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Ask Sue
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 recommendations?

- Scared

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 asksue@suemorem.com or visit her web site at http://www.suemorem.com

Send Sue your questions by clicking here: Ask Sue
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