Some bosses are harder to please than others. While some lead with encouragement and praise, others seem to be constantly correcting and criticizing. If your boss always finds something wrong with your work, don't jump ship just yet. There are several ways to try to handle this kind of treatment first.
Stay Professional When Your Boss Criticizes Everything
Even if your boss criticizes everything you do, it's important for you to keep from reacting emotionally. Be a professional at all times. She may be acting unprofessionally by berating her employees, but don't sink to that level. Most of the time, it isn't personal, so don't take criticisms personally.
Additionally, she's still your boss, so you are obligated to follow her directions and advice even if it was delivered poorly. Upper management may be fine with her tough style, but they will surely consider you insubordinate if you're in a screaming match with your boss.
Discuss the Problem
It's possible that your boss doesn't realize the effect his critical attitude has on his staff. He may simply see himself as having high standards. Note if he consistently finds fault with your co-workers' work or just yours. Then, ask him for a good time for the two of you to meet and talk.
If he asks what you want to talk about, tell him it's about improving communication. Prepare your notes in advance in case he insists on talking at that time. Avoid putting him on the defensive with complaints like, "You always find something wrong with my work." Instead, discuss constructive solutions such as, "It would help me if we discuss in advance specifically what you're looking for in a project so I can try to better meet your expectations."
Focus on Improving Your Work
Ask your boss specifically how you can improve your work. Most work can be improved, and she should appreciate you asking for her help. Pay attention to her comments and write them down. Later, try to group her suggestions into categories such as grammar, organization, presentation, etc. to determine the types of things that bother her.
It could be that she has personal pet peeves you can learn to avoid. Or, she may actually help you improve in some areas. The important thing is to sincerely try to incorporate her ideas and see if that makes her find fault with your work less often.
Turn Rants Into Positive Self-Talk
It can feel comforting to vent your frustrations to co-workers, but that doesn't really help your situation. In fact, it can make your resentment grow and fester. Practice depersonalizing his treatment of you by turning your negative emotions into positive steps. For example:
"My boss always finds fault with me" > "My boss finds fault with everyone's work, but I'm going to look for patterns of specific things he doesn't like to see."
"My boss is always on my case" > "My boss tends to hover and nag, so I'm going to talk to him about how nervous that makes me and how it affects my work."
You'll feel empowered knowing you have a plan and aren't just biding your time until your boss's next wave of criticism. Just be sure to follow through with your plans to address the situation with him.
Follow Your Boss's Communication Style
You cannot change your boss's nature or personality, but you can change your reactions. If you and your boss have different ways of communicating, try adapting more closely to her style. For example:
- If she answers your questions with curt, to-the-point responses, she probably prefers that style rather than long explanations, so make your answers brief and succinct.
- If she's very direct with her comments, while you choose your words carefully, try to be more direct with her as well.
- If she doesn't engage in small talk, save discussions of your weekend plans for co-workers.
If you've tried talking with your boss, asking for help, making changes in your work and adapting to her communication style and she's still consistently finding fault with your work, ask yourself if you still want this job. It could be time to find an environment where your work will be appreciated.
Barbara Bean-Mellinger is a freelance writer who lives in the Washington, D.C. area. She has written on business topics for afkinsider.com, smallbusiness.chron.com, Harbor Style Magazine, the Charlotte Sun and more, as well as advertising copy and materials. Barbara holds a B.S. from the University of Pittsburgh and has won numerous awards in B2B and B2C marketing.