5 Reasons Why Your Boss Hates You

Estimated reading time: 6 mins

I was with a group of 126 recently appointed managers and we were talking about our relationships with our boss. I just love it when people begin to talk about the subjects that matter to them.

The group shared their thoughts on how they have suffered from bad relationships with their boss, and more to the point, how their relationships turned sour in the first place. It was such an interesting (and enlightening) conversation that I am sharing with you what I learned.

So I discovered the 5 reasons why your boss might hate you (although there maybe more, these are the biggies)

You are a Threat

If your boss believes you pose a threat to their job then they could turn nasty. If you walk around with a halo on your head (put there by your peers, or even your manager’s peers or superiors) then this could be perceived as dangerous to your boss.

This goes beyond the belief of your boss that you are after their job. By building up a strong profile inside your organization, which I fully recommend, it is likely that you a pedestal is also being built underneath you. If your profile creates support and sponsorship by senior members of your organization, then the likelihood of being knocked off is reduced, but there always remains the potential of being sniped off by a jealous boss.

If you suspect that this is the case, then you have a choice – continue as you are and live with the glory and the threat, or share your halo with your boss by ensuring that they always get 10% of the credit. (Number is arbitrary!). You do this by always mentioning their support and guidance as you achieve greatness.

You are Too Political

Politics is a banner of many behaviors, but roughly I am suggesting that your manager may get pissed off with you if you don’t consistently align with the truth and behave like ‘all things to all people’. Politics has its place, but over-emphasis on truth-economies can create distrust between you and your manager. Think about it: if they see you as a skillful player with your peers, then what do they read into your relationship?

If you’re in a politically charged environment (despite best will, this does happen) then it’s always best to disclose your political game plan with your boss. Even if they don’t play too, at least they know what you’re trying to achieve. Create a version of the truth that you both align to and will work together to achieve. Personally, I prefer work without politics, but if you must engage in politics then it’s important to have the support of your manager.

You are Not Political Enough

The flipside to the above, and probably a more likely situation. The higher you climb the pole, the greasier it gets.

Your manager may be playing many angles and operating in grey-areas to achieve an outcome… only for you to come along with an honest and transparent communication to destroy their game-plan.

My feelings towards this are clear – this is your manager’s fault and if they don’t involve you in the game (or at least tell you where the goal-posts are) then that is their problem. Nevertheless, your lack of awareness, or refusal to play, can build up bad feelings which are likely not to be expressed. Your boss’s hatred of you will seem irrational and may be sensed but not directly manifested.

There isn’t much you can do in these situations. Sometimes, a direct challenge might work but the same political behavior will be applied in your manager’s response.

Lack of Rapport

Rapport is the X-factor in a relationship. When two people have rapport, they get along very well and the relationship flourishes. This happens when you and your manager perceive situations, and people, in similar ways and you make similar decisions and judgments based on that perception. Communication is effective. There is cohesion. It’s a foundation of trust.

What about the lack of rapport? The opposite of the above is true. Relationships die at the point of inception when two people can’t communicate effectively or agree on anything. When two people have two parametrically opposite personality traits, then building rapport is almost impossible. If you are a positive person, but your boss is negative, then it will be tough. If you are introvert, but your manager is extrovert, then it will be tough. Get the picture?

I don’t recommend trying to be a person you are not, in order to overcome this. You will come unstuck at some point, and to be frank, you will be miserable and stressed. The best way forward, when faced with this problem, is to just keep working at it. A lack of rapport will diminish over time providing that you and your manager are trying to achieve the same thing. It will be a bumpy road – so expect that – but eventually it will smooth out.

You Don’t Do What Your Manager Expects You To Do

Have you become upset when a mechanic didn’t fix the problem with your car? How about when your credit card company didn’t switch off payment protection, even when you ticked the option? It’s the same when you don’t do what you said you would do. Your manager gets pissed.

In modern organizations, strategic goals are cascaded from the most senior executives to junior employees. Your manager’s objectives are dependent on you achieving your objectives… and so on. If you don’t achieve your goals, your manager doesn’t too.

Worse still, your manager’s reputation can be drawn through the mud. Your failure could be a direct hit on your boss’s credibility. If this failure is caused by forgetfulness, or bad judgment, or incompetence then you can expect your manager to be upset with you. Persistent failure like this can lead to total hatred!

