My boss and I don’t get along–help!

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My boss and I don't get alongEvery worker has disagreed with his boss at some point, no matter how big or small the issue may have been. If you’re lucky, the disagreement is over and behind you. However, what can you do if you and your boss simply don’t get along? Lynne Sarikas, director of Northeastern University’s MBA Career Center, may have the answer.

“The hiring manager wades through piles of résumés and conducts multiple interviews to find the best candidate for the job,” says Sarikas. “The candidate researches the company, asks insightful questions during the interviews, and even talks with networking contacts. In spite of best efforts on both sides of the hiring equation, sometimes things don’t work out as planned. What is the employee to do if he just doesn’t get along with the boss?” Check out Sarikas’ steps for improving communication and the relationship with your boss, and what to do if the case looks hopeless.


  • If you sense that things just don’t feel right, pay attention to your instincts.
  • Pay attention to when things don’t feel right and start keeping a list; review and identify patterns and issues.
  • Consider what you think the issue is and what you might do to remedy the situation.
  • Honestly assess your fit for the position as well as your strengths and weaknesses.
  • If you need to better understand how your role fits in the larger mission of the company, ask.
  • The more specific you can be in what’s missing the better able you will be to address it.

Meet with your manager

  • Request a meeting with your manager.
  • Do not be confrontational but state that you are seeking feedback—you want to understand what you are doing well and what you could be doing better.
  • Ask about your fit with the team.
  • Ask for specific recommendations on how to make things better.
  • If it is clear that there is a personal issue seek further feedback; maybe you have very different work styles which are in conflict.
  • If you are able to identify the problem and brainstorm ways to make things better, give it an honest try and agree to debrief at a future date.

Remain professional

  • Do not bad mouth your boss to everyone else on the team and anyone who will listen.
  • Do not let a bad attitude or frustrations impact your work performance.
  • Be sure to keep notes of discussion and observations.

Escalate the situation

If you have tried talking to your manager and things are not getting any better, consider escalating the issue to HR. Meet with your HR contact, share your feedback and what you have done to address the issue, brainstorm next steps.

Be willing to walk away

  • If there is an irreconcilable difference between you and the boss, be prepared to look for another position, either within the company or outside.
  • Even if the problem is the boss, it often takes time to address those issues through proper channels and it may not be worth it for your mental health to hang in there.
  • Think about how to explain your change when looking for a new job without speaking ill of the company or the manager.
  • Identify references at the company other than your direct manager before you leave so you are prepared in your job search.

Manage your stress

  • Dealing with a difficult boss can be extremely stressful.
  • Exercise, get your sleep and do whatever you can to manage your stress level.
  • Try to focus on what you are accomplishing or learning at work without thinking about the negative impact of your manager, focus on the positive.
  1. @CareerBuilder pray for peace and sanity while looking for another job before your next performance review. Cover your assets!

  2. Great article Susan.  I will share with our professionals in our monthly newsletter called “Reflections,” at Confidential Search Solutions.  This is definitely a topic more employees need to read.  You gave us practical solutions and a respectful way to resolve most issues.  Thank you!

  3. Hi Susan,
    Great post! But if we approach to our HR with our grievances won’t our Manager come to know about it? He will get more annoyed and then finally, I think the situation will become more worse, than any kind of improvement. Its really a very tricky situation when its between a Manager and an Employee. 

  4. The key to maintaining an effective relationship with your boss is understand that each of you have a role in the professional relationship and everyone should stay in there lane.

  5. ankita1 
    i agree. the problem I have run into is that once you tell hr, they are relatively part of management, and therefore management now has the insight as to your complaint about their behavior.  what happens next, sabotage and retaliation. 
    its unfortunate, but, people who are in charge and know they are incompetent have a tendency to be the worst supervisors.  the only time I have seen anything happen to a bad supervisor is when certain people that management “liked” or had as their “favorites” or golden children ,went to complain about a manager.  other than that, you will need to document everything and if you can, respond only on paper. face to face conversations can end up with management having selective amnesia. 
    finally, I have also learned that as a staff member, upper/executive management sees supervisors as having more credibility (even if they are the most habitual pathological liars in the office) than the staff.  documentation will help but even then what I have learned is that management will say “oops, I made a mistake” and will not be held accountable.  if staff makes the slightest mistake, they are held to a higher standard as if they are management and ripped to shreds.

  6. what do you put as your reason for leaving when this happens?
    I went thru H/R, now I am being asked to leave “gracefully”.

  7. “Be willing to walk away” — absolutely. Bullies can sense fear and will exploit you if you are afraid. Letting the other party know that “No” is perfectly acceptable is the best way to start any negotiation. Great article Susan.

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