It’s not mutually exclusive. You can sell while you work for a difficult boss. Difficult bosses come in all types, whether verbally abusive, incompetent or worse. One of your options is to get another job. You might believe that as the victim it’s not right to be punished in that way. Here’s how to work for a difficult boss and still continue to sell.
1. Make sure you work the way your manager wants you to work.
Some bosses are micromanagers who want to know everything. Some are control freaks who want certain pieces of information just the way they want them whether they waste your selling time or not.
Schedule a meeting, if you haven’t already, to learn your manager’s expectations for how he wants you to work for him. You may want to work differently than he wants. You can make the case for why you want to do things your way.
You’ve got to do things the way your manager wants them if you lose the argument. Your goal when working for a difficult boss is to take away all the issues that might threaten your manager and cause him to become difficult.
2. Meet deadlines.
This is a subset of the first rule. Any manager, whether competent or not, hates surprises and problems. Is your manager difficult because you’re missing deadlines? You deserve some push back if you aren’t meeting deadlines or your work is substandard.
You have another issue if the problem is that your manager is giving you more of the work than he’s giving to others. The conversation to have is one where you demonstrate the workload you have is excessive. Ask which project your manager wants to remove when he gives you more work. You must make the case that you have more work than others.
3. Make your numbers.
Someone who isn’t on track to make his numbers is going to get more flack especially from an insecure manager. You do not want to be the target of your boss’s ire. Your manager can give you input if he can sell. Maybe he has some other ideas that will help you get more business. You have to get back on track and make your sales so at least the stress he would have generated is reduced.
4. Don’t take the bait.
I worked for a difficult manager who was incompetent. We worked in different cities and our telephone calls were a challenge. Every conversation we had led to an argument. As I look back now, I expected every conversation to be an argument. Why? Because most of the things he said were either wrong or wasted my time.
One such time-waster was his giving instructions in no fewer than 25 steps how to do the work he was asking me to do. I do not need to be told how to accomplish an objective! What did I do wrong? I took the bait.
You probably realize that some managers simply annoy you. Instead of going into each meeting with the idea that there is going to be a problem, the next time, assume innocence. When your manager says something that annoys you or worse, don’t take the bait. A neutral response like, “That’s interesting” can be an answer that doesn’t turn up the heat.
I distinctly remember the first time my incompetent manager told me an idea and I replied, “That’s a great idea.” I would have never said anything positive before I decided that a war of words was unproductive for me. I think he nearly fell out of his chair in astonishment. Thankfully our conversations got better after that one. While I never grew to respect him, we did have productive conversations that didn’t end up in arguments.
5. Avoid being a target. Stop whining and offer a solution.
Before you complain about a problem, be sure you have a proposed solution. There’s nothing worse than someone who complains endlessly and then doesn’t offer a solution. Managers tend not to like whiners and they can often show their displeasure of them.
It’s not easy working for a difficult manager. Your choice of strategies is key. Keep these rules in mind when you execute your strategies.