Liz Reyer: Overly critical boss getting under your skin? First, assess your anger

Senior businesswoman and trainee discussing about analysis at office. [Shutterstock]
Senior businesswoman and trainee discussing about analysis at office. [Shutterstock]

Q: My boss is really getting to me. No matter how many extra hours I work and the amount I get done, she just snipes at me for things I havenít done. I just donít know what to do to keep moving forward.

ó Trisha, communication analyst

A: Assess the good and the bad of your situation so that you can determine the best approach while also maintaining balance in your life.

So, you are angry ó I get that. And itís an understandable reaction when you feel overworked and underappreciated.

What are you doing with that anger? If you are turning it on yourself in guilt or depression, it is obviously damaging and unhealthy. Likewise, if youíre turning it outward at colleagues, it will harm relationships.

On the other hand, you may be using it as an energy source to fuel activity, particularly aimed at improvement and change. Thatís the path to pursue.

Now think about your overall relationship with your boss. Worst case, this is the dominant dynamic between you. This could become really toxic for you if it persists. If she is new, or if you think it could change, do what you can to improve it.

But if you think this is how things will be for the long haul, you might want to explore other options.

It may not be that bleak. For example, if you have worked together for a while with some ups and downs, this may just be a worse example of a down period. Regardless, you owe it to yourself to try to get some relief.

Select a key pain point that causes you a lot of rework. What would you change in terms of her requests and the nature of your interaction?

For example, maybe she asks you to prepare a communication brief and then changes directions in midstream.

Here are some possible root causes and ways to make it less painful:

She may be unclear in what she asks for the first time. This may be because she doesnít really know herself, or because she didnít communicate it clearly. In this case, try putting together a brief summary of her request for her to confirm. Then be persistent in getting her feedback so that you have a better chance of doing it right the first time.

Or, she may have last-minute changes in direction handed down to her. In that case, there may be little she can do to prevent the rework.

In this case, maybe all she can do is take a moment to explain what happened.

The other part of the problem is the lack of appreciation.

It seems like a lot of people rush past this part, underestimating the value of recognition ó even of a simple thanks. This might be worth mentioning to her when youíre not feeling emotionally charged.

Then figure out what limits you can set. You have the right to a life outside of work, so if sheís frequently impinging on evenings and weekends, ask her to prioritize what you get done during the workweek.

After all, itís her job as a leader to help her employees succeed.

Liz Reyer is a credentialed coach with more than 20 years of business experience. Her company, Reyer Coaching & Consulting, offers services for organizations of all sizes. Submit questions or comments about this column at or email her at [email protected]