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Urgent message: When employees in an urgent care center encounter a physician or administrator who is challenging to work for, there are often steps they can take to avoid having to choose between their job and their sense of wellbeing.
In today’s busy work environment, we interact with dozens of people every day, and sometimes challenging individuals go with the territory. Nevertheless, coping with a troublesome boss is overwhelming, and studies have shown that the stress they cause can negatively impact your health. Although some bosses are very disorganized, and others are completely unaware of their behavior, a few are content manipulating their employees and are not concerned that they can be rude or short tempered.

If you are experiencing problems with your boss, the ultimate fix may be switching jobs. However, that is not always practical and should be a last resort. Therefore, below are 10 actionable steps designed to help you reduce the friction with your boss, the last of which is finding new employment. While some of these actions overlap, it will benefit you to follow them in order. The first few deal with how you interact with your boss; next, they examine your own attitude and actions; and the final group explains how to take your unresolved problems to the next level.

Step 1 – Put Yourself in Their Shoes
Productivity guru Stephen Covey is famous for saying, “Seek first to understand, and then to be understood.” While this may be difficult, it is a crucial first step when dealing with bosses. Perhaps they are under pressure from those above or juggling too many projects. In no way should one tolerate wrong treatment, but by practicing empathy you might gain a new perspective on your boss’s point of view.

Step 2 – Get Clear on Their Expectations
Job expectations that are not clearly defined and understood by all can be a source of struggle. Often, employees and employers alike are diligently working on the things for which they are responsible. Nonetheless, everyone is judging others by what they believe they should be doing. If your responsibilities are not clear, ask for clarification. Also, get clear on what “finished” looks like to your boss for each assigned task.

Step 3 – Identify Your Own Shortcomings
Take a look in the mirror. Objectively, ask yourself if there are responsibilities you are not fulfilling. Ignore your intentions; your boss is judging your actions. If you are unaware of any personal issues, ask a trusted coworker for constructive criticism, and for their honest opinion on how you could improve in your job. Be careful not to be too defensive. It might be that you are blind to your weaknesses.

Step 4 – Become a Solution Seeker
It is easy to point out the shortcomings or problems of others in your organization. Chances are, your boss is already aware of them, and the last thing they need is someone pointing them out. Become the employee who is known for solutions. Make suggestions to your boss with the attitude of helping the organization become more efficient. Based on your current relationship, you might want to make these recommendations in private and away from the heat of battle.

Step 5 – Do Not Dwell on What You Cannot Control
Every industry has certain unavoidable obstacles. Are the things bothering you unchangeable? If so, train yourself to accept them as par for the course. If they are too overwhelming, perhaps it is time to change jobs. Likewise, the things you dislike about your boss may not be possible to change. If they are absentminded or bad communicators, you might just need to cope or leave the company.

Step 6 – Ask Your Boss for Advice
If the difficulties persist, it is time to schedule a meeting with the boss. Tell them you are concerned with your job performance and would like to discuss it with them. Be sure that you present an attitude of wanting to improve. Many people discover that their boss is shocked to hear there is a problem. This alone may correct communication problems. Even if it does not, at least your grievances have been expressed in a professional manner.

Step 7 – Learn How Your Boss Prefers to Communicate
While meeting with your boss, ask how they would prefer you to communicate with them. Tell them that you understand they are juggling a lot and that you do not want to be an additional burden. Ask if they prefer emails, phone conversations, or one-on-one interaction. Their answer might not be what is easiest for you, but it is your duty to be flexible and adapt. Plus, contacting them in this way may be enough to prevent you from seeming like a liability.

Step 8 – Know Your Company’s Grievance Policies
If previous steps fail, reacquaint yourself with your company’s HR and grievance policies. If your boss has people above them, know how to take your issue to the next level. Know what is expected of you so that you can design your plan of action.

Step 9 – Document the Evidence
Often, a company’s default position will be to defend the boss. This is why it is crucial to gather evidence carefully. Each organization has different procedures and standards by which they will judge your information. Therefore, be sure to separate your emotions from the facts. For best results, it is important to demonstrate how your boss is violating company standards.
Step 10 – Schedule Your HR Meeting
After you collect the needed documentation, schedule an appointment with your firm’s HR department. More than likely, this will be the last step you can take within your organization. For better or worse, after this meeting things will begin to change. If other employees have similar difficulties, ask them to go to HR with you. Just ensure that they too keep their personal feelings out of their arguments. Also, make sure they can provide evidence that the boss is a liability to the organization.

If your trip to HR is unsuccessful, or if there is no one above your boss, perhaps it is time to move on. Life is too short to work in an unhealthy environment. Be sure not to act too quickly, but set a time limit for how long you will continue working for your current employer. Likewise, predetermine that you will turn your negative situation into an advantage. While you are still employed, begin working on your resume, compile your references, start interviewing and talking to headhunters.

While having a “bad boss” can be a stressful and demoralizing experience, instead of blaming or demanding your boss take responsibility for being easier to work for, the onus ultimately falls on the employee to reduce friction. That’s because some people don’t change. Some bosses own the practice. And if the employee can’t find peace after taking these steps, there are always other places to work.

Finally, do your homework before you accept any new job offers. Try to talk with others who work for these companies and attempt to get a feel for the work atmosphere. There is no sense in moving from one undesirable environment into another.

Do not allow your present state of mind to prevent you from thoroughly examining your future career setting.

Alan A. Ayers, MBA, MAcc is Vice President of Strategic Initiatives for Practice Velocity, LLC and is Practice Management Editor for The Journal of Urgent Care Medicine.

How to Cope with a Difficult Boss

Alan A. Ayers, MBA, MAcc

President of Experity Consulting and is Practice Management Editor of The Journal of Urgent Care Medicine