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6 steps for coping with a 'challenging' boss, according to a human behaviour expert

Photo: Horrible Bosses/ IMDb.

Working for a challenging boss can be a nightmare, and knowing how to handle the situation while remaining professional and courteous can be especially testing.

To help understand more about handling these working relationships and employing strategies to cope with them, Business Insider spoke to Dr John Demartini, a human behaviour expert and founder of the Demartini Institute.

“Every individual, including your boss, lives by a unique set of values or priorities,” says Demartini.

“When they perceive that their highest values are challenged they can become irritable, more abrupt and demanding, rule-oriented and even critical or condescending.

“When they perceive that their highest values are supported they can become calm, patient, understanding, more relaxed when it comes to their rules and expectations, praising and more respectful.”

He suggests that people will often make assumptions about a person based on their behaviour without attempting to effectively communicate within their highest values, which their identity often revolves around.

“No one is completely one-sided and exaggerated labels are incomplete assessments of others. They are simply individuals with a unique set of values that we may successfully or unsuccessfully communicate effectively within.”

Ultimately, Demartini says if the situation with your boss is beyond repair you can always chose to move on to another career opportunity.

But he warns: “What you condemn you often breed, attract or become. It is wise to master the skill of human interaction and find out how to respond to each human behaviour in a way that fulfills your highest values and priorities. Masters see things on the way, not in the way.”

Here are Demartini’s six steps for coping with a challenging boss.

1. Identify and help your boss achieve their goals/objectives

When you help them fulfill their highest values and objectives they are more likely to open up and be receptive to your presence and actions and respond more respectfully.

It may be more productive to respectfully approach your boss and ask him or her a series of questions that show that you would love to help fulfill their objectives, such as:

  • How specifically can I be more supportive or of greater assistance to you and help you fulfill your highest priority objectives here at the company?
  • What specifically can I do to become more effective and efficient in my assigned job responsibilities? What else can I do to assist the company in growing and becoming more profitable?
  • What specifically are your highest priority objectives that you would possibly love assistance with? What specific skills or areas of knowledge do you feel I could polish up or work on to help make your position more inspiring?

2. Put yourself in your boss’s shoes

This helps you understand their urgencies and possible frustrations and deadlines they may be under and relaxes your expectations on them to be only nice and not mean.

It may also be wise to ask yourself the following reflective question: What specifically am I doing, or not doing, that might be provoking such a response that I am receiving from my boss?

It is more likely than not that an interpersonal dynamic, or subtle behavior that you may or may not be conscious of that is initiating their response.

Ask yourself:

  • Am I addicted to praise, support and ease and overly challenged by such opposite critical or challenging behaviors?
  • Are my withdrawal reactions due to my past personal wounds and am I projecting my wounds on to my boss who may simply be representing an opportunity for me to breakthrough my wounds and address my underlying previous victim perceptions?
  • What would be the drawbacks to me if my boss were to act the way I would rather have them behave?

3. Go above the call of duty

Making yourself more indispensable makes them appreciate and require your help which adds to their appreciation of you and softens their approach.

4. When your boss is abrupt or critical – look for the opposite where someone is patient and supportive at that moment to neutralise the emotional reaction

There is a balancing act going on around you – by seeing the balance, neither will run you. The opposite may be coming from your friends, family members or colleagues.

5. Empower your life in as many areas as possible

Any area of your life you do not empower, someone else will overpower. By expanding your education, business and financial savvy, communication skills, time management and overall self-image and worth, you decrease the probability of attracting others to ‘bully’ you.

6. Simply ask yourself how their behaviour could serve you in the long run

It is not what happens to you from others that ultimately accounts and determines your reactions. It is your own perceptions, decisions and actions. You have control over these, not others. You can be a victim of your history or a master of your destiny based upon how you decide to perceive and respond to your work situation and dynamic.

Ask yourself: How specifically could I use my bosses’ behavior to catalyse my own growth and opportunities?

Sometimes you can have be holding onto a fantasy or unrealistic expectation about others or your boss to be only one-sided, supportive individuals. Every event and individual has two sides. To focus on their drawbacks and not be open to their benefits will leave you in a space of remaining a victim trapped in your job.

Dr John Demartini is the founder of the Demartini Institute. He is also a leading international human behaviour expert, educator and best-selling author.

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