Dealing with Your Boss: Dos and Don’ts

Published: Jan 24, 2019
Modified: Mar 26, 2020

By AMA Staff

Your relationship with your boss is in many ways similar to your relationship with a spouse or significant other—each person depends upon the other for encouragement, guidance, and support. You spend many hours together, day in, day out, perhaps for years. And most certainly, each of you can work the other’s last nerve.

But, as in a marriage, you’re in the relationship for better or for worse. Fortunately, you can adopt some strategies that will lead to more of the better and less of the worse.

In his upcoming book The Power of a Positive Attitude: Discovering the Key to Success, Roger Fritz writes: “Nobody, but nobody is more important to your job satisfaction and happiness, your progress and development on the job than your boss. Some people are lucky to be assigned to a boss who is a good leader, teacher, and mentor, while others may work for one who is the opposite. No matter who the fastest give you as a supervisor, you can make the most of it by studying your boss’s goals, style, and work habits and then tailoring your actions accordingly.”

Here, from Fritz’s book, are some basic guidelines that will help you develop coping strategies for dealing more effectively with your supervisor.

How to Deal with Your Supervisor

The Dos of How to Deal with Your Boss

  • DO watch the example of the people who get along with your boss. They, after all, have learned how to cope. Try to learn from them and follow their example.
  • DO consider that you may be partly responsible for your poor relationship with your supervisor. Remember it takes two to tango. And while you can’t change your boss, you can change how you behave, so take responsibility and take action to make positive change happen.
  • DO try to make your employer’s job easier by offering to take responsibility for those tasks that he or she may dislike doing.
  • DO keep track of your boss’s mood swings. Observe the times of day and days of week when he or she is in the most receptive frame of mind.
  • DO tell the boss how you feel about her treatment of you. Don’t hide your feelings. Wait until he or she has cooled down to discuss how you feel, and then talk calmly and, of course, in private.
  • DO monitor your progress. If you are not having the success you desire, reevaluate the way you are dealing with your supervisor and take another track if necessary. Be patient. Don’t expect it all to happen at once.

The Don’ts of How to Deal with Your Boss

  • DON’T dispute your employer’s authority, even if you disagree with his or her judgment in a particular situation.
  • DON’T take criticism as a personal attack. Even if your boss is out of line, it will help to distinguish between your job, which may be bearable, and your boss, who may not be.
  • DON’T put yourself in a position to be criticized by seeking the boss’s approval when it isn’t required. Do some things, and tell him or her about them…later.
  • DON’T malign your boss by gossiping behind his or her back. Be loyal!
  • DON’T go over the boss’s head unless it is absolutely critical, such as an emergency or crisis situation. Violating the chain of command almost always causes more problems than it solves.
  • And, above all, DON’T lose your self-respect. If your coping strategies have failed and a transfer is impossible, do what you have to do to keep your self-esteem, even if it means finding a new job and a new boss.

Adapted from The Power of a Positive Attitude: Discovering the Key to Success, by Roger Fritz, AMACOM Books, to be published in June, 2008.
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Establishing a positive relationship with your boss is important, and so is having a good relationship with all of your coworkers. Learn how to enhance your relationships with this AMA webinar.

About The Author(s)

American Management Association is a world leader in professional development, advancing the skills of individuals to drive business success. AMA’s approach to improving performance combines experiential learning—“learning through doing”—with opportunities for ongoing professional growth at every step of one’s career journey. AMA supports the goals of individuals and organizations through a complete range of products and services, including seminars, Webcasts and podcasts, conferences, corporate and government solutions, business books and research.