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How to Deal With an Overly Critical Boss

by | Dec 19, 2012 | General Career Advice

I’ve heard from a lot of people lately who are all suffering with the same problem: An overly critical boss.

There’s nothing worse than working for someone who only sees the negative. When you do great work, it’s ignored. But when you make a mistake or somehow fall short of expectations (even completely unreasonable ones), you’re criticized. It feels so unfair.

Of course, life isn’t fair—and neither is the workplace. So we have to learn to deal with these kinds of difficult personalities.

Control Your Response

The hard fact of life is that you can’t change or control anyone’s behavior except your own. The good news is that you have 100% control of your response to the behaviors of others. You can choose to let someone ruin your day, or you can choose to let it roll off your back. You have the power. Take responsibility for your own attitude and don’t be a victim. Don’t allow one person’s perspective to irreparably harm your self-esteem. You are still valuable and no one can take that away from you.

Consider It a Learning Experience

Dealing with difficult people is an invaluable skill for the workplace–and life! Think of it this way: You’re getting amazing experience. Take notes for the future, my friend. This probably isn’t the first time you’ve encountered a difficult person and it certainly won’t be the last. You’ll be an expert in no time.

Find a Sanctuary

Make your office or workspace a peaceful place that helps you create a mental barrier between you and your boss. Put up photos of your family and things that make you feel loved and happy. This will help you stay positive even in the face of relentless criticism.

Get Away

Being surrounded by negativity all day makes life painful. Your world can grow smaller and smaller if that’s all you see day in and day out. Take regular breaks to get away from it all–go on walks, eat lunch outside of the office, etc. This just helps you keep perspective.

Address It

Here’s the deal: You’re getting a lot of criticism from your boss and, like it or not, your boss is someone you need to please. So, it’s important that you get some clarification. Is your boss truly being overly critical? Or are you underperforming? Either way, it’s best to get it out in the open.

Here’s one way to address it:

I recognize that I’m falling short of your expectations quite a bit lately. What guidance can you give me to better meet—and even exceed—your expectations in the future?

Perhaps you need to ask for better communication regarding those expectations. Maybe you need to help establish more realistic expectations. Whatever the case may be, you need to start the conversation.

You may find that your boss is just the type of person who harps on the negative and forgets to mention the positive. He may think you’re spectacular—but he just gets too busy and distracted to mention it. If that’s the case, it doesn’t hurt to give him some feedback.

Let your boss know that you’re motivated by recognition. You can even be completely transparent and tell him when and how you want praise for a job well done. I used to send my boss a regular “I’m Awesome” list letting him know all the great things I had done. It was a cheap ploy for recognition, but he got the point. It wasn’t in his nature to point these things out and he often got so focused on his own work he didn’t even notice all I had done. But, when he saw everything listed out like that, he couldn’t help but feel appreciative. And for me, that’s all I needed.

Photo Credit: Kues1 –

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About the Author

Chrissy Scivicque is a certified Project Management Professional (PMP) and certified Professional Career Manager (PCM). She is an author, in-demand presenter and international speaker known for engaging, entertaining, educating and empowering audiences of all sizes and backgrounds. Learn more here.

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