Why Your Boss Is Being Horrid To You
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Why Your Boss Is Being Horrid To You

Why Your Boss Is Being Horrid To You

The first in a series of exclusive leadership articles from Dubai-based business author, Nicolai Tillisch.


You cannot avoid the subject of horrible bosses. This type of conversation flourishes in Dubai’s bars, at private dinner parties, or even in the majlises throughout the Gulf. Many employees are carrying deep frustrations, which often spill into their personal lives. The phenomenon is not isolated to the region. The psychologist Robert Hogan recently presented a finding that three out of four Americans find their immediate boss to be the most stressful aspect of their work life.

The Gulf stands out, however, with a work environment that is more multicultural than anywhere else on the planet. Expats from east, west, north and south make up the overwhelming majority of the workforce in the private sector. They bring along a plethora of styles, which have potential to negatively impact the team’s ability to work effectively together.

There are hierarchical people and there are egalitarian ones. Some managers care for their direct reports like family members, while yet others see them as people who should just perform against their defined responsibilities and personal targets.

Some professionals are limited by their English or Arabic capabilities, while others lose their audience with their sophistication. Beyond background, people are differently motivated and range – independently of culture – from selfish to heroic and can be biased towards the short or the long term. There are plenty of reasons why you may have difficulties with a superior.

Therefore, it is extra important that you do something yourself to improve the situation. You should not just accept it and the negative implications on your life or your career. The best side of a relationship to change is your own. You cannot expect to easily modify your superior or the wider work environment.

A level of mutual understanding is a prerequisite for any effective collaboration. Basic respect builds on this. You can be unlucky if your line manager is doing little to understand you as the person you are. His or her genuine attempt to do so can become distorted if you do not match the cultural stereotype of your nationality or simply because you are difficult to predict.

Are you conscious about when you are reactive or proactive with him or her? Are you direct or indirect, when you go against his or her train of thought? Do you carefully prioritise situations and issues in which to run the risk of conflict? You should not just try to understand your manager better but make an effort to become easier for him or her to understand. Be self-aware and do not dither.

If you are not happy with your superior, then you can assure yourself that you are not alone. You can also put your circumstances in perspective by realising that many highly successful executives have had to manoeuvre around a problematic boss during a critical stage in their careers. You can use similar situations to be professional and stand out, even in the eyes of a horrible boss.

Nicolai Tillisch is the founder of the business consulting company Dual Impact and the author of Effective Business In The Gulf: Mastering leadership skills for greater success.

The newly released book can be purchased from Motivate.


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