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Having a bad boss can have a huge impact on wellbeing and happiness, especially when the average full-time employee spends more than 2,000 hours at work each year. So how can you manage it?

If you’ve got a less-than-average boss but have decided to stick it out or don’t have the option of leaving, experts advise to “work with the boss you have, not the boss you want”.

According to Mary Abbajay, author of Managing Up: How to Move Up, Win at Work and Succeed with Any Type of Boss, there are many reasons we might have a bad relationship with our manager, but often it comes down to poor communication – or a lack of it. She told The New York Times staff should think about how they  like to communicate, understand how their boss liked to communicate, and assess the gap between to figure out what they can do differently.

Managers come in many different forms, Abbajay says. You might have a “ghost boss” who rarely communicates with you and is seemingly never around, a “seagull boss” who “divebombs into a project” and leaves a mess behind, or a boss who is simply incompetent. Of course, there are always managers who are a combination of styles.

Keep in mind, however, that often the relationship we have with our boss is based on our perception of their behaviour, not necessarily the reality of their behaviour. For example, you might feel your boss is avoiding you, or unhappy with you, but really, they could be busy, or they trust you enough to give you autonomy.

How to break the ice

Cultivating better communication with your boss is easier than it sounds. Abbajay has a simple script you can follow to figure it out. Ask your boss to go for a coffee, and ask them these three questions:

  1. How do you prefer to communicate?
  2. What are your priorities?
  3. What are your pet peeves?

These questions will help you have an open, honest conversation and get at the core of the manager-employee relationship.

However, she says it is important to know when to leave. Signs to watch out for include spending more time thinking about how to deal with your boss than working, dreading going to work every day, and feeling physically or mentally exhausted or sick.