10 Steps to Take In Dealing With a Difficult Manager

GCG Leadership Development Team

Managing a difficult manager can be a challenging experience, but it also presents an opportunity for personal and professional growth. By developing effective strategies to handle a supervisor who presents unique challenges, you can build emotional resilience, improve communication skills, and enhance your leadership capabilities. These strategies are applicable in various aspects of leadership development and can be strengthened further with the support of coaching and mentorship. Though not all these strategies work in every situation, your coach can support you in how to adapt and when to apply these strategies.

  1. Take ownership: One of the most credible ways of dealing with a difficult manager is excelling in your performance. Strive to go beyond expectations and be above reproach. When your actions demonstrate your commitment and devotion to your work, your difficult manager is less likely to find fault with your performance. Maintaining professionalism, regardless of your supervisor’s behavior, is key to sustaining an effective working relationship.
  2. Foster open communication: A successful relationship with your manager hinges on the quality of your communication. Establish an open dialogue, where you can provide feedforward and discuss your needs. Many leaders appreciate insight into how they can better guide and motivate their team members, as well as understanding your career development aspirations. By being transparent, you create a more respectful relationship where both parties are aware of each other’s expectations.
  3. Be assertive and confident: Asserting yourself and expressing your opinions clearly and professionally is crucial in managing a relationship with a difficult manager. This doesn’t mean being confrontational, but rather demonstrating confidence and supporting your viewpoints. Displaying self-confidence often leads to a more respectful working relationship with your supervisor and paves the way for open communication.
  4. Emphasize open communication: Building a relationship with a difficult manager often starts with improving communication. Consider asking your manager for feedforward and suggestions on your performance, while emphasizing your commitment to improvement. Including your supervisor in the process of seeking feedforward from others and creating an action plan demonstrates your dedication to growth and professional development. Regularly updating your manager on your progress and sharing the results of your improvements can help create a more collaborative and respectful atmosphere.
  5. Develop self-awareness: Enhance your emotional intelligence and advance your leadership skills by being self-aware. Recognize your strengths and weaknesses, and leverage your capabilities to work effectively with others, especially your difficult manager. Know when to recharge both physically and mentally, so you can remain resilient under pressure. Reflecting on your experiences and being open to feedforward from others can also help in cultivating self-awareness.
  6. Seek external support: Engage in relevant coaching, mentoring, or training programs that address managing difficult relationships. A professional coach or mentor can provide valuable guidance and resources to help you build resilience and enhance leadership skills. Maintain a strong network of peers and colleagues who can share their expertise and experiences in navigating challenging relationships at work. Learning from their insights can open new perspectives on how to manage difficult supervisors effectively.
  7. Foster a positive attitude: Adopting a constructive mindset can help you tackle workplace challenges, including dealing with a difficult manager. Regard any objections or obstacles as opportunities to find innovative solutions and strive for win-win outcomes that cater to both parties’ needs. Asking questions such as “Why not?” instead of “Why?” can promote an open dialogue and demonstrate your willingness to listen to others’ opinions and ideas.
  8. Refine emotional responses: Learn to manage your emotions effectively in various situations, especially when interacting with a difficult manager. Practice calm, clear, and objective communication, admit mistakes, and take responsibility for your actions. Seek feedforward on your emotional maturity from trusted coworkers, friends, and family to continuously improve your emotional intelligence. Demonstrating emotional maturity can lead to others noticing a positive change in your behavior, reducing conflicts, and improving knowledge-sharing.
  9. Prioritize self-care habits: Practice habits such as establishing boundaries for work-life balance and limiting time spent on energy-sapping activities. Focus on creating a healthy routine that supports your mental and emotional well-being, avoids unhealthy crutches, and maintains a positive attitude. Share your self-care strategies with peers and your team, as demonstrating resilience-building behaviors can foster a support network and encourage others to follow suit.
  10. Role-play to gain insights: Engage in role-playing exercises with an effective leader to better understand specific behavioral feedforward and suggestions for improvement. This can help you hone your leadership skills when dealing with a difficult manager, while also providing you with a safe space to practice handling sensitive or high-pressure situations. Use these insights to improve your approach in similar real-life scenarios, and solicit feedforward on your performance from colleagues and friends to further refine your skills.

In Summary

In conclusion, successfully navigating the challenges of working with a difficult manager can significantly enhance your leadership skills and build resilience. The strategies and resources mentioned in this article can help you create a healthier connection with your manager, advance your personal and professional growth, and inspire your colleagues. If you are looking for expert support, consider investing in leadership coaching from Global Coach Group. Their coaching services can help you become a better leader, not only for your colleagues but also for the colleagues who manage you.

Get started with a coaching certification program and take advantage of the powerful coaching tools offered by GCG, specifically designed for leadership coaches to boost their coaching practice. The GCG’s comprehensive resources, including their revolutionary 360 Feedforward Coaching process, have been proven to facilitate behavior change and provide measurable leadership growth. Empower yourself and transform your leadership potential by leveraging the expertise and resources offered by Global Coach Group.

Find out more about Global Coach Group’s coaching certification programs here and explore GCG’s Coaching Tools for leadership coaches to enhance your coaching practice here. Remember, a thriving leader not only enriches themselves but also contributes positively to their organization and team. Be that coach , and make a difference for your leaders.


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