How to Communicate with a Boss Who is a Jerk

Is your boss a jerk? Mine is! (That’s a joke — I’m my own boss.)

All joking aside, do you struggle trying to communicate with your boss? Good news — you’re not alone. Which is why I created this short video designed to provide some tips and techniques you can use to understand your boss’s mindset a little better and communicate with them more effectively.

Check out the video below. Or, if you’d like to read the transcript, scroll down.


In today’s episode, I’m going to share techniques you can use to communicate with a boss who is a jerk.

Let’s do this.


If you’re an executive, manager, or employee who is trying to figure out ways to work with a difficult boss, I have a roadmap that can help you navigate through these challenging times.

Most employees understand the concept of management, but in that context, we usually discuss managing down.

But managing up is every bit as important as managing down. In other words, it’s your job to manage your boss as much as it’s their job to manage you.

Now managing your boss has to be extremely subtle. In an ideal situation, your boss shouldn’t even know they’re being managed.

Given that, the first question you have to ask is where your boss falls on the coachable/non-coachable spectrum.

If they’re coachable, that’s great. We’ll talk about a strategy you can use there in a minute.

But if they’re non-coachable – in other words, there’s no hope to change their behavior – then your strategy needs to be one of avoidance. Do your job, cover your bases, and, quite frankly, start looking for another job.

I hate to break it to you, but those are the facts.

If your boss is coachable – in other words, you can manage up and work with them – then your strategy needs to be one of engagement.

As difficult as it can be to engage with a boss who is a jerk, in the end, they’re going to respect you for putting up boundaries. A lot of times people who are bullies will continue to bully until you say stop.

Once you say stop, you’ll be surprised at how often they will gain respect for you.

All of this leads to the question of how to talk to your boss in order to draw the boundaries.

Dr. Eileen Russo developed a matrix that highlights the different communication styles, starting with low expressiveness on the left and leading to high expressiveness on the right.

Then, she has low assertiveness at the bottom and high assertiveness at the top.

Each of these combine into certain styles – direct, spirited, systematic, and considerate.

So, if your boss is highly assertive and not very expressive, they’re in the direct quadrant.

If your boss is highly assertive, and is very expressive, they’re in the spirited category.

The odds are your boss – the one who is a jerk – is probably in the direct or spirited category. That’s not always the case, but it often is.

With bosses who fall into the direct category, you’ll want to stick to the facts, get to the point, and eliminate any emotion from your conversation.

With bosses who fall into the spirited category, timing will be important. Spirited people tend to be more emotional beings, so you’ll want to communicate with them when they’re in the best mood possible.

Study this chart. By understanding if your boss is direct, spirited, systematic, or considerate, you can adapt your communication style to match the way the like to receive information.

In other words, you can talk to them in the language they like to use.

Now, if you’re interested in learning more about communication skills, leadership styles, or leadership skills, be sure to click on this video or subscribe to this channel by hitting the link below.

My name is Jamie Turner. I’m an author, a Professor, and a management consultant. And I’ll catch you next time.

About the Author: Jamie Turner is an internationally recognized author, professor, and management consultant who was recognized as a top 10 speaker by CarreerAddict (along with Ariana Huffington, Daymond John, and Gary Vaynerchuk). His client list includes The Coca-Cola Company, AT&T, Microsoft, Verizon, SAP, T-Mobile, and Holiday Inn. You may have seen Jamie in Forbes, Inc., Entrepreneur, Business Insider or the Wall Street Journal. He’s also a regular guest on CNN and HLN where he contributes segments on marketing, persuasion, and leadership.

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