8 Guidelines for Working with a Difficult Boss As an Employee Who Is Blind or Visually Impaired

Older man and younger man looking at graph on whiteboard.

If you have a boss or supervisor, even a coworker, who is particularly challenging, I am sorry. I’m sure this makes your time at work discouraging, uncomfortable, or even agonizing. Before you resort to searching for a new job (though conducting a job search is always an option), it’s a good idea to consider how the individual is feeling and how you can improve the situation.

Before we begin with my suggestions, be aware that as a person who is blind or visually impaired, you may be missing visual cues and communication from this “frustrating individual”. You may not see his stressed, frazzled appearance that would communicate it’s not a good idea to bring up a challenging topic; you may not see that he is carrying his briefcase and about to leave, indicating it’s not a good time to chat; and you may not see he rolled his eyes or otherwise physically communicated his irritation or dissatisfaction. For these reasons, I suggest keeping the lines of verbal communication open and honest. Make a habit of asking “Is this a good time to bring up…”; “Can we schedule a time to talk about….”; “Where do you stand on….”; or “How do you feel about…”.

In addition to open, honest, and direct communication, I suggest 8 guidelines for working with a difficult boss:

  • Consider reasons why your boss is coming across as demanding, frustrated, abrupt, or offensive. Could your boss be going through intense personal stress? Could he feel disrespected or disregarded at the office? Could she feel frustrated at the less-than-ideal work ethics of her employees? Does he prefer to be more or less involved with the planning or workload? Does she appear angry over seemingly minor provocations?
  • Utilize the above insight to diffuse possible infractions and disputes. If you know your boss prefers to be in on the details of a project early-on, plan to meet with him more frequently in order to keep him informed. If you know your boss becomes angry at the mention of politics, avoid talking about politics at the office.
  • Refer back to the goals of your boss. Is your work in line with her goals? If you aren’t sure, ask your boss for her goals and align your work accordingly.
  • Consider asking your boss how you can best support him. Here’s what I mean: Instead of asking “Hey, what is your problem with me?!”, ask “How can I better support you?” You’ll likely get the same information without offending him.
  • Treat your boss with respect and kindness regardless of his behavior. We all need the reminder (I need it daily), that we are only responsible for our own actions and words. We can’t control other’s behavior or words.
  • Continue working with the utmost integrity, accuracy, and efficiency. You are still responsible for your workload, and you don’t want to tarnish your reputation or job reference.
  • Remain assertive. I talk frequently about assertive communication because it is imperative for healthy relationships. If your boss is overstepping your boundaries (displaying verbal or physical aggression, expecting you to act illegally or against your convictions, completely disregarding your needs, etc.), you should state you are not comfortable and respectfully address the specific issue.
  • Refrain from gossiping about your boss. While it would be tempting to bond with your coworkers over your mutual disdain for your boss, it would not be kind and would likely come back to your boss.

If you have suggestions for working with a difficult boss or if you have a specific question regarding your situation, please share on the CareerConnect work-life message board. I’ll be happy to join the conversation.