Tips for Working With a Challenging Supervisor

Tips for Working With a Challenging Supervisor

User Profile By Haley Burress   United States

Found In: Activities Articles

We have all encountered a challenging supervisor at least once in our careers. Whether you feel your supervisor is mean, unrealistic, or demanding, going into work can start to feel like a major chore. Learn how to work together by following a few of our tips, and make going to work fun (or at least tolerable) again.
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We have all encountered a challenging supervisor at least once in our careers. Whether you feel your supervisor is mean, unrealistic, or demanding, going into work can start to feel like a major chore. Learn how to work together by following a few of our tips, and make going to work fun (or at least tolerable).

Pitfalls of a Challenging Supervisor Relationship

As Activity Professionals, we are tasked with working with a variety of personality types. Each of our residents, family members, and co-workers are unique and have their own specific personalities. Sometimes, getting along with a resident is easy. Sometimes, you have to work on it a bit to connect. Getting along with a supervisor is a similar experience, but it can feel extra stressful because this person is your boss.

However, a good working relationship is important. Without it, you can:

  • Feel anxious at work
  • Feel like your job is not secure
  • Feel defensive or confrontational about your department or decisions
  • Feel unprotected or vulnerable among higher maintenance resident family members

When you feel anxious or stressed about your supervisor, it can lead to making mistakes or poor decisions. You may:

  • Gossip more about the supervisor or discount their decisions to other staff
  • Make documentation errors
  • Try to make your resident interactions perfect, which can feel fake
  • Pass along your stress to residents or to your own staff members
  • Put unrealistic expectations on your team
  • Experience burnout or compassion fatigue

One thing is certain: if you haven’t run across a challenging supervisor in your career yet, you will eventually. When you are finding that your work relationship is difficult, try some of our tips to rectify it.

9 Tips for Improving Your Relationship With Your Supervisor


1. Don’t Strive for Friendship

It is lovely if you can be friends with the people you work with, but it isn’t a requirement. Are you feeling like your supervisor is challenging because they aren’t your friend? Let go of that expectation and see if you suddenly have a better relationship once your perspective shifts.


2, Ask for Clarification

So much of challenging work relationships are a result of different types of communication. If you feel your supervisor is giving you unclear instructions or expectations, ask for clarification. Try repeating back what you heard like this: “So it sounds like you were hoping I would give you the newsletter to proofread by the 10th of each month. Is that right?”


3, Set a Regular Meeting

I know - you are already busy with too many meetings throughout your day. However, setting a regular “check-in” meeting with your supervisor can force communication and a solid working relationship. Try starting with a weekly or bi-weekly meeting to talk about what is coming up or questions you have. Make it about 20 minutes, and always show up on time.


4. Don’t “Prove Yourself”

A natural reaction to working with a challenging supervisor is feeling the constant urge to prove that you are good at your job. However, this response can leave you planning too many activities and feeling downright exhausted. Instead of upping your game to prove your worth, just focus on doing what you do well. Your supervisor will see that you are great at your job, or they will give you some things to work on - either way, you will get some clear expectations which will only help your residents.


5. Don’t Take It Personally

Constructive criticism is difficult to take, no matter if you are new to your career or experienced. It can be especially difficult for Activity Professionals to hear feedback on events because it can feel like a personal attack on creativity. If your supervisor gives you negative feedback on an event, take a deep breath and remind yourself not to take it personally. Instead, be open to trying it a new way.


6. Keep an Open Mind

Change is difficult, but change can be a breath of fresh air (that you didn’t know you needed). If your supervisor wants you to try something a new way, be open to making it happen at least once. You may find you like the new way, or your supervisor may see that the new way doesn’t work its best in your community. Either way, give it your best shot.


7. Ask How You Can Do Better

Sometimes challenging supervisors are frustrating because they don’t set expectations or offer any feedback. In these cases, ask your supervisor for specific things you can work on to build the community culture they envision.


8. Ask for Help

Finally, if you are struggling because your supervisor doesn’t support you in the midst of difficult family or resident situations, talk about it. Tell your supervisor that you would like to feel supported during difficult care plan meetings or family interactions, and see if your supervisor is receptive to that.


9. Resist Gossip. Offer Support Instead.

When you don’t like your boss, it is much too easy to talk badly about them. Resist the temptation to roll your eyes at the new attendance policy with the other staff at the nursing station. Instead, offer support and if you can’t offer support, choose to remain silent.


Your role is vital in your community, not only for the residents but also for your co-workers. When you work with a challenging supervisor and find new ways to make yourself (and your relationship) better, you are setting a positive example for those who are watching you struggle. Remember, you can learn something from this that will make you a better Activity Professional and mentor down the road. I have faith in you that you will get through this and succeed.


Tell me - how do you work with a supervisor who is challenging or demanding? I’d love to hear what has worked for you in the past.

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Haley Burress

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Comments   Post a Comment

Lorna 11th Jun 2019 Activities manager
Thank you, I really need this atm.
Haley 10th Jun 2019 Recreation Therapist And Writer
Haley has submitted a new article: Tips for Working with a Challenging Supervisior
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