MiP MiP

The union for health and care managers

Home  >  News & Campaigns  >  Features  >  Tipster: How to manage your boss
Monday 05 September 2016

How to manage your boss

By Craig Ryan

A difficult boss can turn a dream job into a nightmare. Here’s some tips for “managing upwards” – and perhaps turning the situation to your advantage.

1. Don’t leave 

Cartoon

If you’re otherwise satisfied with your job, use the situation to develop your skills and become a better manager yourself. If something else – your job description, workload or the organisation itself – is at the root of your unhappiness, tackle those issues first. And if your boss’s behaviour amounts to bullying or serious abuse, you need to make a formal complaint. But take time to talk through your options with your MiP national officer or a trusted colleague first.

2. Make a plan

Don’t let things fester – you need a plan. Work out your own objectives first. Do you just want to smooth things over until you or your boss move on, or are you looking to build a long-term working relationship? Are you also trying to protect colleagues or change the policy of the organisation or department? Try to plan for every situation – even down to the words you will use when talking to your boss.

3. What makes them tick?

Try to understand why your boss is difficult. Micromanagers may simply be inexperienced, or they may have a deep-seated fear of losing control. Procrastinators might just be disorganised, or they may be terrified of making wrong decisions. Dictators may just be insecure, or they may really think they know it all. In each case, the behaviour may be the same but the causes and solutions are different.

4. Work around weaknesses

Think of your manager as a difficult patient – you’ve no choice but to work with them for now, so use your skills to diffuse potential conflicts. If your boss is a micromanager, keep them well informed. If they don’t like hearing bad news, try proposing one or two solutions at the same time. If they can’t deal with people, offer to handle difficult meetings for them.

5. Keep calm

Try really, really hard not to lose your temper with your boss. Just pausing for a few deep breaths can automatically produce a calmer, more reasoned response. Bad-tempered people are usually predictable, so work out your boss’s “triggers” and plan your responses. And remember, silence can be very effective – people soon feel silly getting angry on their own.

6. Accentuate the positive

Wholly bad managers don’t usually last long. Try to identify and play to your managers’ strengths – you could ask for their advice or suggest they take the lead on something they’ll do well. Always reinforce good behaviour. For example, making a point of thanking a micromanager when they do give you some responsibility is likely to encourage them to do it more often. 

7. It’s (usually) good to talk

Sooner or later, you’ll probably have to talk to your boss about their behaviour. Plan what to say and how to say it. Keep it constructive and concentrate on the impact on your work and your team – not their personal deficiencies. If they get angry, offer to come back when they’ve calmed down. And try to leave the meeting with an agreed plan of action. 

8. Take the credit 

You are likely to get credit for succeeding in working with a difficult boss where others have failed. If your boss tends takes all the credit for your success, show them up by going out of your way to praise the other members of your team for their contributions. 

9. Keep records

If problems persist, start a dairy and note all contacts – good and bad – with your boss as soon as you can afterwards. Write down how they made you feel and the effects on your work and your team. Keep copies of emails and other written communications, and store them offsite so you can access them at home if necessary.

10. Going nuclear

If nothing works, consider making a formal complaint. Talk to your MiP rep at the earliest opportunity, and make sure you’re prepared for the worst outcome. And remember – all your efforts to build a better relationship with your boss won’t have been wasted – they will significantly increase the chances of your complaint succeeding. 

If you'd like to read more from MiP, sign up to receive our free monthly emails – we’ll keep you up to date on news and events in health and care management

Heated conversation between man and a woman in an office

Leadership coach and former senior detective Andy Cribbin gives his tips for managers on breaking bad news and handling difficult conversations with staff and the public.

22 December 2023 | By Andy Cribbin
Tipster
Woman at desk being touched by male colleague

Sexual harassment is against the law, but that doesn’t stop it happening. Josie Irwin offers her tips on recognising sexual harassment in the workplace and how to intervene effectively as a manager.

26 October 2023 | By Josie Irwin
Tipster
Flock of migrant birds flying in V-formation

Workers from overseas have been part of the health and care family since the NHS began. They are valued and respected colleagues who face many extra challenges in the workplace and beyond. Katia Widlak offers her tips on recruiting, supporting, and retaining your migrant workforce.

27 July 2023 | By Katia Widlak
Tipster
Drawing of figures building a framework

As a manager, you want to take responsibility for the health and wellbeing of your team. The NHS Health and Wellbeing Framework can help. Alan Lofthouse explains how to navigate the framework and start making a difference for your team – and for yourself.

24 May 2023 | By Alan Lofthouse
Tipster
tipster-imposter-syndrome-thumb

Do you feel you’re a fraud or that it’s just luck that you’ve got where you are? You’re not alone. Here are ten tips from life coach Jane Galloway on how to beat the Imposter Syndrome.

17 February 2023 | By Jane Galloway
Tipster
Manager talking to OH mental health adviser

The pandemic has put the spotlight on the value of good occupational health services in supporting staff and delivering safe and effective services. Kim Sunley shares ten tips on for managers on how best to work with your OH service.

04 April 2022 | By Kim Sunley
Tipster
Birds nest containing one-pound coins

Are you putting off thinking about your pension because you don’t know where to start? Follow these simple tips to put yourself in the picture and start making some informed decisions.

13 January 2022 | By Dale Walmsley & Craig Ryan
Tipster
Homeworking icon with heart inside house

With many NHS managers working at home or moving to different roles, Claire Pullar offers her tips on how to protect your health and career during the pandemic and beyond.

04 February 2021 | By Claire Pullar
Tipster
image of fist bump

Many non-black managers have been asking how they can better support black colleagues and help tackle racism in the NHS. We crowd-sourced these ten tips from the managers who took part in our Black Lives Still Matter project.

02 December 2020 | By MiP
Tipster
Pensions cartoon

Dale Walmsley, who lead the popular session on pension planning at the 2019 MiP Members’ Summit, sums up his advice for managers looking towards retirement.

20 January 2020 | By Dale Walmsley
Tipster
123
Copyright © 2022 MiP