Today, I want to teach you how to deal with a difficult Army Boss. If you’ve spent any time at all in the Army, at one point or another you have probably had a difficult boss. Different leaders have different personalities, skill-sets, leadership styles and values. Some bosses you will admire and some you will dislike. It’s inevitable.
After talking with hundreds of different Soldiers, I’d bet that close to 75% of them DO NOT like their boss for one reason or another. Does this mean their boss is bad? Of course not. It simply means that there is a personality conflict, a leadership gap, or a communication problem going on.
Bosses are like dating. When people first start dating, everything is peachy (most of the time anyway). Everyone puts on the best front to try to impress each other. But at some point, the two people see the other person’s true colors. They notice the person’s faults and shortcomings. When this happens, many relationships go sour. Of course, some relationships flourish too, even after the initial excitement has worn off.
Bosses aren’t much different. There are good things and bad things about every boss. You have to accept that upfront. Every great leader has things about them that people like and things that people dislike. If you have a boss you dislike, I can share a few pointers I learned during my 15 years in the military.
Tip # 1 Look Yourself in the Mirror
The first thing you need to do is look yourself in the mirror and ask yourself if you are doing all the right things. Check your attitude, your work performance, your competence, and the way you treat your boss and subordinates. Ask yourself “would I like to have someone just like me working for me?” If the answer is no, make some adjustments and start doing a better job.
Tip # 2 Be Proactive
Most boss’s like superstars. They really like the people who go above and beyond and perform at high levels. Are you one of those superstars? If not, could you be more proactive and do a better job at work. Are you honestly giving 100%, 100% of the time?
Tip # 3 Be Professional
Always act professional, even if your boss isn’t professional. Show your boss the proper courtesy, even if they don’t treat you well. There is a rank structure in place for a reason. When you talk to your supervisor, use the respective “Yes Sir or No Sir,” stand at parade rest or position of attention and be a professional at all times. Don’t give them a reason to push a case of disrespect or insubordination.
Tip # 4 Think of Things from Your Boss’s Perspective
This might be hard for some people to do, but try thinking of things from your boss’s perspective. Maybe they are overworked and understaffed. Maybe they have some problems at home you don’t know about. Don’t jump to conclusions too quickly.
Tip # 5 Accept That They Aren’t Perfect Either
No one is perfect. I’m not and neither are you. The longer we work with someone the more we see their imperfections. Even if your boss is good at 10 things, there will be things they are not good at. They will have some great personality traits and some bad ones. But don’t worry; the same applies to you.
Tip # 6 Have a Heart to Heart Talk With Them
If you have a problem with your boss, tell them you would talk with them in private. Schedule a time to meet with them and address the issue. Be careful not to “personally attack” them, but address the issues. Tell them you want to do a good job and you want to have a strong professional relationship with them, but that there are a few issues the two of you need to address. Could this backfire on you? Yes. Is it worth taking the risk? Yes, especially if the problem is really bothering you.
Tip # 7 Talk to a Trusted Peer
Another option is to talk to a trusted peer, outside of your unit or chain of command. Ask them if they have ever dealt with a difficult boss before and what they recommend. Whatever you do, don’t talk with other people in the office (or in your unit) about it. You don’t know who is friends with who and you don’t need to gossip or get accused of saying something bad about your boss. Be professional.
Tip # 8 Talk to Your Boss’s Boss
I always believe you should talk to your boss first, before you talk to their boss. You owe it to your boss to give them a chance to fix the issue before you talk to their supervisor. However, if you talk with your boss and nothing gets resolved in a reasonable amount of time, you could talk to your boss’s boss. Just remember that this could backfire too and you could get yourself in deep water if you aren’t careful.
Tip # 9 Suck It Up and Deal With It
We are in the Army after all. By no means should you take harassment. But if the problem is nothing more than a personality conflict you should suck it up and deal with it. Assuming there is nothing illegal, immoral or unethical going on, your boss can lead however they want to. You also have to remember that you probably won’t have the same boss forever, so you might just need to suck it up until you get a new boss or a different job.
I believe that most bosses try to do the right thing. However, at some point or another, you will have to deal with a difficult Army Boss. When that happens, you can follow the nine tips listed in this article to navigate through those waters successfully.
Do you have any situations where you dealt with a bad Army boss you would tell us about? Any questions? Post any, and all below.