How To Communicate Effectively With Difficult Superiors

Not everyone is blessed with the perfect boss. More often than not, there is always one superior who ticks you off or negatively affects your day. This doesn’t mean you have to quit your job only to find another bad boss at your next position. Here are a few tips on effectively communicating with them.

Determine the behaviour

One wrong turn doesn’t make a person bad. Observe the difficult superior over a period of a few days and try to analyse how many times a ‘bad’ behaviour has occurred and why. Perhaps the situation was truly out of their control. Or if they say or do certain things, there might be an underlying motivation to it that affects productivity or outcome to someone else.

Avoid ‘getting back’

There’s a slim chance that aggravating the situation by trying to get even will help you. It might simply cause your workload to pile on or give your boss a reason to fire you unnecessarily. 

Keep it private

Avoid negativity in the workplace by talking about your relationship with your boss to coworkers. Any difficult behaviours that affect your productivity, and your mental state should be addressed directly with the person concerned. Request a private meeting and stay professional throughout. 

Avoid accusatory comments

This is especially true if you find your boss being overbearing. Rather than accuse them of being oppressive, point out how better communication between both of you could improve the productivity of the department or how reducing workload will help you perform better and benefit the company.

Shared goals

Remind your boss about the shared goals you have. Perhaps your immediate goals are to reduce food waste in the restaurant, develop consistency in food production and taste, improve hygiene and sanitation or increase revenue. You may use these goals to initiate the conversation or request a private discussion.

Invite discussion

Be open with your boss about the situation that upsets you, let them know how you felt about it and then ask for their view – whether they understand your feelings or where you were coming from. It will open up a channel of communication of how they approached or perceived the situation. Remember to summarise agreements, disagreements and actionable items at the end of your discussion

Stay professional

Not all bosses will accept a mistake if they are wrong. They may interrupt you in an attempt to make their point or divert your attention. Keep calm and try to suppress negative feelings that might lead to an unprofessional outburst. Allow them to finish speaking and then direct the conversation back to the point at hand. For example, if you feel constantly criticised at work, ask for clarification on what is expected of you.


If possible, maintain proof of assignments or projects you have completed so you can show you are on top of things and that you did exactly as your boss asked. This will cover you in case your boss blames you for any mishaps that were, in fact, their fault.

Ask for help

If you have attempted to communicate with your boss and the situation remains unimproved, you can report to the human resources department. Your mental wellbeing is important and there is no reason to tolerate disrespect, bullying and other disruptive behaviours from anyone.

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