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How to work for a supervisor you don’t respect

By assessing your feelings, separating the personal from the professional and finding common ground, you can navigate the situation with grace and professionalism


Working for a supervisor you don’t respect is undoubtedly a challenging endeavor. However, it’s important to remember that you have control over your own actions, reactions and growth.

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Sarah is a dedicated and determined police sergeant who has always been drawn to the noble mission of maintaining law and order within her community. With a strong commitment to serving and protecting, she has embraced her role with fervor and a desire to make a meaningful impact in her position as supervisor. However, as Sarah’s career unfolds, she faces an unexpected twist that challenges her sense of professional respect – a supervisor she finds it difficult to hold in high regard.

In the complex and demanding world of law enforcement, the relationships between officers and their supervisors play a crucial role in ensuring effective teamwork, efficient operations and the pursuit of justice. Yet, Sarah’s experience reflects a common reality faced by many officers. The clash of leadership styles, conflicting approaches to policing, personality differences and ethical disparities can create a strained and disheartening work environment.

The question that arises is both relevant and daunting: How can a person navigate the intricate nuances of working under a supervisor they don’t respect?

In the realm of modern workplaces, the dynamics between employees and supervisors can significantly impact job satisfaction, productivity and overall work experience. Ideally, a healthy professional relationship is characterized by mutual respect, open communication and a shared sense of purpose. However, the reality is that not all supervisors meet these criteria, leaving employees in the challenging position of having to work for someone they don’t respect. While this situation can be daunting, it’s important to recognize that it is possible to navigate with grace, professionalism, and personal growth.

This article explores strategies and insights to empower individuals like Sarah to adeptly manage this intricate situation. The following actionable steps will allow officers to uphold their integrity, establish common ground and continue their journey of excellence, even when confronted with a supervisor they struggle to respect.

1. Assess your feelings and reactions

Before taking any steps, it’s crucial to examine your own feelings and reactions toward your supervisor. Pinpoint the reasons why you don’t respect them. Is it a communication style clash, a difference in work values, or a series of unprofessional actions? Understanding the root causes of your negative feelings can help you develop a more objective perspective and identify potential areas for improvement.

2. Separate personal feelings from professional responsibilities

While it’s difficult, separating personal feelings from professional responsibilities is essential. Focus on your job description, tasks and objectives rather than dwelling on your supervisor’s behavior. By concentrating on the work itself, you can maintain a level of professionalism and deliver quality results regardless of your personal feelings.

3. Find common ground

Even if you don’t respect your supervisor on a personal level, you may still share common goals and objectives within your role or department. Identifying these shared interests can help you connect and collaborate effectively. Seek out opportunities to discuss projects, brainstorm ideas and contribute to the overall success of the team. By focusing on shared goals, you can shift your attention from personal differences to collective achievements.

4. Practice active listening and open communication

Open communication is key to any successful relationship. Try to actively listen to your supervisor’s feedback, concerns and expectations. By demonstrating your willingness to engage in constructive conversations, you can foster a more positive working dynamic. Moreover, when disagreements arise, address them calmly and professionally, seeking to find common ground or a compromise that benefits both parties.

5. Lead by example

In situations where you don’t respect your supervisor, it’s important to lead by example. Uphold your own professional standards, work ethic and integrity regardless of the behavior you witness from your supervisor. Your consistent dedication to your work can inspire your colleagues and even influence your supervisor to reassess their own approach.

6. Seek mentoring outside of your chain of command

When you find it challenging to receive guidance or mentorship from your direct supervisor, consider seeking it from other sources within the organization. Identify individuals who you respect and admire, and who can offer insights, advice and support. These mentors can provide valuable perspectives, helping you navigate your professional challenges with a renewed sense of purpose and direction.

7. Focus on your personal growth

Working under a supervisor you don’t respect can be an opportunity for personal growth and development. Use the experience as a chance to strengthen your emotional intelligence, resiliency and adaptability. Practice patience, empathy and conflict resolution skills, which can serve you well in future professional relationships. Additionally, take advantage of any learning opportunities the situation presents, whether it’s developing new skills, refining your communication style, or enhancing your ability to work within new teams.

8. Consider external options

While the goal is to navigate the situation positively, there may come a point where the challenges outweigh the benefits. If your supervisor’s behavior consistently undermines your ability to perform your job or maintain your well-being, it might be worth exploring external options. This could involve seeking a transfer within the department, pursuing opportunities at other organizations, or even contemplating a career change.

Working for a supervisor you don’t respect is undoubtedly a challenging endeavor. However, it’s important to remember that you have control over your own actions, reactions and growth. By assessing your feelings, separating the personal from the professional, finding common ground, practicing open communication, leading by example, seeking external mentorship, focusing on personal growth, and considering external options, you can navigate this situation with grace and professionalism. Ultimately, your ability to rise above challenging circumstances can contribute to your own success and development, regardless of the dynamics within your immediate working environment.

NEXT: 8 practical strategies to communicate with a difficult supervisor

James Beyer is a deputy chief with the Irving (Texas) Police Department, currently assigned over field operations. He has 18 years of experience and has trained first-line supervisors from several agencies inside the Dallas-Ft. Worth metroplex for several years. Prior to law enforcement, he was a chiropractor.