Career Corner: Dealing with Difficult Bosses | AIChE

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Career Corner: Dealing with Difficult Bosses


In the comedy Horrible Bosses, three friends who have been harassed, insulted, and terrorized by their bosses scheme to get rid of them permanently. Professionals who may have had a difficult manager or two may readily identify with the trio and get a few laughs from their misguided attempts to deal with their bosses. But comedic aspects aside, working for a difficult boss does take its toll, often causing employees to feel disengaged, undervalued, stressed, or depressed.

My early career, as a process development engineer in an R&D lab, was defined by a series of supervisors who were either absent, poor communicators, or did not set clear expectations. Eventually, I became so miserable I left the company. This is not a surprising outcome: the relationship between manager and employee affects not only job performance and satisfaction, it impacts employee turnover. An employee’s relationship with their immediate supervisor is the number one factor that affects how satisfied, engaged, and committed the employee is at work (1).

When dealing with a difficult boss, leaving the company like I did may not always be a viable strategy — whether for family or professional reasons. What else should you consider doing? First, realize that complaining or venting alone doesn’t solve the problem. “Complaining is not helping you, your team, or your workplace,” says Jamie Sussel Turner, a...

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