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Hearing those three little words: “the difficult boss” can make most of us cringe; after all, we’ve all been there and we can all relate to answering to someone whose ego is the size of Texas and his knowledge of the job is closer to the smallest Caribbean island known to man.  Each day brings a new adventure, as far as a difficult boss is concerned.  His employees, however, might agree that each day brings a new potential for developing an ulcer.  So how do you deal with these folks who have no management finesse, yet who sign your paychecks?  We asked founder and career coach A. Harrison Barnes for his thoughts on this uncomfortable quagmire.  Here’s his advice:

Cover your bases!  Never show up for a meeting unprepared.  That’s the golden opportunity for the boss to reveal just how difficult he really can be.
As tempting as it is, you’re not doing your career any favors by pointing out any of his 733 shortcomings.  If one of his moronic demands could prove detrimental to the company or your career, wait until you can speak with him in private.  Highlighting it in a public forum will only result in an incredibly difficult day.  In fact, says A. Harrison Barns, there’s no guarantee your consideration of waiting until you’re alone won’t result in his passive aggressive punishments, either.

Resist the urge to tell the entire department about the rumor you heart about his wife being seen with another man during karaoke night at the local bar.  Gossiping is never a good idea anyway, especially at the office, but even if it’s true it’s none of your business and the odds of it getting back to him are pretty good.
The founder also says it’s important to keep in mind the contributions and stronger points he possesses.   This will allow you to keep perspective, even as you’re contemplating lacing his coffee with white-out.

On the flip side, it’s important that you document every project that failed due to his difficult or impossible demands.  Other things you should document (quietly and without letting anyone else in on your efforts) are inappropriate outbursts, any offensive comments and even empty threats.  Include the date, time and circumstances.  Ideally, you’ll end up tossing it when the time’s right, but again, it’s all about covering the bases with these bosses.

Finally, and this might prove most difficult for many, you have to show a degree of respect, or at the very least, you must eliminate any suggestion of disrespect.  After all, to not do so can land you in hot water.  Make up your mind that until the dynamics change – those dynamics meaning you resign or the boss gets transferred to the Tokyo office – you’re going to have to adapt for eight hours a day.

There’s a sense of satisfaction in knowing you can quit anytime you’ve had enough (with proper notice, reminds A. Harrison Barnes).  Be sure you play by the rules, though.  Remember, there’s always a chance a potential new employer gives the boss from a hell a phone call in search of a reference.

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