Jaica Domingo (Angel Locsin) just met her future employer, and the latter was already hurling insults at her. The hospital had assigned her to be the private nurse of a very important patient: Vivian Rabaya (Vilma Santos), a real estate mogul who had been diagnosed with multiple myeloma—a type of cancer that involves plasma cells.
The clash between the dragon lady boss and the feisty subordinate lasted for the most part of the movie Everything About Her (now on its second week in theaters). Beyond the familiar plot and tropes—a successful yet detached mother; a daughter disillusioned by an overseas working mother—the film showed complex situations that happen in real offices. Chief of these is dealing with a difficult employer.
Here are five things the film teaches employees about working with difficult bosses:
1. Lead yourself
If you are tempted to leave without a back-up plan, then you have to strap yourself to your chair and think, think, think. Go back to your vision, dreams, goals, and passions. If you can fulfill any of those without having to stand a difficult boss, then work toward a good exit strategy. If not, then stay.
Finding a new job can cause added stress to those who are not prepared mentally and emotionally. Just like Jaica—a breadwinner who had set her eyes on London—you have to keep your eyes on the prize. In her case, it was a P90,000 ($1,883.29) monthly paycheck. Yours could be the salary, the training, or the network you have been exposed to through the company.
2. Block negativity
Granted that your direct supervisor gives you plenty of reasons to hate him or her, you should still be aware when you are contributing to the negative atmosphere in the workplace. Your feelings, words, and actions can affect colleagues and rub superiors the wrong way.
In a frustrating moment, Jaica sent a negative text to Vivian by mistake, referring to the latter as a bloodsucking, flesh-eating monster. Yet, she was also unconsciously feeding negativity to the monster in her head.
3. Aim for excellence
A perfectionist boss may not even praise you for your best effort. As an antidote, strive to perform according to organizational and personal standards every day. You already know that perfection is unattainable, so why aim for it—following in the footsteps of your boss? Yet, you should neither settle for mediocrity.
Jaica did not use Vivian’s unappreciative style as an excuse to applying first-aid and administering medication haphazardly. So be sharp, efficient, and value-adding as an executive assistant, a business analyst, a private nurse, or whatever your role is at work.
4. Change your perception
According to Luc de Brabandere, author of The Forgotten Half of Change, you have to change twice: your perception first; your reality next. For example, you want to change your reaction to your manager, like stop rejecting her instructions or blaming her for everything that goes wrong in the team. To change effectively, you have to understand what drives your boss, or envision how reacting differently can make her listen to your cause.
In the movie, Jaica reacted positively to some of her employer’s demands. At home, when she was instructed to leave the room, Jaica promised to stay “invisible” as long as she got to watch out for the very sick Vivian. It would be revealed later how she perceived her patient as someone worth fighting for, a personal motivation that was reinforced by her professional oath.
5. Use humor as needed
When things turn out for the worse between you and your boss, you can feel heavy, discouraged, and hurt. Though it is nothing that rounds and rounds of beer cannot fix, right? Maybe. But humor costs less.
And you can do it the Jaica way. Introduced as the new personal assistant, she went to work at the tycoon’s firm. One time, Vivian called her stupid for acting more slowly than the rest of the staff. Afterward, one of the bosses asked if her name was indeed Jaica. She responded: “Yes, but you can call me stupid for short.” It’s an exaggerated example, but it shows how you can mine humor in any situation.
Remember that your boss is also human. Perhaps she has only forgotten how to care about others. You can choose to retaliate, as if you are in a battle every day. Or you can keep your calm and empathize. When it comes to your thoughts and emotions, you are the one who calls the shots.
Shadz Loresco is a freelance business writer for both online and print. Follow her on Twitter: @shadzloresco.