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  • Writer's pictureSarah Butler

How to Deal With A Boss Who Doesn't Like You: Tips for Managing A Difficult Relationship

Working with a boss who doesn't like you can be extremely challenging and emotionally draining. You might feel like you’re walking on eggshells, worrying about making mistakes and being judged harshly. This can lead to feelings of frustration and hopelessness.


But the good news is that there are strategies you can use to manage or even mitigate the situation. By taking proactive measures and staying focused on your professional goals, you can make sure that your career isn't held back by a manager with a negative opinion of you.


In this article, we’ll look at some strategies and tips for working with a supervisor who doesn’t like you. With a bit of effort and the right attitude, you can come out on top in this difficult situation.


Don't think the worst

It is typical for humans to take a pessimistic view of situations, and in this case, it may just be possible that you are creating an issue that isn't there. Your boss may not be making eye contact, conversing with you, or laughing at your jokes because they are experiencing a lot of pressure, not because they don't like you. Particularly if you have just started working with them, don't read too much into your manager's attitude. Don't go into a state of panic and start to overshare or follow your boss around incessantly. Excessive unwanted attention may cause your manager to distance themselves even more.


Signs your manager doesn't like you

Your manager may not be displaying outright hostility and one or two of the following behaviours may not be a sure sign that your manager doesn't like you, but a cluster of these signs on a consistent basis could be a red flag.

  • Constantly criticising or nitpicking your work

  • No interest in any conversational topics other than work

  • Being more closely managed than others including micromanagement

  • Lack of eye contact and other negative body language signals

  • Noticeable differences in your treatment compared to your co-workers

  • Absence of direct communication and avoidance

  • Lack of feedback

  • No opportunities given to voice your opinions

  • Publicly shaming your mistakes

  • Deliberately excluding you from important conversations or meetings, or not asking for your input

  • Choosing a clearly less favourable course of action than the one you have suggested

  • Never praising your work

  • Revoking privileges

  • More stringent application of workplace rules than others receive

  • Constantly 'moving the goalposts' or expectations

  • Assigning you tasks that are beneath your skillset or seemingly have little value

  • Pairing you with more trusted co-workers for straightforward assignments

  • Being passed up for promotions or projects, despite having the qualifications and experience

  • Excluding you from small talk or other social behaviours

  • Passive aggressive comments or belittling

  • Denial of professional development or other career opportunities

  • Obstruction from connecting with their manager or other senior people in the organisation

Understand why your manager doesn’t like you

The first step in dealing with a boss who you don't think likes you is to try to understand why the situation has arisen. There could be many different factors at play. For example, your manager may not like you because they are facing negative emotions or stress from their personal life. Your boss may also have a negative opinion of you if there have been past conflicts or alternatively, your manager may have something against the way you work. This could be due to a clash of personalities, a difference in how you approach tasks, or how you communicate. Maybe they don’t think you’re being productive or they disagree with your decisions. They might think you’re not getting along with the other employees and that you’re not a team player. It’s also possible they think you’re not taking initiative or that you’re not showing enough enthusiasm for your job. Whatever the reason, it’s important to take a step back and figure out why your manager may not be happy with you. Once you know the cause, you can start working on improving it and building a better relationship with your manager.


Address the issue

Confronting your manager if they don't like you can be tricky. Before you take any action, it's important to try and identify the issues that might be causing the tension. This might involve talking to trusted colleagues or looking back over any performance reviews or feedback you've had.


Once you have an idea of the issues, it's time to confront your boss. Try to keep the conversation professional and focus on the facts. Don't accuse your manager of not liking you, but rather, focus on the specific issues that you feel are causing the tension. Explain how you have tried to address these issues and what you would like to see happen in the future.


Reassure your boss of your commitment to the job - it's important to ensure they know that you are there to do the best job possible. Remember, it is possible to have a productive dialogue with your supervisor, even if they don't like you. By approaching the conversation with a professional attitude, you can take the first steps to improve the relationship.


Make note of any conversations like this in case you need them for future reference.


Accept that your manager is your manager

Your relationship with your manager may not be so good or you may feel that they don't have the necessary skills to be in their position. You may be overly ambitious and feel like you should be in charge. You may even disrespect the lines of authority and attempt to circumvent them, refusing to acknowledge their power and authority over your work. This can cause tension, disharmony and even conflict. If this is the case you are unlikely to 'win' and it may even derail your career. An organisation is not going to support an employee that is damaging morale, creating issues and overstepping bounds.


If you believe you could do a better job than your boss, the wisest thing to do is check your ego. Remember that your manager might have certain skills or experience that you don't or you haven't recognised. Accept your situation, be professional and start managing up to prove your worth to your boss.


