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8 Tips for Working With a Difficult Office Manager

Estimated reading time: 3 mins

Working for a living is tough enough, but sometimes it is harder than it should be because you have to deal with people problems at work, especially when your boss is one of the people that give you grief.

Without a careful approach to the situation, your hostile job situation could end up costing you your health and your career.

To help you develop a good approach to the problem, here are 8 tips for working with a difficult office manager that can ease your mind and help you have a better life.

  1. Bring a box of chocolates – If you have one of those volatile, unpredictable bosses that are calm and reasonable one moment and then ballistic the next, try giving the gift of chocolate. By bringing a gift you show that you aren’t taking the stressful antics personally and a little chocolate can go a long way toward easing the stress your boss is dealing with.
  2. Limit communication to email – If your boss has issues with being respectful and professional in the workplace, try to limit your personal interaction with her. By communicating through email, you have a record of everything that was said that can serve as valuable protection should you be selected as the next scapegoat for her performance issues. Besides, you’ll be less likely to be drawn into a scenario that escalates into a shouting match that you will later regret.
  3. Keep a record of every incident – It takes time to sit down and write an account of every incident that happens at work, but the modern workplace requires it. Keep a written, audio, or video journal that documents your daily activities, your interactions with customers, vendors, and co-coworkers. This protects you when you face arbitrary accusations from your manager. Your records will help you establish your case if you ever have to escalate the problem to the executive level or if you need to take legal action. If you are asked to do something illegal or are physically assaulted or threatened on the job, call the police on the spot.
  4. Leave your boss at work – Some managers can have genuine mental health issues that cause them to take pleasure in causing your misery. If yours is like this, make a deliberate effort to be happy on the job and have plenty of photos of the good times you’re having with family and friends. This not only shows your manager that you are still having a good life, but leaving your work problems at the office show you where your priorities are.
  5. Combat vagueness – Some managers are deliberately vague because they need an outlet to receive blame when the project doesn’t come out right. If you follow her instructions and fail, then she is part of the problem, but if you fail trying to do your work on your own, than you are the problem and you must pay. Get specific requirements and expectations from your manager in writing before you begin the task so your performance is always objectively evaluated.
  6. Don’t count on co-worker support – You think you have friends at the office, but if you share your feelings with them, they are likely to go tell your manager what you’ve said to earn brownie points for themselves. No one likes a difficult manager, but if a co-worker thinks he can exploit your pain to build better relations with the boss, things will get much more difficult for you.
  7. Take action – Have a respectful but frank meeting with your difficult office manager and let her know that you are aware of the way she is treating you and that you will escalate the problem as far over her head as necessary in order to diffuse the tension and resolve the issues. This might not help in a small, family style business, but in typical company, her superiors will pressure her to develop a better management style. Meanwhile, start looking for a different job.
  8. Don’t complain – Your predicament is one that millions of workers endure, but complaining about it will get you labeled as an unprofessional whiner and you will be a blame magnet for everything that goes wrong in your office.

Many work environments reflect the fact that life is not always fair. Use these 8 tips for working with a difficult office manager to help you respond constructively to your bad situation.

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This post is part 7 of 14 in the series You and Your Boss
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This post was written John Brook who works at OfficeKitten.co.uk, one of the top suppliers of office stationery in the UK.

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2 Comments

  1. jennifer

    This is a question, more than comment. When does dealing with an overbearing, manipulative office manager reach the point you have to have the conversation with superior management about the unfair treatment by the office manager. It is an underlying common fact in our office that the office manager does know know how to talk to or handle employees (particularily hourly for whom she has charge of on a daily basis).THe office manager has now singled out the new girl (receptionist) and warned her if she talks about how she is treated, reprimanded, etc. by her, that the new girl’s job will be more difficult. Any suggestions would be helpful.

     
    • Simon

      Hi Jennifer – sorry it has taken me so long to reply to your question. And it is a great question. Firstly I would say that the obvious point in which to involve a senior manager is if there has been a breach of policy. But then I would also ask if the behavior of this person is reasonable and fair? If not then I would go to a senior manager and open the discussion – not by making accusations but by stating facts, and discover what conclusions are reached then. Better to make it a management issue rather than a personal battle. Make sense? Who knows: senior management may have intentionally hired a ‘badass’, which could lead you down a different path, or, lead management to adopt a different style and accept that they messed up. Let me know how you get on. Simon

       

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