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When Your Boss Won’t Change

by Vivian Scott
February 2015

Conflicts of Interest Blog by Vivian Scott

Vivian Scott

Who doesn’t have a list of things they’d like their manager to do differently? Everything from the way he slurps that first cup of coffee in the morning to how he plays his staff against one another is a frustration. Though it’s possible to make adjustments in any working relationship, there are still going to be some things that don’t change; no matter your efforts. What then? Here are a few ideas.

Give it one more (different) try: Before you give up completely give it another shot. But, this time try something new. If the silent treatment hasn’t worked in the past, perhaps actually talking about the issue will. Or, if you’ve asked him to stop doing something, maybe asking him to start doing the opposite will help him visualize what it is you’d like. Be careful, though, not to gang up, speak for others, or be underhanded in your new approach. The point here is for you to examine whether or not your method is getting in the way of a resolution.

Stop complaining: The amount of energy you expend talking about, worrying about, and obsessing over your manager’s behavior is only draining you. Plus, you may be alienating others with your constant complaints or myopic view of what’s happening. Lamenting about your manager at work erodes your reputation and doesn’t change a thing. If he gets wind of your criticisms from others, rest assured he will not be open to your assessment of his behavior; and he even may set out to prove that he’s the one with the power here, thank you very much. Instead of becoming mired in your desire to change him, look for a different outlet for your attention and put your energy there.

Find the positive: If the aforementioned coffee slurping manager has great mentoring skills, concentrate on that aspect of your working relationship and let the other stuff go. See if you can find a learning opportunity in the situation. Maybe this is a chance for you to step outside yourself and extend a little compassion to him. Even feeling dumped on with extra work and big projects allows you to beef up your resume if and when you’re ready to leave.

Adapt: If your boss is significantly set in his ways you may not be the first person to come along and try to change things. Instead, try changing how you react to what’s happening. Look for ways to respond to him when he pushes your buttons that won’t escalate your anxiety or cause your blood pressure to spike. Is it possible that your expectations are what are causing your frustration? Adapting to personal preferences for how another person behaves isn’t easy, but it’s certainly possible.

Plan your exit: When you simply can’t handle your current situation, consider what’s important and follow a strategy for a period of time that feels comfortable and right for you. Your plan may include eventually leaving your present work environment, or you may decide that staying where you are is the best thing to help you reach your goal for a secure retirement, continued health benefits, or simply a good letter of recommendation. Knowing what you want (and when) helps you look beyond the current situation and temporary problems to something that more closely matches your needs.


Vivian Scott is a Professional Certified Mediator and the author of Conflict Resolution at Work For Dummies.  She spent many years in the competitive and often stress-filled world of high tech marketing where she realized resolving conflict within the confines of office politics was paramount to success.  Through creative solutions to common conflicts she was able to bring various entities together, both internally and externally, for the betterment of projects and a productive working environment.     

Prior to retiring from Microsoft in 1999 she developed the “America at Work” video series, a six-part program featuring small businesses employing technology in attention-grabbing ways.  “America at Work” aired on the USA Network and received the Silver Screen Award from the International Film and Video Festival for outstanding creativity.   Using discerning negotiation, mediation, and problem-solving skills, she successfully worked with others to co-create “How-to Guides”, “Seminar in a Box”, and even one of the first on-line Guerrilla Marketing books.   

Since her retirement, Ms. Scott has gone on to earn a B.A. in Interdisciplinary Arts & Sciences with a concentration in American Studies from the University of Washington.  She completed an extensive practicum with the Dispute Resolution Center of Snohomish & Island Counties where she has mediated numerous cases, helping parties resolve conflict in workplace, family, and other disputes.  Her private mediation practice has handled cases ranging from assisting business partners in ending their relationship to creating a new working environment within a law firm.  Ms. Scott is a member of the Washington Mediation Association and spends a majority of her time advocating embracing peace in a volatile world.   

Her book, Conflict Resolution at Work For Dummies, can be found in bookstores, on,, or any number of on-line bookseller sites.    

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