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How to Cope With an Unsupportive Boss

By Maurie Backman – Oct 26, 2018 at 8:52AM

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Here's what to do when your manager refuses to throw you a bone.

I once had a great boss who was willing to not only hear out any ideas I presented but let me run with them. Even when some of those ideas ultimately flopped (and trust me, quite a few did), not once did my manager make me feel bad about it. It was her support, in fact, that led me to get promoted at that job fairly quickly and have a few successful years at the company before moving on.

Not every manager is like that, though. In fact, I've had my share of bad bosses who were the opposite of supportive, and it really messed with my morale. If you're dealing with a boss who consistently shoots down your ideas, criticizes your work, and makes you feel like a generally worthless human being, the mere act of picking yourself up and going to work every day can be a challenge. Here's how to deal with an unsupportive boss without having it completely ruin what could otherwise be a positive work experience.

Woman holds her head while man in suit hovers over her with papers in hand.


1. Focus on your strengths

Maybe your boss seems to have little faith in you. But there's a reason he or she hired you in the first place, so rather than let your manager's attitude get you down, think about the skills you bring to the table and the talents you possess. If you concentrate on the things you know you do well, it'll help you overcome the bad feelings your boss might be causing you to have.

2. Keep getting better at what you do

Maybe your boss needs an extra push to recognize what a smart, valuable, trustworthy employee you really are. That's why it pays to keep pushing yourself to improve on the job front, whether that means picking up brand-new skills or working to improve existing ones. If your boss learns to better trust you, he or she might come to be more generous in offering support.

3. Create your own support system

If your boss is constantly shooting down your ideas rather than encouraging them, zapping your self-esteem in the process, one of the best things you can do is surround yourself with people who do make you feel good about yourself. Rather than seek out your boss's praise, support, or approval at every turn, look to get it from your colleagues, family members, and friends. Having someone tell you you're doing a good job is better than never getting to hear it at all.

4. Address the problem directly

It's not your boss's job to ensure that you leave his or her office with a warm, fuzzy feeling every time you walk in. At the same time, it is your manager's responsibility to ensure that you're getting the support you need to excel on the job, so if that's not happening, you have little to lose by addressing the matter professionally. Schedule a sit-down with your boss and explain that you're feeling unsupported. Ask if there's something you could be doing differently to change your manager's attitude, and pledge to do whatever that something is. Chances are, at that point, your boss will start to see the error of his or her ways, and if there is an explanation behind that behavior, at least you'll be privy to it.

Having an unsupportive boss can make your workdays miserable, so don't let the cycle continue. If nothing changes despite your best efforts, it may be time to dust off your resume and take your talents elsewhere -- namely, to a job where you'll have a manager who treats you the way you deserve.

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