A more dangerous ground to tread on is when you’re going hell for leather for a goal that is different to the one your manager expects. It’s dangerous because the point of realization that your expectations are different is towards the end of the project or assignment. You might get into this situation if you and your boss haven’t built rapport.

This situation may be a deliberate coup by your manager if they’re playing political games or if they perceive you as a threat. Unless your objectives are clearly understood in the same way between you, your manager has a ticket to call foul at any point.

Truth is, managers rarely resort to these shenanigans, but much more common is a surprise moment a long way into an assignment when both of you realize your mistake of a difference in expectation. This is why it’s vital that you and your manager agree specifics, with little (or no) room for different interpretation. Especially so if your performance management, and your bonus, depends upon it.

I believe that total alignment of expectations is the only way to avoid pissing off your boss, and indeed achieving what they expect from you. I recommend you take a look at your current assignments now and check with your manager that your intended output is what he or she expects.

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15 thoughts on “5 Reasons Why Your Boss Hates You”

  1. Lol – great post Simon. I always wondered why my boss didn’t give me a good performance review, and stubbed cigarettes out on my arm 🙂

    Seriously, I think your last point was interesting. I hadn’t thought about whether there is a different view on what the expectations are. I can think of times when this has happened though . Two years ago there was a mighty mess up when my manager and I agreed that I would fix an important problem.

    Thing is I did one thing, and she expected another and had told customers her understanding of the solution, and the customer spent time and money on that assumption.

    If we had been clear with each other upfront about we could have avoided it probably

    I also like this post which says a lot too-

    1. simonstapleton

      Hey Asif – yes the course starts straight away, as soon as you confirm your email address!

      I hope you enjoy the course.

  2. Hi Simon, I agree on the last 3 points as I have experienced the same. I did write and arrange for meetings to solve certain work issues because of which I went through mental stress and was unwell too. Nobody showed concern. The meeting was delayed first for 3 days and a reminder after a month, again delayed it for 2 months. This is not the first time as past 1 and a half year this is being repeatedly done. I also got negative comments in my appraisal. Still I do my work as told, cross it check it for accuracy and complete it on deadline.
    But for others, there is all the time for their trivial issues and hours are spent to solve them and make them happy even at the cost of hurting me. And further more they are given undue attention. I have become the black sheep.
    How do I make myself feel good and show my importance to all? Please suggest.

  3. Hi Ulkauma – thanks for your comment. This is a tough predicament – when there seems little urgency to deal with a problem important to you. In my own experience, this can be extremely frustrating and can cause a lot of rage!

    How did you approach people to discuss your work issues? If you didn’t do so, coming at it from the angle of ‘potential solutions’ might work. People don’t like to talk about other people’s problems (unless it’s gossip) as much as they do solutions. Do you know what you would do to overcome these work issues? Have you shared them?

    Also, one tactic I use is to get other people to suggest a date and time. This puts the onus on them to check if they’re available and can commit.

    And we’re all human. We respond to emotion. Just wondering if you have shared your feelings about your current situation? It’s hard to understand your personality from your comment. So I will speak from my own experience. Sometimes, if we’re shy, or if can’t build rapport with other people very easily, we can come across as snobby, aloof or high-and-mighty… when it’s the last thing we are. One way to break down the stand-off that ensues is to share emotion – reveal your personality so others can see what you’re really like: and give you a chance.

    Lastly, I’d do this: take a stock-check of all the things you’re doing RIGHT. Take an objective look at the value you’re creating in your organization. Identify the good things. We don’t always do this enough!

    Ulkauma – I am not sure if this will work for you, but I suggest you join my mailing list and connect personally if you need to discuss this further.

  4. Mickey mouse

    Hiya, thank you for your tips. I have just been moved to another office in my job, for two reasons. 1. To shadow the manager and 2. To take over as manager. Unfortunately it’s all in the open why I am there. Which has resulted in the manager has had his nose put out of joint and is not happy especially as it’s a male orientated environment and I’ll be the first female manager, plus I’m approximately 12 years junior to him and my peers at that level. The second male who will be 50 this year has put in a formal complaint against the decision as he feels it should’ve been him…….. They are behaving like kids who gave not got their way. It’s absolutely shocking. I’m left to sit silent and take their personal assassination against me. I just hope that I reign supreme after this is all sorted out……

  5. @Mickey mouse – their behavior is routed very much in fear. Possibly fear of many things…

    1) Fear that a younger female will prove to be as good, or better
    2) Fear of being permanently passed over
    3) Fear of an outsider
    4) Fear of breaking up a clique/friendship circle
    5) Fear of change
    6) Fear of being cast on the heap
    7) Fear of their own incompetencies/inadequacies

    All these things (and others) are about perception. If these guys took a different approach and looked at this as an opportunity to lead and influence, then things would be a whole lot different. Instead, they’re probably creating a future that resembles their fears.

