If you’ve never worked for someone who dislikes or even hates you, congratulations.
But really, I can’t offer you a sincere congratulations on that because chances are – unless you’ve had the same boss your entire working life – you have had at least one boss who couldn’t stand you. And since that’s the case and you believe you haven’t had one that hates you, we’ll need to talk another time about emotional intelligence and reading people!
Having a boss who hates or even just dislikes you is a very distressing and difficult even for mature adults who aren’t ruled by other people’s opinion.
It’s distressing because your boss is one of a collection of people who control or at the very least influence your professional success and experience. And for some, your boss has THE power to raise you up or bury you professionally.
Now, if you are someone who generally does not get along with other people, this blog post is not for you. I’ve found that people who generally do not get along with others also have issues getting along with their boss despite knowing that their boss has influence on their level of career success. They usually know to tone it down a bit or a lot with their boss, but people who generally don’t get along with others tend to not get along with their bosses more frequently than people who generally get along with others.
So here are a few things I learned about dealing with bosses when they hate and dislike you.
1: Focus on what she or he is asking for:
It’s very easy to take offense to personal attacks. But if you are someone who usually gets along with others and you have a track record of getting along with your previous bosses, perhaps the problem is them and not you. Focusing on what your boss is asking for helps you not only take the focus off their personal attacks against you (if they’re making any) but it also helps you see the bigger picture – which is basically the mission of the job you have. It also can help you eliminate professional reasons as to why your boss may not like you. Meaning, if you have a boss who doesn’t like your performance but doesn’t dislike or like you, focusing on what they’re asking you for will help you determine how you are or are not meeting their expectations. If you’ve met all their expectations and they still nitpick and do and say things to let you know they have an issue with you personally, THEN you need to start making notes of the themes, tones and statements being made during your conversations.
2: Provide respectful but firm feedback:
This should only happen once you’ve established that they are the problem and not you. How do you do that? Pay attention whether or not they do the same thing to you that they do to others even if the mistreatment/overreaction/disrespect is unwarranted. Pay attention to what is being said about your boss by others when he or she is not around. I’m not trying to promote gossip. And I’m not going to advise you to gossip about your boss or anyone else. But if you happen to hear conversations about your boss and multiple (as in the majority) of people in that conversation in your company are saying they can’t get along with them either, you may have some other type of issue on your hands such as hostile working environment, harassment or prejudice. And even if this is the case, you want to stick to facts only if you have to handle it. Don’t make accusations. But as for feedback, you can provide respectful but firm feedback to your boss like “I would really love to get you that report you asked for, but you’ve given me several and I don’t have the resources to complete them all at the same time. Can you prioritize them and give me a deadline by priority?” Or “I really want to meet your expectations. Can you clarify what you mean when you say _______”.
3: Request feedback on your performance:
You might be saying “Come on, Afi…why would I ask someone who hates me to give me feedback on my performance? It’s obvious they think I’m not doing so great if they don’t like me!” Well, not necessarily. They may just dislike your personality, and they’re allowing that to color their tendencies when they interact with you. They may be happy overall with your performance but they just don’t like you. So asking for fact-based feedback on your performance is a start. Once you understand what your professional strengths and deficiencies are in their eyes and you make visible efforts to play up your strengths and diminish your deficiencies, that could open up the door for your boss to be more honest about why they don’t like you. If that happens just be able to separate truth from opinion and not allow it to sour your disposition or change your work ethic.
If you’re struggling to stay positive in a hostile working environment, check out my resource guide that’s designed to keep you uplifted and encouraged:
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