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Steps To Resolve Conflict With Your Boss: Start With Understanding The Cause

We will all experience some degree of conflict with our bosses, or at least disagreement. Where things become difficult, for you for the boss, and for your co-workers is if that conflict is ongoing, and tends to be acted out in negative or destructive patterns.

Your first step in trying to prevent conflict moving into that destructive zone, or to resolve it once it has become negative, is to diagnose what is causing the conflict.

Obviously, the cause(s) of your conflict are going to be different than other conflicts between other people, but there are patterns that occur between bosses and employees.

Most Common Reasons For Boss-Employee Conflict:

Role Confusion: Your boss and you constantly clash either you and your boss have different ideas about what your role should be (and his or hers), or the two of you have never actually discussed it to come to clear agreement (Based on Managing Conflict with Your Boss by Davida Sharpe and Elinor Johnson).

Different Perspectives And Vantage Points

Management has different information in hand. You have other, different information, by virtue of your different experiences and contacts in your job.  This can lead to very different perceptions about what needs to be done, priorities, etc, and even strategies.

You Lack Confidence In Competence Of Your Boss

For whatever reason, you believe that your manager is unskilled, or somehow lacks the ability to be an effective manager. That colors your view, and results in you framing disagreements in destructive ways, rather than working them through.

Your Boss Has No Confidence In You

If your boss has little confidence in you to get the job done, or to act reliably or effectively, then the boss is going to frame issues in terms of your competence, even if you are competent.

Mismatches In Ethics, Integrity And Values

If you and your boss differ significantly in terms of what you see as ethical behavior, or your values are significantly different, conflict often erupts and it can be exceedingly emotionally loaded. This is one of the tougher situations to manage.

Answer The "Why", Then Start Making Decisions

There may be other causes of conflict operating in your particular situation. Since it takes two to have a conflict, you may have to talk to your boss to find out his or her perspective -- in fact that's an important step.

Once you have some idea of the underlying root causes, you can then make a decision about whether you want to resolve the conflict, or rather how you want to go about it.

In some cases, the answer is to leave. In others it's to work with the boss to try to solve the problem that is no doubt unpleasant to both of you. Or, you may have other options, like getting transferred, or even going over the boss' head.

Below are some additional resources to help you navigate these kinds of tough conflict situations.




How To Manage Conflict With Your Boss

  • Feature Article - Beware of Bad Boss

    By Chris Ott - It's as inevitable as death and taxes. At some point, you%u2019re going to have to deal with a bad boss. Here's how to handle them (Added: 5-Feb-2006 Hits: 2117 )
  • Tell the boss he is wrong - gently

    By na - The initiative your company is about to pursue is fundamentally flawed. The project your department is about to tackle is hopeless. The approach your supervisor is taking toward a given situation is incorrect. In any of these scenarios, how do you break the news to your boss without coming off as offensive, difficult or uncooperative? The following tips can help you come to be viewed as a trusted guide, not a Negative Nellie. (Added: 8-Jan-2005 Hits: 1334 )
  • What To Do When Your Boss Is A Jerk

    By Rachelle Disbennett-Lee - Learn some basic self-management techniques to help you survive a boss who is a jerk. (Added: 16-Jun-2004 Hits: 825 )
  • Dealing with a difficult boss tips

    By na - Learn about six basic strategies for dealing with a difficult boss. Includes: Focus on the Problem, not the Person. Listen and Learn as Much as You Advocate. Do the Hard Creative Work. Stress the Legitimacy of Your Desires. Consider Your Alternatives. Get Commitments in Writing (Added: 16-Jun-2004 Hits: 814 )
  • Managing Your Boss - Dealing w/ Difficult Boss

    By Marilyn Puder-York - Originally published by the American Psychological Association, this article presents common questions people ask about dealing with difficult boss behavior, and supplies some needed answers. (Added: 16-Jun-2004 Hits: 903 )
  • Managing Your Manager

    By Katherine Spencer Lee - Learning what makes your boss tick - not to mention what ticks him or her off - can help you better communicate and improve your odds of developing a great working relationship. Here are some suggestions for successful communication: (Added: 16-Feb-2006 Hits: 3067 )
  • BBC NEWS Is your boss a 'corporate psycho'?

    By BBC - Millions of harassed workers could have their worst fears confirmed about their bosses thanks to a new test to weed out the 'corporate psycho'. You may already suspect that your boss's smooth, charming exterior masks a sadistic control freak with a penchant for violence. But help is at hand to stop mad, megalomaniac managers going completely bananas and scampering off with the company pension fund. (Added: 8-Jan-2005 Hits: 940 )
  • Dealing With A Bad Boss

    By Armando Gomez - Longer article on bad bosses, how to identify them, and what to do about them. (Added: 16-Jun-2004 Hits: 1602 )
  • Bad to the Bone: Dealing With a Bad Boss or Bad Managers

    By Susan M. Heathfield - You're weary. You're frustrated. You're unhappy. You're demotivated. Your interaction with your boss leaves you cold. He's a bully, intrusive, controlling, picky and petty. He takes credit for your work, never provides positive feedback and misses each meeting he schedules with you. He's a bad boss, bad to the bone. Dealing with less than effective managers, or just plain bad managers and bad bosses, is a challenge too many employees face. These ideas will help you deal with your bad boss. (Added: 16-Feb-2006 Hits: 3652 )
  • Managing Conflict With Your Boss (PDF Book Chapter

    By Davida Sharpe and Elinor Johnson - Managing Conflict with Your Boss by Davida Sharpe and Elinor Johnson is a great book on the topic. Here's a free chapter from the book in PDF format. Note: This may not display properly on some mobile devices. (Added: 1-Dec-2014 Hits: 594 )
  • Managing Your Narcissistic Boss

    By Bill Eddy - Great suggestions on how to deal with a difficult boss, and in particular one that seems to be narcissistic. (Added: 27-Nov-2014 Hits: 686 )
  • How to deal with an Idiot Boss

    By Joseph Gidjunis - It's an honored tradition -- working for an "idiot" boss. They don't take suggestions, don't think efficiently and don't make your job easier. If you've seen the movie "Office Space," you know the drill. So, will you get along with your new boss? Well, that depends on you (Added: 8-Jan-2005 Hits: 1021 )
  • How To Deal With a Difficult Boss

    By Tristan Loo - Bosses and supervisors aren't from another planet, but sometimes they seem to be. If you deal with the boss from hell you know. Conflict between a difficult boss and an employee can be daunting and intimidating. Here are some tips to help you deal with difficult bosses and supervisors. (Added: 8-Oct-2005 Hits: 2378 )

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