By Rochel Maday
You’ve tried to ignore it, but a little voice inside your head keeps repeating the unthinkable.
My boss hates me.
The idea of your boss hating you is unsettling at the least. To save your sanity (and maybe even your job), let us show you how to uncover your boss’ true feelings and respond appropriately.
My boss hates me…or does she?
Maybe she’s having a bad day. Or maybe she was just feeling rushed during your last meeting. There is often a logical explanation for a sudden change in a relationship.
Before you accuse your boss of having less than friendly feelings toward you, look for the following signs of a relationship gone sour.
A change in her demeanor
A few weeks ago, you were laughing in her office about a recent terrible first date. In the break room, she told you how excited she was for her sister’s upcoming baby shower.
But now, you can feel the temperature drop when you’re together. The silence is uncomfortable and even though it’s hard to put a finger on it, there’s been an obvious shift in the dynamic of your relationship.
Your workload has changed
You’re typically in charge of onboarding new clients. But the last one was passed to a different employee…and the one before that…and even the one before that.
Or maybe the opposite has happened. Your workload has suddenly gotten so extreme that it’s impossible to stay on top of, even by staying late and putting in hours over the weekend.
You’ve been taken out of the loop
You used to feel like part of a team. Now every lunch break and elevator ride feels awkward, even when your boss isn’t around. It’s as if everyone knows something except for you.
Read more: How to Survive a Boss You Hate
What to do if your boss hates you
Hate is a strong word. Accusing someone of hating you, especially a superior, comes with risks.
Consider the following tips for appropriately responding to a boss when all signs point to a damaged relationship.
Evaluate the situation
Take a step back and reevaluate the situation from a different perspective. Your boss could be going through a personal struggle that’s affecting all of her relationships, not just yours.
Ask yourself if what you’re seeing is actually just several disagreements in a row. Disagreeing on how to proceed with a client or execute a marketing campaign is much different than hate.
It may be uncomfortable, but making the first move will help you gain some control of the situation. Approach your boss privately and express your concerns. Actively listen to their response and then take some time to digest what you’ve learned. Now isn’t the time to be defensive or confrontational. A resolution will take time.
You might say:
I notice there’s been tension between us. I get the sense that you’re not happy with my work. Is this the case?
I get the sense that you’re not happy with me. I’ve been taken off key projects, and I’m not sure why. Can you let me know why I’m no longer in the Tuesday meeting? Is there something specific creating this friction?
However, don’t mistake being proactive with brown-nosing. Neither your boss (nor your coworkers) will respect you if you try to schmooze your way back to your boss’ good side.
Don’t overthink it
If you’ve been reassured that there’s no bad blood between you and your boss, move on. Don’t pick apart every encounter or email, looking for a hidden sign that confirms any lingering suspicions. Focus on your work and keep a positive outlook.
When a boss takes it too far
Sometimes, despite your best efforts, your relationship with your boss can enter dangerous territory.
You can start by taking your concerns to HR. If you do choose this route, make sure you have documentation to support your claims, be it emails, written accounts of encounters, or a coworker willing to vouch for your experience. Keep your meeting professional and factual. This shouldn’t be gossip hour.
Unfortunately, going to HR won’t always solve the issue. If you notice your relationship with your boss continues to deteriorate, it may be time to seek employment elsewhere. It may not be fair, but it could be the best option for your professional future and mental health.
We’ve all had a rough go with a boss. But this should be the exception, not the rule.
If you can’t stop thinking my boss hates me, step back from the situation for a moment while you reevaluate. If professionally handled, a toxic working relationship can be neutralized.
But if your health and happiness is on the line, it may be time to move on.
Read more: The Myth of the Female Boss