“My boss hates me,” I remember complaining to friends and anyone who would listen. I was in my 20s, I’d just started an exciting new job — but I was convinced that “G” was intent on sabotaging my career. There was no concrete evidence; it was just that she frequently snapped, never said anything positive, and sighed a lot. It didn’t occur to me that she was acting exactly the same way as the rest of the team; instead, I took it personally.
I survived the job, but while reflecting on the experience years later, I recognize that there are ways I could’ve taken control of the situation and eased my anxiety, regardless of whether my boss’s dislike for me was genuine or a figment of my imagination.
So if you’re in the same boat as I was and a critical comment or withering look from your boss makes you quake with fear, here are four helpful tips to shift that relationship — with your boss and with yourself:
Write down what you are feeling
If an interaction with your boss makes you feel insecure, take a moment to jot down what you’re feeling. “Just the act of writing it down can help relieve anxiety and stop you from getting everything out of proportion,” Angela Noble-Grange, Ph.D., an executive coach and senior lecturer of communication at Cornell University, tells Thrive. Since writing about your emotions can help you organize your thoughts and unclutter your mind, taking to your journal will also give you a clearer idea of your next steps.
Flip the script
Rather than ruminating on what was seemingly a negative encounter, try flipping the script and “rewriting the story” of how things went. “Ask yourself whether there’s another possible interpretation of your boss’s behavior,” Noble-Grange says. “Maybe she blew up at you because her teenager just came home with a pierced nose without permission.”
Instead of thinking “my boss hates me,” try saying something like, “she’s having a tough day, how can I help her?” At the same time, to boost your own confidence, try repeating positive affirmations like “I am great at my job” and “I am calm and confident.”
Be compassionately direct
If a situation is gnawing at you, the best thing to do is summon your courage and quickly schedule a chat with your boss. You want to be compassionately direct during this conversation, communicating with clarity and honesty, but also with empathy and understanding. You can “take ownership by using ‘I’ statements during your conversation,” Noble-Grange says, like “I want to make positive contributions at meetings, and when my comments aren’t validated while others’ comments are, that doesn’t feel good.”
“The only way to know what is really going on is to honestly express how you are feeling,” Noble-Grange says — and then listen to what your boss has to say. Doing so will help you clear the air, ease your stress, and may well help you turn a corner in your relationship with your boss.
And lastly, a personal tip: Try to remember that in a year’s time, reflecting back on these moments may make you laugh. So try to see the funny side now, where you can. There usually is one.