Coz I was getting irritated when things (mistakes) happen again and again. Now I think I could have behaved in a different way as well, if I would have given a thought to it.
    But I was not difficult always, but some times I was very difficult, that even my boss can’t handle me. So that feeling makes me overlook the drawbacks in my being Difficult (sometimes), though I know that I was difficult a moment before I’m cool. Even when I was behaving difficult, I used to observe me that I’m loosing myself etc, but couldn’t help as I was already half the way. But sometimes the frustration and the worry that we may loose time or quality will make me let the kindness take a back seat.

    Pradeep Pottipati
    8:57pm Jun 21
    Sir, but I really dont know how to control our senses and be calm at that moment when frustration and worry will overpower our senses. I think I have to give a thought seriously. Thanks for bringing a thought process in me. I will look for your suggestions, as you have crossed all the phases in your life.

    Pradeep Pottipati
    8:59pm Jun 21
    I know I was also very kind to people. That was my other half at work. So the people who liked my kindness have never complained when I was difficult, but those who dint give a look at my kindness has looked only at my rude behavior and I know I lost them in my team. Its something I have learnt today from a recall.

  • Aniruddha Karmarkar
    Jun 22,2012 at 1:44 pm

    I do strongly agree to what Arun has mentioned above.

    I would like to further add that, give importance to each & every person in the organization by treating him like a boss if he is making useful contribution in your career growth by giving good valuable inputs in day to day activity, if he is helpful to you when you are going through difficulties & bad patches whenever the need may be. Ultimately the fruitful goal which has to be achieved at the end of the day for yourself & the organization is more important than just nurturing a boss who can not bring any value addition for sub ordinates even though he is senior to you in terms of position & also experience.

    • Jun 22,2012 at 4:27 pm

      I appreciate your comments and views. Thanks for giving me an opportunity to share my additional views.

      It is very right that we should treat our colleagues in the organization well and with respect. But, in real life, how would you treat every colleague, who is helpful to you, like a boss? A boss or a leader has a particular role given by the organization itself. Question is not of nurturing the boss; but how to manage him/her, so that you can perform and do good to organization!

  • Jun 22,2012 at 12:03 am

    Dear Mr. Lohia,

    After reading this list, I would like to add a few more ideas

    a) Be concise in your communication to your boss. So before you go to a meeting, plan in advance what you will say to him or her, and prepare concise answers in advance to any questions he or she may pose to you. Take a paper notebook and a pen to the meeting, and take minutes. These actions show that you are “in control”

    b) at the end of the meeting, summarise the actions verbally to check you have everything, and then follow it up with an email that lists these actions. Don’t wait until the actions are completed until you communicate with him or her again. But let him or her know that you have reached milestones in your actions

    c) understand how he would like to be reported to, and use that way. Some people prefer to read, some people prefer to listen, and some people prefer to just observe how an employee “moves” among the other employees.

    d) But regardless of the preferred way of communication, always keep a paper trail, of communications, and meeting notes.

    e) have a sense of humour, but don’t joke.

    • Jun 22,2012 at 1:04 pm

      Many thanks for making valuable contribution by putting more ideas together! It would make sense with many kind of Bosses.

      • Jun 22,2012 at 3:24 pm

        Transferred from LinkedIn
        Kedar Kulkarni has sent you a message.
        Date: 6/22/2012
        Subject: RE: Is it Difficult to manage Difficult Boss (or People)?
        Hi Murali,

        Fantastic piece of information !
        All points make sense and one can easily relate to their existing / ex bosses.

        It is said, people dont leave company, people leave managers.
        If one is able to master to manage difficult bosses, no need to jump organization and rotate the wheel again.

        Thanks, keep posting, I love to read them.

        Kedar Kulkarni

        • Jun 22,2012 at 3:45 pm

          From: Sagar Gadre [mailto:gadre.sa@gmail.com]
          Sent: Friday, June 22, 2012 3:44 AM

          Dear Sir,

          Your post could not have come at any more right time than this. I needed some advice on this subject and your post has given me inner calmness and confidence to face the issue.

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