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#HustleEveryday: How to work with a boss who doesn’t like you

Jonathan Yabut
#HustleEveryday: How to work with a boss who doesn’t like you
Here are possible reasons why your boss may not like you, and some tips on how to improve your relationship

No doubt, our bosses define the happiness in our jobs.

But not all of us are blessed with managers who will give this ideal experience.

There will be unlucky employees whose bosses can’t spare some love — they give you the cold shoulder, speak in a rude tone, or exclude you from important e-mails.

You sense the tension, but you can’t point out the reason why. Here are possible reasons why your boss may not like you, and some tips on how to improve your relationship.

1. You’re not good enough. Your ability to meet expectations is proportional to your likeability in the office, so this is the first base to look at. Perhaps your boss thinks you’re incompetent. Those who micromanage you or comment too frequently on your performance fall into this category.

To start, identify which part of the expectations aren’t you meeting. Is it the quality? Is it the speed? Is it because you often misunderstand his instructions? I had evil bosses in my career who will crush your heart and say it to your face, but I also had passive-aggressive ones who think they can tell it to you telepathically*.

Start by confronting your boss if you have the latter. Try asking, “I always notice the change in your tone after I submit my reports. May I ask if there is a specific item you’d like me to work on next time?”
Once you’ve achieved more clarity, it’s time for you to step up. Ask for more training and mentoring (try senior leaders or ex-bosses because your current boss won’t be that helpful). Ask help from colleagues. Ask advice from that employee who seems to get the most frequent pat on the back from your boss. At this point in your career, you should be prepared to set aside your ego and remember that the cost of embarrassment for asking for help is less than the cost of possibly losing your job.

2. You have different working styles. What if you’re already the company’s rock star and your relationship is still sour? One sign could be your clash in ways of working. Bosses who don’t question your output but scrutinize your methodology fall under this type.

They get agitated when you don’t follow their templates or call you out when you skip a step in your work routine. In summary, your boss believes that there’s only one way of doing work — her way.

Unfortunately, she also expects that you have to adjust to her rules or go elsewhere.

Get ready to put your patience to the test: this situation will require you to follow things you can’t afford to challenge: templates, frameworks, timelines, and ways of working. The most dramatic change may involve your communication style.

Is your boss the cube-conversation type or prefers things documented in e-mails? Is she obsessed with details or more critical about the big picture? Try working by her rules and operate on a trial-and-error scheme to check if things are improving.

Yes, it is going to be a nasty journey, but unless you have the luxury to move out, you need to swallow the bitter pill for now.

3. Your boss sees you as competition. This is what I call a ‘happy problem.’ You are confident, successful, and en route to another promotion (if he allows it) — and he’s the opposite of you. If this is your story, then be ready to massage someone’s insecure ego.

A boss who sees you as competition isn’t necessarily a hateful person but can exhibit a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hide character. His Instagram feed shows that he is a kind-hearted boss who loves dogs but doesn’t clap when you hit your sales target. You guys hang out like buddies during a coffee break, and a day later ignores you after you get praised in a meeting by the CEO.

Pretending you’re less smart doesn’t give justice to this. Instead, consider turning the tables. The first tactic — be the one who praises your insecure manager whenever you succeed together. Consider saying, “I am so happy that we finally got this deal signed. Thank you for your guidance too.”

Second — show that you value his inputs (even when you’re steadfast with your plan) and let him feel that he is the go-to-person in the team. Show the appreciation that he needs. Try asking, “I know you had experience in this type of work and I’d like to solicit some advice on how I can attack it.”**

Moving forward: it’s not about you, but you need to address it. 

Don’t wait too long until your relationship with your boss becomes unrepairable. Hustle to the fullest and find the sweet spot that can help improve your togetherness. Quitting should be your last resort, but if it can’t be your choice either, then it’s your burden to adapt: listen more attentively, observe body language, research, and ask people who know your boss well.

Remember, if you can’t change the winds that move your ship, you can always adjust the sails. Good luck and I wish you the best with your next steps! –


*I swear! Managers like these are starting to pop up like mushrooms everywhere! Could it be that social media is making us poorer communicators so people often assume that they can read what’s inside our heads? Please, when it’s your turn to be one, remind yourself not to let your people second-guess your motives or directions at work. Managers need to be the best communicators so they can lead teams!

** A word of caution on this spiel. It may sound like you’re sucking up, but you don’t need to praise everything that your boss does of course. Be selective of the occasion and the timing too.

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