In the US, the boss demographics come up as 66.6% being male and only 33.4% being female. Because male bosses are more common, interacting with them is often predictable. You probably hear all kinds of experiences from family or friends.
But what if you’re dealing with a difficult female boss? You might not know what to say or how to act. I’m here to help. Today, I’ll give you 12 brilliant tips on how to deal with a difficult female boss.
How to Deal With a Difficult Female Boss
Here are 12 tips on how to deal with a difficult female boss in the workplace:
- Determine your boss’ motivations
- Understand your boss’ communication style
- Make sure you’re dealing with a “Bad Boss”
- Avoid discussing your boss with coworkers
- Set boundaries
- Practice empathy
- Don’t let it affect your work
- Identify triggers
- Don’t be so soft – be assertive
- Show some emotion
- Don’t compare
- Quit your job
1. Determine your boss’ motivations
Sometimes, you can have a difficult boss because they don’t like you and so make your work life miserable. Most of the time, however, it could just be that they’re dealing with a high-pressure job.
Your first order of business is to determine their motivation. Which one of the two is it? If it’s nothing personal against you and it’s just that they have so much to do, you can be more forgiving. You can find ways to help her instead of making her job even more stressful.
If she’s being extremely difficult to the point that it produces conflict, you can go over and discuss it with her. Chances are, she doesn’t even know that you’re feeling the way you do.
It’s a different story when your female boss picks you out of the crowd specifically and tries to find ways to make life terrible. And yes, this happens, too. Someone from Reddit recalled:
She seemed to make it her daily mission to look for flaws in my work. She screams at me. I spent a lot of time trying to justify her behavior. I thought I needed to improve. I thought I was a failure. But on one instance, I caught her sabotaging my output which I have to report.
In these cases, maybe the best move is to find a new company.
2. Understand your boss’ communication style
If you want a good working relationship with your boss, you need to know how to communicate with her. This way, even if she’s difficult to deal with, you can bring work-related matters to her attention.
So if you notice that your female manager likes to converse through email, you can send an email to tell her that you need to discuss a topic face-to-face. On the flip side, if she never sends emails, it’s best not to communicate through emails.
Besides that, it’s important to know her lingo. She might say some things that you think are not nice, but for her, it’s just the way she talks. This will allow you to avoid so many misunderstandings and hurt.
3. Make sure you’re dealing with a “Bad Boss”
This is similar to my first point. Sometimes a boss isn’t “bad” at all. Maybe she’s being difficult with you because you’re slacking. Again, maybe she’s just under so much pressure she snaps. I mean, bosses are human, too.
It’s so easy for us to label someone a “bad boss” without putting ourselves in their shoes. If you’re considerate about her situation, you’ll know how to deal with a difficult boss much more wisely.
The Muse, a career site, says:
Observe your boss for a few days and try to notice how many things she does well versus poorly. When she is doing something “bad,” try to imagine the most forgiving reason why it could have occurred. Is it truly her fault, or could it be something out of her control?
4. Avoid discussing your boss with coworkers
If you’re finding it hard to deal with a female boss who’s being difficult, avoid gossiping about her in the workplace. You might create an even more negative environment. Moreover, your boss may have heard what you had to say and turned toxic toward you.
If you must vent your feelings, do it with a family member or close friends. This will actually help you deal with your situation much better. But never vent to your coworkers.
5. Set boundaries
You must set boundaries with any boss, whether male or female. You don’t want them to be a workplace bully. They will order you around. They will give you the hardest projects. They will never be satisfied with your work.
If they seem to have no boundaries, you have to set them yourself. One of the hardest parts of that is learning how to say “no” and communicating openly. But if you set these boundaries, then a difficult female boss won’t be able to bother you so much. Plus, you can maintain a healthier work-life balance.
6. Practice empathy
Empathy can go a long way in making difficult people more bearable. Of course, you need to keep things healthy. Too much empathy can be bad for you, too.
