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Career Tip

Dealing with a Difficult Boss

by Michael Chaffers


Q: I am certain that I am underpaid, given my responsibilities. Unfortunately, doing anything about it requires me to deal with my boss, who is extremely difficult. What can I do?

A: A difficult boss is a tough obstacle to overcome, but you can do it. Try these approaches:

  Focus on the Problem, not the Person

No matter how difficult or pleasant your boss, the real issue has to do with the fairness of your compensation. The more attention you pay to the substantive matters, the less you will be sidetracked by your boss's personality defects.

  Listen and Learn as Much as You Advocate

Chances are your boss will have a strong point of view that he or she will insist upon stating. Instead of fighting with your boss over whether that perspective is right, just listen. Once you understand your boss's point of view, and he or she realizes that you "get it," you can provide your different perspective. If you have taken the time to hear your boss out out, he or she will more readily grant you the same courtesy.

  Do the Hard Creative Work

You probably cannot count on your boss to come up with a solution that takes into account your views as well as his or her own view, or to significantly improve the situation by thinking outside the box. So be proactive and get prepared to do this type of creative problem solving for the both of you. As you do so, make sure you include your boss's views and input so it feels like a joint problem solving session.

  Stress the Legitimacy of Your Desires

Even the most difficult of people tend to view themselves as fair and therefore want to act in ways that leave others feeling fairly treated. So, as you seek more compensation, stress that it is merely an opportunity for the company to treat a valued employee fairly. If you can, gather data about what others in similar positions in the company are making and compare those figures to your own salary.

  Consider Your Alternatives

If your boss is just too nasty, stubborn or useless to deal with directly, can you approach another senior manager? Is there someone else who can take up your case for more compensation on your behalf? If so, consider bypassing this difficult person in order to make progress.

  Get Commitments in Writing

No matter how much progress you make in conversations with your boss, unless those discussions are put in writing you may find it hard to get them enforced. So, even if all you can get is an exchange of emails, or just a letter from you detailing the points that you agreed upon, get all promises in writing.

Job Stress Management Tips to Start Today
by Susan Bryant

Stress. Pressure. Anxiety. Tension. Whatever you call it, there is no shortage of it in todays fast-paced, technologically advanced workplace. Consider these statistics:

  • Stress-related disorders are fast becoming the most prevalent reason for worker disability according to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.
  • Job stress and related problems cost American companies an estimated $200 billion or more annually through absenteeism, turnover, accidents, etc.
  • The World Health Organization calls job stress a "worldwide epidemic."

Obviously stress has a powerful impact on us. Can we eliminate the stressors of modern work life? No -- and its a good thing we cant. We need a certain degree of stress in our lives to spur us to action, challenge our perception of what we are capable of, and help us reach new levels of performance. The trick is learning how to manage the stress versus being overwhelmed by it.

Bill Delano, founder of Job Stress Help, an Internet service that provides confidential, individualized advice via email to those experiencing job stress, has these suggestions:

In with the Good Air, Out with the Bad

Take a breathing break. Frequent short breaks during the day allow you to breathe deeply and relax your mind, preventing stress build-up.

Know the Enemy

What, exactly, is stressing you out? Is it your job? Your home life? Your relationships? Without knowing the root of the problem, you are unlikely to resolve it. If you are having difficulty identifying the source of your stress, seek professional help from your Employee Assistance Program or a mental health professional.

Move It or Lose It

Begin an exercise program. Exercise helps release endorphins, which relieves stress.

Let Go

Recognize the difference between the things you can control and the things you cannot. Make a list of these two categories. Starting today, make a pact with yourself to stop stressing about the things in your job you have no control over.

Beware of the To Do List

Take note of all the good work you do and give yourself credit for it. Set short-term goals and allow yourself to take satisfaction in achieving them.

Develop a Tough Skin

Try not to personalize any criticism you receive. Look at negative comments as constructive criticism that allows you to improve your work. If however, the criticism is verbally abusive, e.g., your boss yells at you or uses vulgar language, discuss this problem with your manager or human resources department.

Share the Load

Delegate or share work whenever possible. Dont fall into the trap of thinking you are the only person who can do the job right. Your coworkers and boss might start to buy into that concept as well.

Dont Make Work a Four Letter Word.

Job stress builds when our minds are constantly focused on work. Strive for balance in your life. Make time for family, friends, hobbies and, most importantly, fun.

Know Your Rights

Read the Guide to Workplace Law by the American Bar Association. Its important to know your rights as an employee or employer.

Although learning to manage a stressful job is important, sometimes it makes more sense to leave it. How can you determine when its time to give your job the heave-ho? You know its time to quit when:

  1. Youve tried all the appropriate channels and methods for resolving your situation, to no avail (or the appropriate channels are not made available).
  2. Your boss is intimidating, disrespectful or demeaning to you.
  3. You are so bored on the job that you are exhausted by the end of the day. If you dont have an upwardly mobile career path that challenges you to grow professionally, its time to look for a more interesting position.



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The Worse You Feel About Yourself, the Harder Career Issues Become
by Peter Vogt

It's hard enough to choose a career path or find a job when you feel great about yourself. But if you feel lousy about yourself, it's a next-to-impossible task.

Whether called self-esteem, self-confidence or self-worth, if yours is low, you'll struggle with just about any career-related issue. Why? Because your feelings about yourself are behind practically everything you do -- or don't do -- where your career is concerned.

Many of the college students and recent graduates I work with struggle with issues of self-worth. These feelings can show up in a variety of ways. Do any of the following descriptions sound like you?

  • Some students not only have trouble finding a job; they have trouble looking for a job. They just don't feel like trying -- an attitude that often carries over into the rest of their life and emerges in feelings of anxiety, despair and worthlessness, which can raise more serious concerns like clinical depression.
  • Other students feel they just don't deserve the job or career they really want, or that they won't be able to pursue their dream job even if they try. These students believe the good jobs and careers are for someone else.
  • Still other students feel completely overwhelmed by the career-selection or job-hunting process. They don't even know where to begin, and then they start labeling themselves as stupid or dumb (or something even more demeaning) because they're struggling, which only makes the problem that much worse.

As one student put it:

"I'm feeling very overwhelmed. Finding a job is like wandering through a city with a hundred dead-end roads, and only a couple of roads that go anywhere. And I have to somehow find that needle in the haystack. I know that I will not get most jobs I pursue, which diminishes my motivation."

Do you recognize yourself in any of these scenarios? If so, you're almost certainly wrestling with issues related to your self-esteem. And you'll almost certainly continue to struggle with them -- and your career or job search -- until you get some help.

Your best bet is a career or personal counselor at your school -- someone who is highly trained in the issues college students typically face, and who can help you develop a more objective view of yourself. Often, it takes an outsider to help you see that you are smart and talented, you do have skills and knowledge to offer the world -- including the world of work -- and that you can get to where you want to go.

Will you be able to quickly turn your attitude around, and become completely positive overnight? Probably not. But with guidance and support you can achieve a more balanced view of yourself, so while you may still beat yourself up from time to time with one hand, you can pat yourself on the back with the other.

You're worth at least that much. We all are

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