How to Deal With an Intimidating Boss


Some leaders think that in order to be effective, they need to be tough. They don’t want people walking all over them, and in times of crisis, it’s commonly believed that the only way to hit company targets is to become autocratic. However, this mindset rarely yields the best results. It can leave employees feeling insecure and possibly unnerved. 

If you have an intimidating leader, it can be difficult to know how to deal with this. You might even be tempted to leave the business, and find a job with a more affable manager. But if you love your job, you’re probably reluctant to move on. So how do you cope with an intimidating boss? We’ve provided a few tips below:

1. Mind Over Matter

One of the most important things you need to do when dealing with a tough boss is get in the right mindset. You can’t take anything they say to heart – it is unlikely to be a personal attack on you, but rather frustrations regarding the business as a whole. What they’re saying is also a reflection of them, not a reflection of you. 

If you’re able to accept this idea, it becomes much easier to manage your emotions when speaking with your boss. It’s not usually a simple task to change your mindset of course, but with enough practice, you should be able to reach the right headspace in these situations.

2. Stay Professional

It’s easy to react in the same manner you’re treated – we’ll often match the tone of whoever we’re speaking to. So if your boss is yelling at you, you might feel like shouting back and lose your temper. Being treated this way by your boss can also make it tempting to gossip about them, badmouthing them to your colleagues. 

However much you might want to, it’s important that you don’t react to this sort of negative behaviour. You can’t control how your manager acts, but you can control how professional you are. This doesn’t mean that you should put up with bullying though – in these instances you should report the abusive behaviour to your Human Resources department.

3. Be Prepared

Sometimes the reason we react poorly to a situation is that we’re completely blindsided by it. If, for example, your boss suddenly told you that they thought your work was not up to standard, months into a particular project, you’d almost certainly be shocked and angry. This could lead to harsh words being exchanged. But if you were always prepared to back up your work, such as with feedback and statistics, there’d be no need for confrontation.

If you’re planning on discussing something with your team leader, it’s also good practice to rehearse what you’re going to say beforehand. Consider your key points, and try to think of phrases that emphasise the firmness and clarity of your argument. 

4. Get to Know Your Boss

Chances are, your boss isn’t quite as harsh as they seem in the office when they’re outside of work. So if you’re able to get past the intimidating façade, you may be able to start developing a better relationship with your intimidating manager! Try speaking with them about topics unrelated to work, and see if you can get your boss to open up to you a little.

The idea is that if your manager knows they can trust you, they might be more inclined to drop the tough façade. This goes for around you as well as your colleagues – hopefully they’ll see that they don’t need to have a hard exterior in order to motivate people.

5. Lead By Example 

If you’re unhappy with the way in which your leader behaves, try and be a better model for leadership yourself. Demonstrate that you can get better results with recognition and appreciation than with intimidation, and there’s a chance that your boss will start paying attention. Show everyone in your organisation what genuine leadership looks like.

If you’re not already a manager yourself, leading by example could also lead to a promotion. The company executives may notice the results you’re getting, and decide to put you in a position where you can make further positive changes.


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