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How to deal with a difficult boss? - ep. 1

Empowerment Coaching Krakow-How to deal with a difficult boss 1

Each of us has certain preferences related to our perception of the world, to learning, and to the way we make decisions. Being aware of our own preferences, as well as knowing the preferences of people who are important to us, can significantly help in overcoming obstacles in our relationships. Also in achieving our intended goals.

We often say that we are dealing with a “difficult boss” or a “difficult employee”. But isn’t it the case that this person thinks the same about us? 🙂

It sometimes happens that we meet a person with extremely different preferences on our way and that is why it is so difficult for us to communicate. Sometimes we get stuck with each other and we have to tolerate each other or cooperate — especially at work.

How to deal with a difficult boss?

Therefore, in the series of these episodes, I will talk about those areas that may be the most important for us in our professional life. I will also explain how to manage differences in the most effective way.

Let’s agree that the hero of our stories will be “a hopeless boss”. But the same rules apply to our subordinates, work colleagues, clients, and even family members.

Explore the level of detail your boss prefers

Knowing this preference can have a huge impact on our effectiveness at work. Some people need a lot of detail. Others, on the contrary. The first ones focus on individual steps and detailed procedures. Others are mainly interested in the concept, idea, and context. The details just bore them.

Our preferences generally extend over the scale of the continuum, but man would not be himself if he did not try to measure and name it. According to research*, the statistical distribution of preferences in this area is as follows:

15% — detail-oriented 25% — balanced (interested in both details and big picture) 60% — the big picture So here we have the first hint. Statistically speaking, we more often meet people interested in the “big picture” rather than “detail”.

The same event is perceived by each category differently and differently reported. Let’s please explore the following example:

Detail-oriented Yesterday at 10:00 am I and Michael met our supplier from the company “Greeders” and talked about renegotiating our contract for the current year. “Greeders” want to increase prices by 5–7.5%, depending on the type of product.

Balanced The company “Greeders” informed me and Michael yesterday that it wants to change the prices of supplies for this year.

The big picture “Greeders” want to renegotiate the contract.

Let us, therefore, try to characterize two extreme preferences. This will help us to answer the question of how to deal effectively with such people.

Please also note that we can perform the same exercise ourselves. And if, for example, we are someone’s boss, telling our people about these preferences can really help both parties.


  • They always describe the details first

  • They see tasks through their different parts

  • They always need the details themselves first

  • Details are essential for them to make a decision. Otherwise, “don’t move”

  • They like to arrange elements into sequences and analyze how one element relates to another. They often talk about “steps”, “sequence”

  • They need very specific examples. Vision is too fleeting.

  • If someone interrupts them, they may, unfortunately, want to go back to the very beginning and start with … the first detail 🙂 (remember the tendency to sequence)

  • We can say about them that they look at the world through a magnifying glass

The big picture

  • They describe ideas and activities in general language, in a broad context

  • They focus on the general direction of the project or task

  • They always need an overview first and they start with that themselves

  • They always need to understand the concept first, before getting down to the details (if they ever get through)

  • They make decisions when the concept is convincing to them

  • They prefer abstract thinking and often summarize

  • They are not very fond of procedures and have difficulty following them (important hint)

  • They like to delegate more specific tasks

  • They can be described as people looking at the world through “wide-angle glasses”

How best to communicate with bosses who have specific preferences

Detail-oriented will be pleased and open to our ideas if:

  • We will present our idea and support it with concrete examples

  • We will highlight the details and present them in sequence

  • We will avoid general wording and descriptions

  • A summary will be placed last

  • We will use words like exact, precise, in particular, first, second, next, procedure, organized, structure, plan, detailed plan, practice, and experience.

The big picture will want to listen to us if:

  • First, we will explain the general concept

  • Details will appear if they ask for it (or we’ll leave it for the end)

  • We let them “read between the lines” and even work out their own details (it’s even advisable)

  • We will use words like concept, vision, generally, basically, general, perspective, unlimited, spontaneous, and theory.

Finally, there are some interesting research results* on how people make decisions

  1. Some people need several examples/trials and each one has to be based on different data. The number of approaches counts.

  2. Others need a certain amount of time. The number of approaches does not really matter.

  3. Another category consists of those who make decisions as if separately each time. It does not matter to them what the past looked like and whether we won their trust or not. It is essential that what they accept meets their standards of quality and accuracy. The presentation is also of secondary importance here.

  4. And the last category is those who make decisions right away, automatically, provided that the information has been provided to them in the way they prefer (more on that in the next episodes). So we can very easily “sell” something to such people, provided that we know their preferences.

Which people do you think are statistically the most numerous? Well, according to research* 52% of the population comes from the 1st category.

Coaching sessions can be very helpful in becoming aware of your own preferences, as well as the style of the people who are most important to you. This, in turn, enables us to consciously and flexibly choose our behavior. What and how we will do. And what we won't do at all.

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