Tips for Surviving an Overbearing Supervisor

Tips for Surviving an Overbearing SupervisorWe’ve all been there before—dealing with an overbearing supervisor, a boss who needs to have his or her nose in everything, one for whom nothing is ever good enough. Having to work for someone like this can make it hard to go into the office every morning, let alone go in with a positive attitude. Whether you work under one right now or not, learning how to effectively deal with this type of personality can make things much easier on you throughout your career and even in your personal life.

An overbearing manager is one who seems overly confident in their position of power. They often love to micromanage and are not that generous with their praise. This kind of boss seems to take joy in barking out both commands and criticism. The problem is that the very nature of this position makes it difficult to confront the person in it, so how can you make your day-to-day dealings a little more tolerable?

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  • Don’t Take It Personally: This can be hard for many people, particularly those who tend to be extremely sociable and for whom being liked is very important.  Keep in mind that the expression, “don’t take it personally” doesn’t mean that your feelings are invalid or that you don’t have the right to feel angry at being mistreated. It only means that you would be better off taking a step back and realizing this type of boss behaves like this with a lot of people. If all of your supervisor’s criticisms had merit, you would likely be out of a job by now. And given that in order to grow professionally you must learn how to deal with conflict, this could be a great opportunity to hone this skill.
  • Seek Out Other Sources for Feedback: If you can’t trust your supervisor to give you legitimate feedback on your job performance, you need to look elsewhere. Ask coworkers or other managers in the workplace what they thought of your last project or how they think you measure up in terms of productivity. Approach people whom you trust to be honest and forthcoming.
  • Talk to Your Supervisor: Although this isn’t always easy, talking to the overbearing boss could give you some insight into why they act the way they do. Try to learn more about your supervisor so that you understand some of the factors that may be behind the management style. For example, one of my colleagues discovered that her boss had an abusive father and that she needed to feel in control to feel safe. The more my colleague invested in developing the relationship with her boss, the better things got for her.
  • Go to Your Supervisor’s Superior: If everything else fails, you may need to talk to your boss’s own supervisor. A CEO recently told me that he often receives requests to mentor women who are having trouble with their bosses. He said he coaches them on how to deal with the boss and helps them avoid getting into trouble for having gone over their boss’ head. That’s exactly what you need to accomplish if you decide to go this route. Be diplomatic. Simply explain that you feel your relationship with the supervisor is stunting your growth within your company or organization. Asking for guidance rather than asking for them to “fix the situation” will make you look more like the problem-solver in this situation than the victim.

If none of these options gets you a positive result, it may be time to start looking for an opportunity in a different department or worst case scenario, a different place to work. If you do stay and have to make a lateral move, if it opens doors for future growth, it may be the way to go.

Regardless of what happens, continue to do your best work, as in the end, your work will speak for itself regardless of your boss’ opinion.