What to do when you don’t get along with your boss

Posted at 8:33 AM, Dec 18, 2018
and last updated 2018-12-18 10:42:10-05

You won’t always get along with everyone you work with. But when there’s friction between you and your boss, that’s a problem.

“It’s not a relationship of equals,” noted Marie McIntyre, a career coach in Atlanta and author of “Secrets to Winning at Office Politics.” “The boss has more leverage than you and is in the power position.”

Your manager is the one influencing your pay, job growth and project assignments. So not being on good terms can be detrimental to your career, even if you’re good at your job.

Learning how to identify problem areas and manage these workplace relationships will help you become more successful. “A united team is a powerful team,” said Jon Gordon, author of “The Power of a Positive Team.” “When you have friction, you aren’t going to be as strong. It’s crucial to your productivity, efficiency and ultimately your success.”

Identify the disconnect

You can’t fix an unknown problem.

Figure out the source of disconnect with your boss, and then strategize how best to mitigate the situation

It can often be a difference in work or management styles. But if a lot of your colleagues also have issues with the boss, you might be stuck with a bad manager.

“You have to figure out how to work with them. If your boss is an idiot, then you have to figure out how to work for an idiot boss,” said McIntyre.

It helps to discuss with your co-workers about how to best interact with the boss.

Are you the problem?

There are bad managers out there. But sometimes, the worker is the problem.

Take the time to review your past relationships with bosses — has there always been conflict? If so, you might have an issue with authority.

If you’ve had issues with the majority of your previous bosses, that’s a sign you could have some authority issues, noted McIntyre.

Other signs include feeling resentful when your boss gives directions, arguing or wanting to argue frequently with your boss, and intentionally ignoring instructions.

“If you get into an argument with your boss, you’ve already lost,” she added.

Learn to manage up…tactfully

If the disconnect between you and your boss stems from different management styles, be proactive and clear with your needs. Tell your boss what you need from him or her in order to perform at your best.

If you favor more autonomy when your boss is more of a micromanager, establish a schedule and communication method that works for both of you.

Creating an open document that details your progress on a project that your boss can access, setting up a designated time to provide an update, or sending daily/weekly email updates can help diffuse any anxiety or unwanted hovering.

If you need more feedback and company insight, set up regular check-ins.

“Outline your goals and request to meet quarterly or monthly to make sure you are on the right track,” said Vicki Salemi, career expert at

“It’s challenging to manage up,” said Salemi. “You are basically telling your boss I need you to help with this so the team looks better, the boss looks better and you look better. It’s a total win.”

Cut your boss some slack

Everyone makes mistakes, including bosses.

“You have to recognize there aren’t any perfect managers, they are just people and you have to figure out how to work it out,” said McIntyre.

Seek out safety in numbers.

Limiting one-on-one time with your boss can help avoid tension and flare-ups.

“Being around more people can help when personalities clash,” said Salemi. “You can’t really change the other person, you can try and make the best of a situation.”

Break the negative cycle

How you think about your boss is important and can continue to derail the relationship.

“The more you think about your boss as an evil, stupid and mean person, the more it will affect how you interact with that person,” warned McIntyre.

Try to identity some positive traits about your boss and focus on those instead. “Don’t become obsessed with the bad.”

Stay respectful

You don’t want to get a reputation of being disrespectful or hard to manage — that can stunt your career growth.

“You may not respect the person as a manager, but you have to show respect for the position if you want things to go well,” said McIntyre.

“Never go to war with your boss. If you do, you are probably going to lose.”