    My advice? Hang in there. Keep notes on everything that happens. Don’t let them take away your power. Grow a thick-skin. Don’t EVER play their games. You may face bozos like this in the future, and although its not fair or right, its likely to happen. So learn how to be invicible from it.

  6. The first point of being a threat to me is the biggest and most likely and takes 60 per cent of all the scenarios.
    My boss constantly tries to bring me down because I look better than her 🙂 am better educated, better skilled, better technologywise and loved by everyone around.
    I believe she feels her lacking all of the above and my having it poses a threat to her own job which she uses wicked dirty tricks to keep/
    She wont go far……will get caught one day9

  7. Hey Nat. A jealous boss creates a tricky situation. You could try just riding it out, and another option is to let her retain her dignity by recognizing at least one thing that she is best at. Otherwise she will be like a wounded animal, and potentially dangerous to you. Just a thought!

  8. Hi Simon,
    I’m a graphic designer and my company loves my work. I have good work ethic and i don’t play the political game… the problem, my boss does. I normally stay out of it. But last week she commented (via email) i was impolite for not responding to her about a forwarded email she sent me. I was swamped with work at the time, which she was aware of and added to it to drive home her point. I was pissed! And after have a couple of drinks on Friday may have mentioned it to 2 people at work. (that was stupid, i know). Monday and Tuesday were normal, Wednesday there were cupcakes and acknowledgement of what a great job I’m doing and today i was give a pay rise, out of nowhere. The problem is that she was asking about her management style and what she can improve. She is clearly aware of what was said on Friday and whilst over the weekend i decided to let it go, I now have to justify what i said and why i said it without acknowledging I’ve said it or that she knows. I know the moral is don’t drink with people you work with but I’m to tired and stress at the minute to deal with this and wanted to know your take on what i should say/do. Thanks, Liz

  9. @Elizebeth – as I read this, I formed the impression that you and your boss both understand your mistakes in the situation and probably want to make amends and move on. So my advice is to tackle it head on and get a private moment and apologize. Open the door to her. Say sorry, and explain why you were struggling, but don’t position this as an excuse.

    Believe me, you will feel so much better after it and it is a mature, positive response.

  10. I have had the opportunity to work with a variety of managers, sadly, most of them with bad managerial skills and no leadership qualities whatsoever.

    If you know that you are a hardworking, dedicated, committed worker, and your boss still hates you, no amount of sucking up to them is going to change their viewpoints about you. The mere fact that they hate your guts despite all that you mean for the organisation is proof that they are not thinking like good quality leaders.

    I have always achieved success in my career objectives despite my bosses from hell because I remain true to myself, my values, my believes. I am who I am and there are enough other people in this world personally and professionally who like me and appreciate my efforts.

    So to hell with advice stating that you must try and make your boss look good despite them treating you like crap. You are not there to fix their personality flaws.

    Be yourself! Believe in your own abilities! Be open to make mistakes, learn from mistakes and try again. I know you love what you are doing. Don’t let an incompetent boss spoil it for you!

  11. Cynthia Esparza

    I have story for days. I’ve cried about 4 times because how mad I’ve been. My boss said I’m scared to go by you because I feel like your going to stab me when I walk by you. I’ve never said or done anything to disrespectful to her. She looks down on me because I’m not vegan. The whole office is vegan and she doesn’t allow any meat or diary in the office. She constantly tells me something. She makes me give her a list by the end of the day and put Down how long each tasks took. Etc

    1. Hey Cynthia – thanks for your comment. Is the thing about stabbing really meant that way? That sounds very serious indeed – thinking that violence might kick off is a terrible situation and I think this needs to be resolved before anything else.
      Then the thing about being vegan – well we all have a right to choose our lifestyle and you are making your choice. This should not be an issue. Perhaps you need to remind your boss that your choice breaks no laws or policies.
      But most of all it sounds like your boss has an agenda against you, and I think you need to get to the bottom of what that issue is because dealing with the above points is only addressing the symptoms, not the underlying problem.

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