How to Deal

Tackle a 'Moody' Boss Head-On

By Lily Garcia
Special to
Wednesday, February 28, 2007; 1:12 PM

How should I deal with my boss? She is moody with me, but not with anyone else in the office.

The most likely reasons explanations for this are:

  • She has an issue with your performance and is expressing her frustration in a passive-aggressive way;

  • She does not like you for a personal reason and is taking it out on you, which is obviously inappropriate;

  • A combination of those; or this is just your perception and your supervisor is not actually treating you any worse than she treats others.

    Try discreetly asking a co-worker or two whether they have noticed that your supervisor has been on edge lately. If others believe she has been short-tempered with them, you will know your situation is not unique. (At that point, of course, you still have a problem you and your colleagues must address. Approaching your supervisor with your concerns is usually the best first step.)

    If your co-workers confirm your hunch that your supervisor is treating you more harshly than she treats others, speak directly to your supervisor about her motivations. This does not have to take the form of a major confrontation: Just tell her that you and others believe she is less patient with you than with her other reports, that this is becoming uncomfortable for you and that you are wondering what the cause is.

    Your supervisor may become defensive and refute your perception of her behavior. Take heart. Even if she does, the mere fact that you pointed out what she was doing may be enough to create self-awareness within her and lead her to modify her behavior.

    She might also take responsibility for her behavior and let you in on what is really going on. No, she is not going to tell you that she hates your guts, but she might feel safer offering constructive feedback on your performance. Considering how little feedback most managers receive from their subordinates, she might even be grateful for your thoughts even if she does not outwardly show it.

    Lily Garcia is director of human resources for Washingtonpost.Newsweek Interactive. She has offered employment law and human resources advice to companies of all sizes for 10 years. To submit a question, e-mail:

    Disclaimer: How to Deal is not meant to be a replacement for actual legal advice. Please contact your HR representative for issues that pertain to your organization. We reserve the right to edit submitted questions for length and clarity and cannot guarantee that all questions will be answered.

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