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How To Cope With A Tough Boss

Whether she's hard to please or just plain hard to read, there's a way for you to work well with a strict superior. Read on to find out how.

Dealing with a boss you don't get along with can be tough. After all, how can you be productive working from nine to five if you don't feel comfortable with the person you report to? There are many reasons your boss may be tough on you. Maybe she's strict with everyone, or maybe she's singling you out for a reason. Whatever the case, this is something you have to manage before things get out of hand or you lose interest in your work altogether.

Here are three common types of difficult bosses that you may come across in the corporate world. Learn how to identify which type your boss falls under—and how to improve your rapport with her.

Tough Boss Type #1: The Split Personality

Sometimes she'll kick off her stilettos and gab with you about haircuts and boyfriends. But when she gets angry, her screams can be heard from across the office.

Management strategy: Sit beside her when she's involved in a passive activity, like scanning the newspapers. Put your hand on her arm, and as you feel her muscles relax a bit, say "It seems like something's on your mind. Can I get you anything?" If she won't open up, don't pry, but keep the physical connection. If she does spill, just listen so she knows how much it means for her to share it with you.

Tough Boss Type #2: The Cult Leader

Her dazzling charisma and passion for your project motivate you to work extremely hard—commuting to the office on weekends and even answering text messages at 1AM. Then one morning, the alarm clock rings and you can't do anything except pull the covers over your head.

Management strategy: Set boundaries. No more answering emails on a Saturday night or keeping your cell phone strapped to your waist, says Rachel C. Weingarten, president of GTK Marketing Group and author of Career And Corporate Cool. Talk to her about getting help with your workload—if she's as worthy of your worship as you think, she'll listen.

Tough Boss Type #3: The Micromanager

No detail is too tiny for her to stress over—from the sandwiches you order for the monthly meeting (whole wheat or ciabatta bread?) to the font size of your recent memo (12-point Helvetica? 10-point Arial?). She constantly requests status reports, even for the most modest project. You want to show your boss that you make great decisions, but she rarely allows you to go out for lunch.

Management strategy: Give the problem back to her. She's the one who wants to control everything, so let her control this, says Sheila Heen, co-author of Difficult Conversations. Try saying: "I know it's very important to get things right, but I'd like to relieve you of some of the more minor details, since you have more important things to worry about. What's your advice?" Cutting down on excessive progress reports can be a weight off your shoulders—and hers, as well.

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