It can be hard to have a good attitude at work when your boss is abusive, either to you or to others. You may be afraid to approach your boss, but negative bosses can actually make you less efficient and make you anxious. Be mindful of power dynamics when approaching your boss. Be polite, tactful, and considerate.

*Approach the issue as a collaboration. Remember, your boss may not even realize that she has a problem, and she may not be intending to be hurtful. For example, you could say something like, “I notice I’m having some issues at work. Can we discuss about ways to address them?”

*Look for common ground. For example, you could say something like, “I know we both really value making sure that our projects are high quality” to let your boss know that you and she have the same ultimate goal.

*Be direct but respectful. Use “I”-statements. You could say something like, “I’ve found I work best with specific, concrete feedback rather than general commentary. Do you think you could offer me more specific feedback on my reports? I think that would really help me make them the best they can be.”

*Be honest. If your boss has said things that are belittling, harassing, or mean-spirited, be clear about that, but avoid sounding judgmental. For example, you could try something like, “I really felt hurt when you yelled at me in front of my office-mates last week. It would help me if you talked with me privately about areas where I can improve.” By modeling clear, honest, but polite discussion of your feelings, you may even help your boss deal with you better.

*Avoid passive-aggressive behaviors. While studies suggest they may be better than nothing, they don’t communicate your actual needs and wishes to your boss.

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