What to do when you have a difficult boss
Ai Chin Chiew, Founder & CEO of BestOfMe, shares her experience and learnings from working with a difficult boss in the past.
I’m blessed that over my past 17 years of corporate life, I’ve met many great leaders, mentors, and colleagues who inspired and lifted me.
I’ve also encountered difficult bosses and colleagues who pulled me down and made me feel inadequate.
Once I had a difficult boss who gave me hard times at work. I was miserable.
Being someone who is always passionate about what I do and always giving my best at work, I didn’t understand what I had done to deserve those treatments.
To fix the situation, I worked harder, thinking if I perform better, I will get his approval. It didn’t work.
I tried changing my approach in dealing with him, giving him more respect, and being extra prepared when I present work to him. It didn’t work.
The situation got worse. I was burnt out as nothing seems to be working.
It was tough. I felt like my life is collapsing as I put so much effort into work, always be the best I can be for the company, yet in return, this is what I got.
On the edge of a breakdown
I was at the edge of a mental breakdown, and I knew I had to do something.
I tendered my resignation. The situation was so bad that I even offered to pay the one-month notice period to get me released immediately.
The company valued me, and they offered me a different role, reporting to a different leader, and my life went back on track. I was able to “live” again.
Despite the great pain, I kept this incident to myself and did not bad mouth the difficult boss. I continued to work at my best and kept a professional relationship with him thereafter.
Years later, the difficult boss asked me out for coffee. I went.
To my surprise, the boss apologized to me for giving me those hard times back then and said he was not in the right mental state at that point in life, hence the ill-treatment to me. He was sorry for hurting me. I lost words, and I forgave him fully. We became friends again.
Set yourself free
This was a painful incident for me, but today, when I look back, I see only learnings:
- Sometimes, things happen not because you are not good, but because of other unknown factors out there which you can’t control.
- If you have tried your best yet you can’t get out of a difficult situation at work, do something. Leaving can be a good last resort – your mental health is more important than your career, title, or income.
- Be professional and compassionate – forgive those who hurt you as it sets you free. It’s a win-win!
Ai Chin Chiew has over 17 years of leadership experience in the Finance & Banking Industry. She is the Founder & CEO of BestOfMe, the first Asian-based digital platform offering whole-person development to individuals, teams and organizations.