A Weekly Q&A Column About Professionalism, Etiquette and Problems in the Workplace
by Sue Morem
Dealing with a Negative Supervisor
Dear Sue: I am in a management position and I have a supervisor
that is negative and unsupportive. He brings his personal problems to work
and doesnít care about much else. He is affecting the morale of all of us,
but I donít know what to do about it because he is not open to what others
have to say and difficult to talk to.
I admit I am nervous about addressing this with him, but I canít ignore
the negative affect he is having on me and on everyone else. Someone has
to do something, but I am not sure what we can do. Do you have any
Sue Says: You may be scared, but you are smart enough to know
you need to do something. Working with others who are negative and
unsupportive can have an effect on everyone else and often does, but it
doesnít have to be that way. The more time you spend thinking and talking
about your supervisor, the more power you give him.
Watch your attitude and conversation because if you focus too much on
his shortcomings and allow his behavior to become a problem for you, you
run the risk of being just like him! Donít let his poor performance affect
yoursóyou can be the way you want to be and set an example for your
supervisor and others.
While it would be nice if he was more positive and supportive, he
isnít. Telling him how unhappy you are and how ineffective he is isnít
likely to bring out the side of him youíd like to see.
Iím all for talking directly with the people you have a problem with,
but you need to be careful when the problem is with the way someone is,
rather than about something that person has done. Talking to him about a
specific incident or problem you have is one thing; telling him he is the
problem is another.
You can try to reach him by befriending him and being supportive of him
even though you donít feel he is supportive of you. Try asking him how
heís doing. You can tell him that youíve noticed he seems to be more
stressed than usual and offer to talk with him and help ease the stress if
possible. Itís difficult to know how he will respond, but you wonít know
if you donít try.
Some people are miserable and prefer to stay that way. Others want to
reach out, but donít know how. He may be just as afraid of you as you are
of him. Donít take the things he says or does personally, and donít allow
him to get the best of you.
Work on and improve yourself; learn how to let go of your irritation
with others and how to remain positive. You lack the power to change
someone else, but can become empowered to change yourself.
Sue Morem is a professional speaker, trainer and syndicated columnist. She
is author of the newly released
101 Tips for Graduates and
How to Gain the Professional Edge, Second Edition. You can contact her by email at
firstname.lastname@example.org or visit her web site at
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