You can use police negotiation tactics on your boss to improve communication and reduce tension. Here’s how to deal with a lousy supervisor and get the job done, courtesy of negotiation expert and FBI consultant, Jim Camp: 

  • #1: When your boss makes an unreasonable demand, ask questions. Putting your concerns into question form can open their eyes without starting a confrontation. So, let’s say your manager gives you a deadline you can’t meet. Say something like, “If we’re going to get this together by 5 o’clock, we’ll need the data from accounting by 3. Is that do-able?” 

  • Okay, what if the boss tells you to stop asking questions and follow orders? Here’s where you need to negotiate an agenda. That means creating a problem-solving atmosphere that puts you both on the same page. So, keep your cool and say something like, “I really want to get this done. But I’m not sure how. Can you walk me through how you would do it?” 

  • Now here’s the hard part: Hold your ground until you get an answer that makes sense. So, if your boss says, “You figure it out”……or, “Only an idiot would need that kind of help”. Try something like, “I’m not an idiot, but I don’t see what you’re seeing. How can we get this done?”

  • And finally: Remember that bad boss behavior is about their shortcomings, not yours. So, even if your supervisor loses their temper, stay calm and focused. Our expert suggests taking a deep breath and saying something like, “Boss, I've got to ask you a tough question. Can’t we just skip the arguments, and figure out a way to be more effective?" 

If you’d like to go further, check out Jim Camp’s book: No: The Only Negotiating System You Need for Work and Home.