Six tips for managing a difficult relationship with your boss

Six tips for managing a difficult relationship with your boss

Your relationship with your boss can have a huge impact on your life inside and outside of work. I know this only too well!

I’ve been fortunate enough to enjoy some exceptional relationships with my previous bosses. I’ve also experienced the pain of a difficult one.

There are things I did well, and definitely a few things I could have done better. Now that I’m a Master Practitioner of NLP,  I can look back and see all of the incredible tools and techniques that I was missing and could have used!

I wanted to write this article to share some tips on how to avoid making the same mistakes I have so you can overcome difficult conversations with ease.

Here’s 6 tips that you can use to tackle difficult relationships with your team leader and improve the dynamic between you two.

An employee and leader getting along and working together

1. Live in a world of 100% accountability

Blame is an instant relationship killer.

I’ve experienced this harsh reality first hand. If you’re allocating blame, you’ve damaged the relationship already. Fact.

It can be so easy to see a mistake and start pointing fingers, but what does this achieve? Shaming someone and passing the buck will only result in hurt feelings and damaged trust and respect.

No matter the mistake, you need to focus on what’s in YOUR control to fix it. Whether it’s you who’s made the error or someone else.

You have power in every situation – you’re in charge of your mind and your results.

When it comes to business relationships, this is so vital. You can choose what to think about a situation, which in turn subconsciously changes your behaviours and communication with the other person.

If you always look for how you could have helped or done something better, your willingness to hold your hands up and take responsibility will attract respect and strengthen your relationship with your Boss.

2. Ask for feedback

How can you make a relationship better without having the key to open the door?

You can only have that key once you’ve asked for it.

Let your Boss know that it’s important to you to strengthen your relationship and ask what you can do to improve how you work with them.

Honest communication and the humility to listen are the ingredients for an incredible working relationship.

I always recommend asking for feedback frequently. That way, things are less likely to fester and become bigger than they are.

I remember one time where my Boss at the time found something I did quite irritating. They held in their frustration for months before getting it off their chest. It created a huge divide in our relationship because although they didn’t realise it, it was crystal clear in their body language that something was wrong.

If they had just come to me and asked me to do my work in a slightly different way, none of that frustration would have existed and our relationship could have been far stronger!

On the other hand, I’ve been lucky enough to work for an exceptional boss for years who was open, honest, and authentic. I always knew where I stood with her and she never judged anything. Feedback never meant failure, only ways to improve.

She always asked me for my feedback in return and we had an incredible relationship which I’ll never forget. We’re still in contact now, years later!

A manager talking to their team with a great relationship

3. Be courageous

It’s often the case that difficult relationships exist because of a lack of communication.

It can be hard to say things to your boss, especially if you think they won’t listen. Or worse, they could retaliate!

If you’re choosing to think this, it’s on your shoulders. You’re limiting yourself.

The only way to change something is to be courageous and take action. That may mean you need to face out those tough conversations.

You could be pleasantly surprised! Things always seem bigger in our minds than they are.

I remember once that I had to face a very hard conversation about the Boss was impacting morale across the team and I was expecting a very difficult conversation. Instead, I got a ‘Thank you’.

People aren’t always aware of their behaviours. If you don’t communicate your issues with it, you can’t blame them if they don’t get it right. Especially as everyone is different, and how they interact with one person may make them happy, but if they do the same with you it doesn’t have the same reaction.

Sure, they might be ‘the boss’ and it can be argued that they shouldn’t make mistakes or else why are they paid the big bucks? However, keep this in mind: Are you employed by a robot??

Not yet, anyway!

People make mistakes, regardless of job title or pay.

If you strip back the judgement and treat them as you would like to be treated, with professionalism, patience, and kindness.

The way I see it is the worst case scenario is that it doesn’t go particularly well and they struggle to hear what you’ve got to say and nothing much changes.

If this happens, you can hold your head high and be happy with the fact you were strong enough to face the issues you’re having. You can’t control their behaviour, but you can control yours.

Just keep in mind that they’re still your boss. Don’t go in all guns blazing or use threats – you’ll be walking a very thin tightrope!

Just let them know that you feel honesty is important and that you have some concerns that you’d like to discuss, which when resolved will have an impact on your results and happiness within the position.

4. What’s in it for them?

Usually, if people are powerful and like a sense of control, which many difficult bosses do, storming in and telling them to change is doomed to fail.

Anything that sounds like an instruction will rebound like a tennis ball off a wall. You need to go into conversation with rapport, using positive tones and without a hint of accusation.

If you want them to buy-in to what you’re saying, think about how to package up what you want to say.

How will making a change benefit them?

When there’s a noticeable benefit to them, you’re far more likely to find listening ears. It’s human nature to be interested in what’s in it for us.

Think about the situation from several angles and look at it from their point of view. Consider the benefits to them taking on board your point.

This will go a long way to fostering a good working relationship and create a mutually beneficial agreement, rather than sounding like take take take!

A boss explaining a process to their employee with ease

5. Work on yourself

You may have noticed that the theme of this article is all about what YOU can do. That’s because it all starts with you. You’re responsible for your choices.

The more you develop yourself and your communication, the more progress you can make.

Here are the techniques that helped me with a couple links for further reading:

Rapport BuildingRead our ‘Secrets of Rapport’ article here.

The Now State – This is a way to be present and calm, free of reaction and emotion. When you’re really present and in the moment, frustrations are on the outside. This gives you the ability to have easier conversations and better, stress free relationships. Find out how to get into The Now State in our infographic here.

Milton Model Language Patterns – These are really useful for influencing people and building rapport. It’s something I include in all of my sales and leadership training programmes.

Sensory Language – This helps you adapt to the primary method of communication of whoever you’re talking to, creating less barriers between you.

The more you work on yourself, the better your relationships will be. We have an eBook on managing your mind which you might find useful if you want to get better at this!

6. Focus on the task in hand

Regardless of the challenges you’re facing, your Boss is employing you to do a job. They rely on you.

If you allow the frustrations you feel to take over then your performance will go downhill. If your performance is through the floor, they’re far less likely to be inclined to improve their own actions for your benefit.

Whereas if you show loyalty, commitment, and drive, they’re likely to respect and appreciate you. I know this can be difficult if they’re not treating you like that at the moment, and you may want to show them that poor performance is what they get if they treat you this way. I would urge you to reconsider – 2 wrongs really don’t make a right in this situation and it will just continue to snowball into a worse relationship.

Your most powerful weapon with your Boss is your performance. The more you achieve, the more influence you have.

A leader explaining work to an employee in an open and communicative way

Once you start thinking about and applying these 6 tips, you’ll start to feel things improve. That often has a knock on effect to your life outside of work as well.

I really hope that you can enjoy the rewards that can come with these steps and you don’t suffer any of the stresses I did before making these changes!

My health was impacted from the stress as I found myself constantly making excuses and resenting my Boss. I know now that I was responsible for my actions and I could have achieved a far better result if I used more of these tips back then.

Your subconscious mind is built with a programme to defend you. That’s why when we’re under emotional attack we often lash out and fight back.

You need to remember that you’re in charge of this and be hyper aware of your behaviours. Figure out what impact you’re having on your relationship and find ways to improve.

When you adopt a continuous development strategy into your life you’ll find your life changes for the better. You’ll be constantly evolving and developing, attracting better results every day.

Good luck in embracing these methods and let me know your results!

I also provide NLP Coaching for people who face challenges at work if you need an extra boost and you’re struggling to implement these tips fully. I love empowering people with this knowledge, so always offer a free consultation period to make sure you’re happy with my methods.

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