By freelance writer Rachel Michaella Finn

Occasional disagreements with the people you work with is a normal part of working life, but what if the person in charge of you ends up becoming a nightmare? Whether they’re piling on the workload, being overly critical or giving you no feedback or guidance, a bad manager can be the difference between thriving at work or feeling completely overwhelmed.

If you’re the latter, it’s important to know you’re not alone. According to research presented at the American Psychological Association’s annual conference in 2012, an incredible 75% of people say their boss is the worst and most stressful part of their job – how awful is that? Not only is having a good relationship with your manager good for career stability – according to a 2015 report by employee wellbeing company Tiny Pulse, employees with respectful managers are 32% less likely to think about a new job, for example – but also for your own mental health.

With statistics released by the Mental Health Foundation for this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week suggesting that 74% of people have felt so stressed that they have been overwhelmed or unable to cope and, according to a 2016 report also by the Mental Health Foundation, almost 1 in 7 of us feeling this stress in relation to work, you owe it to yourself to be treated well and be valued by those who manage you.

Here’s how to handle some nightmare scenarios with a nightmare boss…

Scenario 1: Your boss keeps piling on extra work

It’s perfectly normal to want to take on extra responsibilities at work in order to progress in your career, but if you realise your manager is suddenly overwhelming you with work and you’re finding it hard to cope, it’s time to speak up. Ask to organise a meeting with your boss to discuss your workload. Politely explain that the extra work is having a negative effect on your ability to do your job well and ask if there’s anyway to restructure your work-load.

For example, you could say: “I appreciate that you have the confidence in me to be giving me more to do, but I want to maintain my high quality of work and am concerned that it may suffer at the moment, due to the workload.” You could also ask whether you can share your work with colleagues or get an extension to your deadlines. By phrasing it like this, you’re stressing your commitment to the job whilst voicing your concerns at the same time.

Scenario 2: Your boss is snapping at you

Even if you’ve made mistakes at work, it’s unprofessional (and not to mention not particularly nice) to snap, or yell at the people you work with – especially when its undermining or belittling you in front of other people. If you find that your boss seems overly irritable or annoyed in their interactions with you, of course you might not feel comfortable talking to them directly about it, so try practising restraint (i.e. never fight fire with fire and yell back) then if it doesn’t calm down on their end, consider speaking with your boss via email about your concerns or talk with HR.

Speaking with HR at your company doesn’t necessarily mean you have to make a formal complaint; often they can just advise you on what’s best to do. They may be able to talk to your boss directly if you want, or to organise a meeting between the both of you which they will mediate.


Scenario 3: You’re getting no feedback

When you’re getting little or no feedback or guidance in your work, it can be hard to stay focused; you may feel a bit adrift and isolated and it can be hard to know whether you’re doing things right or know how to improve. Bear in mind that receiving little feedback could be a good sign – your boss might just think you’re doing your job fine, but not be big on praise. But if you find yourself in need of more guidance, it’s probably easiest to just…ask for it.

You could say something like: “I haven’t received much feedback from [project x] so I just wanted to check in to see if everything was ok? If there’s anything to improve on or if I can help with anything else, please let me know”. Checking in on a specific project or part of your job is far more likely to get feedback than asking about your whole job in general, which might be best saved for larger catch-ups.

Scenario 4: You’re being micromanaged

If your boss is obsessed with controlling way too much of your work, you might be being micro-managed – and it’s a fairly common experience. According to a 2014 survey by recruitment agency Accountemps, which asked 450 employees about their experiences with overbearing bosses, found that nearly 60% had worked for a micromanager at some point in their career. Of that group, 55% said it decreased their productivity and 68% said it dampened their morale.

Bear in mind that everyone has different thresholds of what being over-managed feels like. But if it’s having a negative effect on your productivity and happiness at work, speak to your boss and ask if there’s any way they could check in with you a little less. You could say for example, “I think it’s great that I get the chance to check in with you throughout the workday, but I was wondering if it’d be possible for me to give you updates on the project at the end of each day, rather than throughout the day, as I think it’d allow me to fully devote myself to what I have to do…”

Nightmare work situations don’t have to stay that way; hopefully with a little communication from you (and more understanding from your boss), you can start to enjoy your role again.

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