Respect your manager

Your boss may have a negative opinion of you, but that doesn’t mean you should be disrespectful towards them. It’s important to remember that, even though your boss may not like you, they are still your senior. This means that you should respect your manager and follow their instructions as closely as possible. By respecting your boss, you’ll be showing them that you’re a team player and that you can be a valuable part of the office environment.


Keep your emotions under control

When you’re working with a boss who doesn’t like you, it’s important to keep your emotions in check. If you become overly emotional in the workplace your manager may see you as a liability, meaning that you could end up receiving lower performance ratings and fewer opportunities for advancement. Remember that your boss’s negative attitude towards you is not a reflection of your abilities or your worth as a person. It’s simply a result of your supervisor's personal feelings towards you. Although the situation may be difficult and frustrating, it is essential that you stay professional and keep your composure. The key is to remain calm and focus on the task at hand. Make sure to maintain a positive attitude and avoid getting into arguments or trying to defend yourself. Your goal should be to do your best to demonstrate your value and show your boss that you are an asset to the team.


Try & increase their confidence in you

If your boss does not like you, it can be difficult to be good at your job. However, there are steps you can take to improve your relationship. Consider the possibility that the disconnect might stem from them not having confidence in you. If this is the case, you can attempt to rectify your boss’s unfair assessment by clarifying their expectations, increasing their confidence in your ability, and boosting their belief that you will deliver. Stop talking and start listening. Demonstrate your competence and reliability by having frequent, casual check-ins to reinforce the idea that you’re on top of things while also giving your boss an opportunity to make corrections if required. Ask questions to clarify their expectations and be transparent when you are struggling. Finally, engage in conversations about work issues to strengthen your connection. Pay attention to which topics get their attention and energy and create an opportunity to tap into that.


Work on your professional development

If you’re constantly enhancing your skills and knowledge and staying on top of the latest industry trends, you’ll be hard to ignore, regardless of your boss’s feelings towards you. It also ensures you are maintaining skills and knowledge currency that will be useful if you do end up deciding to exit your current position.


Be good at your job

Even if your boss doesn't like you, you can still help them be successful in their role. The most important thing is to stay out of their way and focus on being productive and reliable. That means doing your job well and meeting deadlines. Additionally, you should remain professional and respectful at all times, even if your boss isn't treating you the same way. Offer to help out with tasks, take on extra responsibilities, and look for ways to add value. This will show your boss that you're dedicated and motivated. It will also demonstrate that you're willing to put the team's success ahead of your own needs and interests. Finally, focus on building relationships with the rest of the team. This will make the workplace more collaborative and productive. Even though it can be tough to work in an environment where your boss doesn't like you, a positive attitude and hard work can help you make a difference.


Make them look good & manage upwards

Obvious, right? Make their life easier, be easy to manage, and make your boss look good by doing the following:


Ask for help if you need it. Don't try and 'wing it' if you are struggling. Your manager will appreciate you reaching out early rather than making a mess of things later.


Keep them in the loop. Managers do not like surprises so keep them fully up to date. Find out how your manager likes to be updated and accommodate them. For example, they may want to be told immediately or prefer a daily or weekly update. Do they prefer face-to-face communication or email or instant message? Learn what are the things that they want to be told of straight away and what can wait.


Meet your deadlines every time. Better yet, meet them early and allow time for feedback and revision if possible. Signal to your manager that you are progressing as planned and that meeting the deadline will be achieved - that will be one less thing for them to worry about.


Pay attention to the details. Ensure every task is completed to the highest standard. Ask for and openly accept honest feedback from your boss and other experienced colleagues on an ongoing basis to continually up your game.


Tell your ideas to your manager first. If they don't run with it, accept it and move on. Don't then seek others in the organisation to tell. You may not know your manager's reasons for not taking up the suggestion - they may have information that you don't. Telling others will just look like you are trying to undermine or circumvent your manager.


Demonstrate loyalty. Don't bad mouth your boss. Even if you disagree do so in private with your manager then move on and show a front of unity and agreement. Gossiping will get back to your manager and create a more toxic environment. You as the subordinate and instigator will rarely come off as the 'winner' in these situations.


Don't put them in a situation where they have to defend or make excuses for you. If your behaviour causes a situation where they have to defend you, their colleagues and superiors may wonder of they have adequate control of their team and its effectiveness.


Don't 'manage back.' That is, if an issue arises don't just report it back to your manager and leave it with them to resolve. Come armed with possible solutions. This will demonstrate proactiveness, maturity and a commitment to resolving the problem. Even if your proposed solutions aren't used, your manager will appreciate the effort you went to in order to think the problem through and explore the options available.


Identify your manager's style and adapt

Looking at what attributes your manager values and praises in other people is a simple and effective way of developing some of those characteristics for yourself. Ask yourself some of the following questions to assist:

  • Does your manager prefer information delivered as an executive summary or with a high level of detail?

