How to handle a problem manager

Stressed Man with Mini Megaphone

How to handle a problem

“Reclassifying something as not being a Problem but being a Circumstance calms our mind and our body. This calmness opens up our creative thinking which ironically means we handle the Circumstance in a better way.

Try it on the next thing that makes you feel stressed… it takes practice but it works.”

I had written the above as a post on LinkedIn and received the below comment:

“I totally agree but what if that ‘problem’ is a person and that person sees themselves as important and never the cause of the stress, yet everyone else recognises the situation but because that person is ‘important’ (for this read manager) then there appears very little can be done”.

This is what I wrote as a reply to their comment:

Problem people are draining and it’s particularly demanding when it’s your manager – I’ve been there!

Is the problem yours alone?

The fact that your colleagues have the same opinion of this person is reassuring to you as it means that it’s not a simple clash of your own two personalities that you are responsible for improving.

The root cause of the problem

Often problem people are damaged people. In this case it has manifested in their need to feel important. Perhaps they were cruelly ignored in their formative years. Imagine if you found that out about a friend, you’d be able to generate empathy for them. It’s hard digging deep to generate empathy towards someone who causes you pain, but perhaps they are not very self-aware or are not strong enough to look in the mirror and see how they come across.

In the scenario where they were ignored by their caregivers, what the person has a real need for is to feel important. Have you ever done something that could make them feel important (recommended), or are you guilty of dismissing them (echoing what they perhaps got a sensitivity to from their past) and have in fact been fuelling their need for importance?

People do pick up on the vibes we send out

If we don’t respect someone, they can very probably tell which is really quite awkward! It would be wise to change the atmosphere. You can’t expect them to know this is actually possible, so how about you make it your responsibility?

Although it seems like the last thing you want to do, finding something in common with that person can be a good start. For example, something outside of work like travel/photography/food/sport. You could find a topic that you both appreciate to genuinely soften your dislike of them and then, once you see them as a human, you are more able to relax around them and concentrate on the job.

They will pick up on this reduced tension and often very quickly will miraculously respond differently to you. It’s obvious when you think about it but we often don’t (want to) think about it. It does work but you have to initiate it.

Focus on your shared team/project objectives

Keep reminding yourself that you are in theory there for the same purpose as you are, so they can’t be that bad a person.

Could this problem be a blind spot for you?

Once we have a negative opinion of someone, it’s hard to change that. You may find that you try the above strategies and yet you still struggle to get motivated. Perhaps this has become a habit with you or you feel that it’s drama and you unwittingly are quite enjoying the stress? Sorry if that’s not true for you, but I have witnessed that before.

Clearly there are internal moves you can make but depending on how much you seek security and safety, you may wish to put your feelers out in your network and see if anything external takes your fancy.

To summarise

I hope that helps somewhat, although without details of your particular circumstances I am generalising and perhaps the above won’t work in your case.

Being bullied at work is a different matter and you can contact ACAS. Or I can put you in touch with an Associate who specialises in how to have difficult conversations or an employment solicitor.

If you or anyone else you know is in an awkward situation at work, have tried everything above and more, it clearly shows that unless the other person moves on, you need to move on.

Want to leave but don’t know what your next career move should be? Why not Schedule an Appointment for a complimentary Career Next Steps Call with me?

“No matter how people reach their career crossroads, it is my privilege to help them recalibrate their compass and guide them towards a motivating professional life.”

About Suzanne Bourner

My mission has been unchanged for decades: I champion people. I want people to feel proud of what they do to earn their living. I love supporting people as they travel down their new path. When my clients get offered roles or start their own business, the only credit I can genuinely take is whatever the client chooses to give me. But I do allow myself to get rather excited for them.