When You Want to Drop-Kick Your Boss

Finding common ground is essential to maintaining a productive office relationship.

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Tim Tyrell-Smith
Life at work can be tough. These days, you’re probably spending more time with co-workers than ever before, and working harder because tight budgets prevent hiring your other half.

So when stress enters the workplace, expect squabbles, disagreements, and a lack of patience. And when head-butting occurs between employee and supervisor, the air can get even thicker.

Whether you are in the right or not, office relationships can be tricky. After all, you rely on each other. You have to find common ground to maintain a productive relationship.

[See 15 Ways Good Bosses Keep Their Best Employees.]

But what happens when you are left fed up, without respect for your boss, and looking for any way out?

Here are a few options that will work better than drop-kicking your boss—listed in the order you should try them:

Take your boss to lunch. Why spend more time with the source of your frustration? Because a more social relationship may help you see more eye-to-eye. Perhaps a quick lunch conversation will provide a missing connection. Or allow a few indirect and open-ended questions from you to shed some light on what’s happening. Try to smile and see if you can spot an opening.

Find a career coach or trusted mentor outside of the office. A different perspective is always helpful in learning new ways to get along. Do your best to explain the environment, actions or inactions causing your frustration. And be open to all feedback, including the possibility you are not totally innocent. Keep your mentor updated as you move down this path.

Talk to another person in the department. While you may have already done this, it was probably not too productive. Especially if they’re unhappy as well, the conversation may be more about gossip than finding a solution. Find someone in the department who’s happy and see if you can understand why. Explain what you see and hear to figure out if you are alone or just reacting differently.

[See How Loving Your Job Helps You Succeed.]

Talk directly to your boss. If lunch with your boss delivered no value, it’s time to have a more direct conversation. This is a chance to share your feelings about working in the department and how it affects your ability to achieve their goals. Be honest and objective. Provide both a description of the problem and, importantly, a few ideas on how they might be solved. Keep this conversation private, allowing him or her to think about it before you do anything else. If the problem still isn’t resolved, stop by a few days later to follow-up.

Talk to a peer of your boss. Find someone in the company who works at the same level as your boss. Identify a person who knows your boss well, who you can ask some honest questions. Be sure they know you’re looking to solve a problem—not create one. Keep the conversation objective and without emotion.

Talk to HR. This is further down the list for a reason. Not because talking to HR is bad, but because it’s difficult to predict the outcome. Going to HR might say you have given up, are complaining, or are looking to get someone in trouble. If this is your reason, then be careful. Your approach is important and, again, must be about finding a productive solution. Sometimes HR can play a positive role in helping you and your boss learn how you’re both wired.

Transfer departments. Depending on your company size and job turnover, this may not be the most timely solution. And you never know whether the situation will be any better across the hall. But if you like the company, pay attention to the bulletin board or company website for announcements of new jobs at your level.

[For more career advice, visit U.S. News Careers, or find us on Facebook or Twitter.]

Leave the company. While a tough decision in a weak economy, this may be your best and final solution. If the environment becomes too much to handle, you may think to quit your job before you find another. But review all other options here before you do. Unless you have a significant financial cushion, this is an important decision to ponder.

What steps have you taken to work problems out with a supervisor? What worked and what didn’t?

Tim Tyrell-Smith is founder of Tim's Strategy, a site that helps professionals succeed in job search, career and life strategy. Follow Tim on Twitter, @TimsStrategy, and share his 30 Ideas Book with job-seeking friends.