How to do your best work when you have a difficult boss

Not every boss is perfect, and it’s probably unfair to expect them to be. But research shows you likely prefer the predictability of a consistently lukewarm boss to the ups and downs of a manager who is a loose cannon.

There is a bright side to this seemingly lesser-evil situation. No matter what kind of boss you have, you can succeed and grow your career.

To provide some scientific background: It’s helpful to keep in mind the human being’s craving for certainty. Again and again, brain science finds that we seek to repeat what we know, and we tend to avoid uncertainty, ambiguity, or situations that introduce doubt. It stands to reason. In terms of evolution, repeating what worked has kept us from predators and helped ensure we’d have access to food and water. Over time, we have learned to prefer what is clear and certain.

The aforementioned new study proves this desire for certainty shows up in our preference for bosses. In fact, based on biometric indications of stress and survey results, people across industries, from retail to healthcare to technology, prefer bosses who are consistent in their behaviors. When people are exposed to unpredictable treatment, they experience greater stress, job dissatisfaction, and emotional exhaustion.


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