Tips to Stay Positive When You Have a Negative Boss

I wrote a while ago about a worker who asked me how he was supposed to be confident when his boss was always harping on what’s wrong. I said I’d offer suggestions later about how to provide feedback to a boss like this to help him understand how destructive his hand wringing is.

Giving feedback of any kind is often difficult. You worry about what the other person is going to think of you, how they might react, and whether you run the risk of creating bigger problems by speaking up than by keeping your thoughts to yourself. These are valid concerns and the only way to overcome them is to develop confidence in your ability to view things objectively, be clear in your expression, and accept the fact that sometimes you’ll get an unhappy response. Sounds challenging, doesn’t it? Yeah. That’s why feedback is so rare. And that’s unfortunate because bad habits don’t cure themselves.

If you happen to have a boss who sees nothing but doom and gloom, here are several ways to maintain your own optimism and resolve.

1. Ignore the negativity. Don’t let it in.
2. Become curious about your boss’s mindset. When he says that all the good jobs are going overseas, for example, ask why he thinks this. Be sincere in asking and really listen to his answer. Then decide for yourself. Don’t get into a debate; you’ll only make him more certain that catastrophe is just around the corner.
3. Keep a running log of your accomplishments.
4. Start a file of compliments that you or your company receive.
5. Work at building your competence and strength, knowing it will stand you in good stead no matter what happens.

As for giving your boss feedback about how his negativity hurts you and others, a simple statement will suffice:

“You know, it makes me feel bad and makes my job harder when you tell me all the things that are wrong. It would be a lot more fun for me if we could talk about some things we could improve.”

Don’t raise your voice, don’t whine, don’t demand that he change his ways. And don’t wait for a reply. Let him think about this as you go about your work. Repeat it from time to time when he’s complaining.

The fact is that there’s nothing you can do about how he chooses to see his world; there’s everything you can do about how you see and respond to yours. Spend your time there. It’s far more productive.

Categories: Business

About Susan Marshall

founder susan marshall

Susan A. Marshall is author, speaker and founder, whose mission is to create a stronger, more confident future, one person or team at a time.  Through personal experience and hands-on work with executives from diverse industries at all levels, Susan has had the privilege of helping thousands of people do the difficult and exhilarating work of growth.