My manager dislikes me, and I don't know why

The friction between us came out of nowhere. Please help me.

Ask Dave - Dave Conrad column mug
Ask Dave - Dave Conrad column mug

Dear Dave: I need advice, and I need it as soon as possible. I started a new job about a month ago, and I want to leave it now. My coworkers are OK, but not very helpful and friendly. They just keep to themselves, and I have not been accepted into their group yet.

But my biggest problem is my manager. We just do not get along and there is friction between us that came from nowhere. I have tried to reach out to him, but he seems to dislike me, and he barely talks to me. I was hired by someone above him at the company and that might have something to do with it. Please, help me. – C

Dear C: I’m not telling you anything new here, but your relationship with your boss can make or break your work experience and career, so it is crucial that you have trust, openness and respect for each other. You don’t need to love your boss or have him love you, but you do need to think and work together to hit established goals. This is a fundamental truth.

Your situation is difficult, but I would make sure there are, in fact, real differences in how your boss treats you as compared to your teammates. If you see them getting some basic support and special treatment, that will help them do their work better – and you are deprived of them – you have a real problem and one that may need some investigation by your human resources department. But, be aware that your inclusion of that department may further aggravate your relationship with your boss.

That’s why I always tell people to check things out to see if their “management neglect” observations are accurate and – this is crucial – if they have a means to work out their differences with their manager. It is always best to take a moment to assess what’s really going on and identify what’s causing the strain in your relationship. Once you do, you can then work to build a targeted, realistic and workable plan for how to get along better with your boss.


As you mentioned, I think your being hired by someone above your boss could indeed be a cause for your friction. Managers like to make their own hiring decisions, and I believe they should have that right. I was once hired for a position by the boss of my boss and we had problems from day one. It was not pretty, and I was treated poorly – even to the extent that he belittled me in front of my coworkers. He had all of the qualifications for being a jerk.

I approached him at a team meeting concerning the lousy treatment I received and the fact that I was quite uncomfortable – even embarrassed by – how he made me look in front of my peers. The truth is, I made him look bad in front of my coworkers and things only got worse. He finally took a job with another company and I was quite relieved. But I learned that I should have had a private meeting with him, instead of just exchanging insults in front of my coworkers.

A plan for repair

I want to be clear: You need to strengthen your connection with your boss, and I would start by engaging him in conversations about work issues – about finding common ground about how you can become a better worker. Let him take on the role of a teacher. So, instead of each of you trading punches, I think you should [sincerely] express the fact that it is important for you to be more effective by being better equipped to do your job and hit your goals. Nothing personal, just business.

No matter what, refrain from any emotional outbursts and retaliatory acts. Find out what your boss cares about and what he seems to value at work. Uncovering what makes him think and act will help you adapt your interactions to better fit his behavior and attitude. However, be genuine, because he is probably going to look at you with a glare that spells out his doubt about your intentions. But, stay the course and show him that doing good work is your target.

Do not fall into the temptation to make fun of him and belittle him behind his back. You never know who may be making a bee line to his office to tell him about your latest disparaging remarks. This means you must always stay professional and let go of the temptation to blast him behind the scenes. Be the better person. His spies will have nothing to report, unless they lie. No one likes a liar – even him.

Finally, ask him for times to have casual check-ins and then be the best listener on the planet. You don’t want to be phony and make it seem like you are patronizing him, but, show him you care about his input and expertise. Ask for reviews and appraisals. Swallow your pride and wave the white flag first. At the end of the day, you want to demonstrate your competence, and earn a reputation as someone who will deliver. You’ll sleep better at night and you will keep your job.

Contact Dave Conrad with questions or comments at . Conrad is an associate professor of business at Augsburg University in Rochester.


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