  • How does your manager like to communicate? For example face to face, email, phone, instant messenger or video call? Adapt your communication channels to suit.

  • How does your manager act with their own manager - this may give you clues about how to conduct yourself.

  • What tone or level of formality does your manager communicate with? Match it and take yours one notch up so you don't sound overly familiar.

  • What do your colleagues do that elicits praise or negative feedback from your manager?

  • Does your manager make decisions by themselves or want input from the team? Don't offer your opinions if they are not welcomed, that will cause irritation.

Find any differences in style and adapt yours to match or points of friction and eliminate them.


Demonstrate your professionalism

A positive way to try and resolve issues with a boss who doesn’t like you is to demonstrate your professionalism. If you’re constantly following the rules and making sure to maintain a high standard of work and conduct, it makes it more difficult for your boss to hold a rational negative opinion of you. This means that you should avoid gossiping with your colleagues and follow the organisational rules as closely as possible. Additionally, you should make sure to dress appropriately, arrive to work on time, maintain a calm and friendly attitude, and commit to performing each task with 100% effort. By following all of these rules, you’ll be demonstrating your professionalism despite everything and giving your manager fewer logical reasons for disliking you.


Build relationships with your colleagues

As you are trying to mend your relationship with your manager, be sure to nurture your relationships with your co-workers. Invest in your connections with colleagues; if they respect you and have confidence in you, their impressions will become known to your boss. It's hard for your manager to keep up a poor impression of you if your peers consider you to be a major help to the team.


It's also important to identify other potential supporters in the organisation outside of your manager. Is there a past supervisor who you can look to for guidance and support? Do you have the opportunity to collaborate with different teams on cross-functional activities? If this is the case then these connections can limit the risk of being shunned if you can't restore your relationship with your boss.


Avoid gossip

No matter how hurt or frustrated you might be with your boss's behaviour towards you, gossiping about the situation or bad-mouthing them to co-workers is harmful, dangerous, and reflects poorly on you. As well as being unprofessional you could get yourself into trouble with your boss or human resources and make a bad situation even worse. You also provide your manager with even more reasons to dislike you and you will usually not come out as the winner conducting yourself in this way.


If you need to discuss your work situation with someone, confide in an external resource such as friends, family, a career counsellor or a trusted mentor. Do not download your troubles to co-workers who may not have your best interests at heart.


Stay positive

Dealing with a boss who doesn’t like you is challenging, and it can be easy to get overwhelmed by negative emotions. At times like these, it’s important to stay positive and remember that there are people out there who like you and who think highly of you. Make an effort to spend time with those individuals and remind yourself that your boss’s negative opinion of you is not a reflection of your worth as a person.


it is important to remember that you are in control of your attitude and outlook. One way to stay positive in this situation is to focus on your strengths and accomplishments. Remind yourself of your value and the contributions you are making to the team. Do you have an ex-supervisor to talk to who can give you a much-needed reminder of your past work successes and positive attributes? Try to maintain a healthy work/life balance by taking regular breaks and scheduling time for activities that make you feel good.


Know when to move on (or when you are about to be moved on)

Knowing when to move on from a manager who doesn't like you can be tricky. After all, you don't want to jump ship too soon without doing everything possible to rectify the situation. But it's important to recognise when it's time to go.


The first indication is your boss's behaviour. If they are constantly criticising you or ignoring your suggestions, it could be a sign that they don't see you as a valuable member of the team. Another sign is if you're constantly feeling stressed out or anxious about your job and it never gets any better. This could be a signal that your boss doesn't have your back. Finally, if your manager is actively trying to sabotage your career, it's time to move on. This could include things like withholding information, denying opportunities you deserve and damaging your reputation.


If you're in this sort of situation, it's probably time to start looking for a new job to preserve your well-being and professional standing. At the very least have your resume, e-portfolio, and Linkedin profile up to date in case matters take a turn for the worst.


You may consider taking your concerns to your manager's manager or the human resources department but such claims can be difficult to prove. Carefully weigh up the possible consequences of doing this and the likelihood of success without concrete evidence of outright discrimination before proceeding. Perhaps discuss this course of action with a trusted mentor first for an independent opinion.

Conclusion

Studies show that having a good connection with your manager is one of the most essential aspects of your job. If your boss has no trust in you, you may miss out on advantageous opportunities or be on the receiving end of micromanagement.


You can try to address your manager's opinion of you by outperforming their expectations and demonstrating your capability. If they don't seem to like you then stop speaking and start listening. Endeavour to understand the world from their perspective, and eventually, they may begin to warm up to you. Don't give up. Modify your approach and see if you can create a positive connection.


It’s important to remember that your boss’s negative opinion towards you is not a reflection of your worth as a person. With the right attitude and these strategies in mind, you can come out on top in this difficult situation.

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