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Employment Tips

Difficult Bosses - To Move or Not
By:Ellen Jackson

There have been so many books and articles written about how to deal with difficult people, wacko bosses, or positions that you don't fit in it's almost confusing. If you are like me you read multiple books on these subjects and in most cases find answers that make sense and should work, but just don't. So today we're going to break it down to what is really important and sum it all up in a format that will make your decision-making on what to do next a little easier. .

There are all kinds of personality types. We already know this. Anyone who made it through grade school came across a bully, or an enabler, etc. , (we just didn't have a name for it then). There was an individual or group that we were drawn to and enjoyed being around. Maybe not the most popular, but they were “our" group.

It is the same in the work world. There are bullies, there are whiners, enablers, all of those same kids you grew up with are now grown-ups and you are having to deal with them in the world of work, except now you can't avoid them as you probably did on the playground. The real difference now is that you have a label to attach to the obnoxious behavior or attitude. The reality though is that if a person is difficult for you to deal with, especially a boss, it does not automatically mean that you need to change or there is something wrong with you. Yes, you need to assess your part in the situation, but the bottom line is that you will have to live with whatever changes you make to yourself to get along with the boss and that may not be in your best interest.

Assess Your Situation

You will first want to honestly assess your attitude and situation. Make sure that you take a personal inventory of the good things about your job or boss and the bad. Is the boss new, have you recently been through a stressful personal event, has your boss recently been through a stressful event. If you have been happy with your boss and position for some time and this is “sudden, " then this could very well just be a minor bump in the road that will fix itself. Is the position you are in a career position or just a stop gap until something better comes along.

Sometimes we find that the career path we began really isn't for us. Unfortunately too many people decide to tough it out and make everyone unhappy. Or we have a boss who is comfortably placed in a position that s/he really doesn't have passion for and those around them must suffer the consequences of an individual's unfulfilled quest for passion.

One of the things that very few books or articles really tell us is that if we are in a situation where our boss or co-workers are not happy with their own career choices, there is nothing we can do about it. Changing our nature or attitude from positive to negative in order to fit the model of the office environment will do no one any good, most of all you. If you are by nature a very positive person it takes a lot of energy to pretend that you are ok in a negative environment. By the same token, if you are a negative person by nature, it takes a lot of energy to pretend that you are positive. Rather than spend precious time and energy conforming to an uncomfortable situation, you may find that it makes more sense to find a better fit for you personally and professionally.

If, after assessing your situation you find that there is little or no joy in your job and your work environment is not just in a momentary down period, then you will definitely want to look at some options.


We've talked about changing your personality to match your boss or environment. It is important to note that this is not a long term fix. Our basic nature can be modified, but not completely remade to fit another's perceived needs. If you are a logical person who has found themselves working for or around illogical people, you are not going to be happy, no matter how much money you make or how amusing it may be in the beginning. Eventually the illogic of the decision making process by those in charge will make you crazy.

Another big item is the identifying of the personality type and adjusting accordingly. Well, as we mentioned earlier, identifying personality types isn't that hard. You've been doing it since you were a toddler the only difference now is that you are old enough and have learned enough to attach the appropriate label or title to the behavior. You pretty much know if someone is negative or positive, a blamer or shirker. The real question is whether or not you “want" to adjust accordingly.

The average person in America changes jobs every two years. That's quite different from the days when a person was at the same job for twenty or thirty years and tolerated the job because of the great retirement plan or health benefits. If you've been around awhile, you've probably already been through at least one downsizing. The loyalty of the company to the employee and the employee to the company is not the same as it was years ago and yet we still hang on to the illusion that the job will be long-term and stable if we can just adjust our attitude or way of doing things to conform to the team. In today's environment a job is a lot like a marriage. Very few people actually stick it out through thick and thin and even fewer hang around when there is not return of their investment of time, effort and loyalty.

Deal Breakers

It is important that you identify the deal breakers. These are the areas that you absolutely will not change about yourself or your attitude. If you are a grown-up and have been doing the same kind of job for several years, you have a pretty good idea of your value. Part of the attractiveness to large corporations of hiring young graduates is that they really have little or no idea of their real value/worth. They know what they have been told in school, but it's pretty easy to convince these newbies that they need “more experience" to be worth what they think they should be right after graduating. One of your primary deal breakers should be if your work environment tries to convince you that you are worth less than you know you are. This is not just monetary. If you are made to feel that your opinion isn't important, or that you are not a part of the team unless you jump on the bandwagon of some idea, or you can be replaced easily, then these are deal breakers and it is really not worth changing your inner self to accommodate what you think they want. An office environment that is in a constant state of turmoil is not worth the investment you will have to make in order to fit in.

Another deal breaker is when you feel that you are compromising what you feel is right. We all have different concepts of what is right and wrong, however, if you are put in a position where you are constantly having to make excuses for your team or boss, and it is “assumed" that you will continue to do this willingly, you definitely want to rethink the value of the position you are in.

If you feel threatened or intimidated on your job or by your boss, this is a deal breaker. You will not be able to adapt to what they want and you will not be able to fit in with the group. If you are the person who is constantly worried about doing or saying the wrong thing, you are not in a position that is going to last very long. Without trust it is very difficult to function at your full potential and the harder you try the worse it will get.

If you are in a position or working for a boss that does not support you or give you opportunities for growth within the organization, this is a deal breaker. From the time you realize you are stuck in a position or with a group of people and there is no potential for growth or escape, you are wasting your time. Support and growth opportunities should not be based on the mood of your boss or team. A good leader provides unconditional support and mentoring. If you do not have that in your workplace, then you need to find a position that will provide this since the most visible sign of a company's success is the growth opportunities it provides to staff.

What to do

If you find yourself in a position that is not fulfilling and causes you to second guess each action before you take it, you are not in an environment that will support you or allow you to grow. Take a moment to evaluate your options. Sometimes it is necessary to take a pay cut or step back to get going in the right direction. It is harder to do this as we get older, but is just as necessary.

Look at all of the opportunities available around you. Look for environments that more closely match your natural demeanor. The very worst thing you can do is get sucked into the game of changing self to improve a work environment. The only time you should change yourself is to improve yourself because you want to make a change in your life. As we all know, changing ourselves to fit the needs of others rarely, if ever works.

This does not mean that you should stop taking advantage of new learning or growth opportunities. But, do it for the right reason.

You are already valuable and special, and you have a skill set that no one else has. For these reasons alone, remember that when you are working with a difficult boss you are not necessarily the one who needs to do the changing. If a working relationship is not win-win, then your first task after honestly evaluating your needs will be to find a win-win working relationship. The challenge will be to stay upbeat and not become discouraged if it takes a few different positions. The perfect position, like everything else in our lives is a process that we grow into. It is not just there, and we don't just “find" it on the first try every time.

Copyright © Ellen Jackson and Website Maintenance and Marketing. You have permission to use this article freely in any publication as long as you do not alter or change the content and the byline is included as-is. For more information visit me at

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