What YOU Can Do If Your Direct Reports Hate Your Guts!

I hate my boss

Summary: “I hate my boss” is a common comment in most workplaces. How do you know if you fit the category? Here’s the litmus test.

Being a Boss Means YOU Must Handle Conflict at Work

You’ve received a promotion. Congrats. You feel confident and ready for the challenge.

That is to say, you’re now the boss, the one everyone admires.

In other words, you are fulfilling your dream of being the one in charge.

You know your work ethic is tremendous, and you are strong enough to take on the world. So far, so good.

However, being promoted is just a step in how to be a great boss. Think of it like parenting. The advice only goes so far. 

Remember the menu is NOT the meal

The accurate tests come when you are up to your waist in alligators.

Then you realize that new ideas from the creatives are lagging. For example, the supply chain is not up to speed. Money out overrides money in. Therefore, everything seems out of whack.

In addition, this leads to days when there is lots of dissatisfaction and gossip about your leadership capabilities.

There are the days when there is a loud enough murmur of “I hate my boss. “It seems to come from all directions.

You can read all the books and blogs (like this one) and highlight the important stuff. However, I promise, there will be trials by fire and tests. That is where the deeper learning shows up.

For example, most books about leadership talk in the abstract about what great leaders do and say.

Above all, what you need is a specific way to put the fires of discontent.

Respected leaders learned by being in the trenches

Moreover, to be a positive and well-respected leader, you realize that your boots need to get muddy. You gain clarity by being right there, amid the turmoil, with your employees.

Gallup study of more than 7,000 U.S. adults found that 50 percent of people leave a job to get away from their manager to improve their overall life satisfaction (OLS) at some point in their career.

The same study found that leaders fall somewhat short for most workers when developing their employees’ strengths. They are not providing consistent feedback and establishing clear performance goals.

However, many leaders feel blindsided by negative comments. Therefore, they begin to hold back, become distant, and even formal. They use assistants as barriers. Sadly, they think that a “gatekeeper” is their way to success.

YOU can run, but you can’t hide

One CEO I coached, a fun and fashionable man, accessible and eager, turned into a stone-faced dictator. Once he heard the rumors of dissatisfaction with his leadership style, his responses became, “Because I said so,” and “Just do it, no questions asked.”

For example, he retreated to what he thought was safety.

For instance, he said, “I don’t want to get into the conflict. I will send the directives out and let others handle the upset.”

Then conflict escalated with his colleague and friend, now one of his senior VP’s.

He expected this VP to support him at all costs. It was not happening.

Thus, he pulled away and lost trust in even his closest colleague.

He told me he never expected leadership to be so authoritarian.

Leadership was, he said, belly-knotting and gut-wrenching. In addition, he developed irrational fears and phobias.

“They are out to get me. I believe the employees want me fired. They won’t listen to me.”

I had him begin to note how his team behaved around him; that is when he did emerge from his office. He would eat lunch alone in his office. He would leave late so he could avoid seeing anyone.

It took time for him to learn.

Subsequently, here’s what he finally understood that I want to pass on to you.

Here’s what to consider if your employees say “I hate my boss”

  • You see a group talking together. Then as you walk by they stand up straighter, and wipe the smiles from their faces. After that, they nod like puppets in your direction.
  • At a meeting you give someone meaningful acknowledgement. The response is a terse ‘uh huh’ or a bland and formal “thank you.” There is no emotional connection.
  • You want to gain rapport by asking an employee about the family. The response is a mechanical “fine. “No details and no asking you about yours.
  • Employee Satisfaction Surveys seem to dribble in from your team or never even get handed in.
  • If you are a visual learner you will see people scoot away when they see you coming down the hall.
  • As an auditory learner you will hear responses to you in monosyllables and monotonous tonality.
  • Being a kinesthetic learner, you will feel weakness in handshakes.

Here is what to do to turn the “I hate my boss” syndrome around

Lots of stuff. I believe change begins with you looking inside yourself. You need to learn about your methods of asking questions and requesting feedback. Sad but true, it does start with you.

You need to figure out why you would rather hide in your office rather than face your employees. Or perhaps you always defend your position and blame others for what is happening.

Here’s one action item you can do right now if you have the courage.

Have a cup of coffee with the VP you are avoiding. Yes, the one you fear the most. And ask, after a few minutes of easy conversation, “What do you need from me you’re not getting.”

Active listening can erase the “I hate my boss” mantra

To sum up, leading means learning about the emotional underbelly of communication.

Most importantly, you cannot hide or use others to take the unpleasant parts of leadership.

When you listen to the tonality, the word choice, the level of tension when someone talks with you, that is the time you can find a better way of responding.

The CEO I mentioned above said, “Once I learned to listen for the emotions under the words, I was in a better place. I no longer felt attacked. It became obvious to me that the concerns of others were more than a “gotcha” on me. I become a more effective leader by asking different questions. Interestingly, it also changed how I listen to and talk with my family. A double win.”

Leadership is a great way to learn about life. Please remember, it is fluid, not rigid. Times change, you change, they change. You can learn more about the emotional side of leadership in my award-winning book “Don’t Bring It To Work.”

Here’s to your success,


PS. I have experienced coaches who are ready to show you the shortcut to pattern breakthrough leadership. You’ll be glad you took the time to connect.

Creative Energy Options

Sylvia Lafair

Creative Energy Options