If you’re empathetic, you might be able to relate to your female boss, thus improving your relationship. Remember, females tend to have more empathy than males. If you can show that characteristic to them, they might put a good light under your name.
Khizar Hayat, a Mechanical Engineer with 5-years of experience studying the psyche of human nature, puts it another way.
Since women are more empathic than men, incorporating empathy will give her a sense of familiarity. And as we like people who are familiar to us, your female boss can’t help but list you down in her good books.
7. Don’t let it affect your work
OK, let’s say your current boss gives you personal attacks. She’s out to ruin your day. Despite that, don’t let it affect your work. Don’t give her even more reason to grumble about you.
Instead, make it a motivation to improve your work even more. Remember, you’re not only trying to impress her – you’re trying to impress the other leaders of the company.
So no matter how much you want to avoid the workload laid at your desk, do it. No matter how much you want to retaliate and say harsh words back, shut your mouth. You don’t want to do anything you’ll regret (and lose your job!).
8. Identify triggers
A female boss can be difficult if she has anger management issues. If that’s your case, you don’t want to trigger a meltdown. This is why it’s important to take the reins and identify her triggers.
If she becomes extremely angry when you arrive just on time for work, try to arrive earlier. If a certain way of talking drops her mood, choose your words wisely. If she foams in the mouth when there is a misspelling, make sure to double-check the documents before submitting them. If you avoid her triggers, then she might not be so difficult to deal with.
9. Don’t be so soft – be assertive
People with a power-show mindset love to act rudely, misbehave, and criticize whenever they can. In the same way, some bosses want to exercise their authority and feel very powerful. They take it out on those under them.
If you’re soft, you’ll be a very likely target. No wonder your female boss is always disrespectful towards you even though you did nothing wrong.
If you don’t want this type of work situation, you need to be assertive, even if you’re a soft person by nature. Show them that you’re firm in your actions, words, and behavior. Of course, you should still respect them but don’t allow them to cross the line and disrespect you.
If you’re assertive, you might start to notice that your difficult female boss will ignore you more and pick on someone else.
Read More: How To Be Less Abrasive At Work
10. Show some emotion
When you have a difficult female boss, it’s not good to always have a grim look on your face whenever she enters the room. If you do, you’ll have an even harder time connecting with her.
But if you show some emotion, it just might ease the tension between the two of you. So keep matters light. You can even add some humor when talking to her. Of course, you have to make sure you know her communication style and triggers to avoid an outburst.
If you show your emotions more, and not just be grim, then she might be able to connect with you more. This way, both of you will be able to better accept and cope with each other.
11. Don’t compare
Women competing against women. You see it all the time. They become very competitive when it comes to comparisons such as careers, life opportunities, and physical looks.
If you’re a female worker dealing with a female boss, you might tend to compare yourself to her. Who is better dressed? Who has more leadership skills? Who has a better work ethic?
Please don’t do that. Refrain from speaking any kind of comparison between you and her. If you do, this might spark her competitiveness. And since she is the boss, she can make your life very miserable. So don’t compare.
12. Quit your job
In October 2023, it was shown that 3,628 US employees quit their jobs. If you’re dealing with a difficult female boss, you might want to add one more to that number. However, don’t make any rash decisions. You don’t want to regret your choice.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed and anxious or depressed because of your boss, maybe it’s time to resign from your position. If your female boss is a narcissist and abuses her authoritative power over you, and there is no way to confront her, then it could be time to leave.
Here is what someone said on Reddit:
I believe it is not gender-related. It is reflective of the person himself or herself. Know your worth. The saying “Leave when respect is no longer being served.” applies to any industry.
Of course, no matter how much you hate your boss, it’s a good idea to leave on good terms. Also, make sure you plan carefully your next steps for the future – you don’t want to have just another boss that’s the same as your previous one.
How to deal with a difficult female boss? You can try the 11 tips that I provided here. This might improve your relationship and make the situation better. But if not, then maybe it’s time to quit your job and find a new one.