People don’t leave their job - they leave their boss.
The business relationship you have with your immediate manager, your boss, is one of, if not the most important relationships you have at work.
A good boss can help you progress your career to new heights...
...a bad boss can be like a dead weight around your neck and leave you frustrated and searching the job adverts.
In the course of my work I regularly get people come and tell me about their “problem” boss and ask what they can do about it. I hear so many stories that I even ran a competition at a CPHR Alberta Conference to find Alberta’s worst boss. Here are three of the finalists:
I asked for clarification of feedback received during a year end appraisal. Was told “I don’t have to explain myself to you, I’m your boss”.
Employee phoned their boss about a missing 16 hours pay on their pay cheque, boss hang up on them, phoned back, boss hang up on them again. So the employee dropped by the office and gave their boss a written memo about the missing pay, boss threw the memo in the garbage in front of them saying “I’ll look at this later.”
Worked with my boss for a year and sat in the cubicle next to her. She spoke to me twice, when I started the job and again when I resigned a year later.
But seriously, if you have a “bad” boss you have my sympathy!
So let us take a look at the types of bad boss you may encounter and possible ways to deal with them effectively.
Six Types of Bad Boss
The Bully – the boss who screams and shouts and tries to undermine the confidence of their team members.
The Social Climber – the boss who always has one eye on their next promotion or job move, before they do or decide anything they consider how it will effect their career.
The Micro Manager – the boss who doesn’t trust anyone to be left to get on with their work, the have to keep checking in and interfering, taking over if given half a chance.
The Workaholic – the boss who never leaves the office, always first in and last out and believes that you should do the same.
The Absent Boss – the boss who is never there when you need them, recognized by the jacket on the back of their empty chair.
The Divisive Boss – the boss who looks to divide and rule, is happiest when turning colleagues against each other and needlessly looks to promote conflict and disharmony, playing office favourites.
7 Ways To Deal Effectively With A Bad Boss
In her article for Forbes, ‘How To Handle A Bad Boss: 7 Strategies For 'Managing Up', Margie Warrell identifies a number of useful strategies which I’ve covered here.
1. Identify their prime motivations. What are they interested in and why?
The better you understand what your boss is interested in at work, and more importantly, why this is of interest to them, the better positioned you are to deliver results, manage expectations, and avoid potentially negative situations.
When you know what drives your boss you can frame your language and opinions in ways that align up their core values, concerns and priorities.
2. Support their success: Help them achieve their goals
Although this may seem counter intuitive there is no benefit in trying to make your boss look bad. This will only backfire on you and damage your reputation, which you can ill afford to have happen.
Once you’ve identified what your boss is interested in you can look at ways to help them achieve their goals.
3. Take the high road: Your “Personal Brand” is riding on it.
Never let your boss’s bad behavior be an excuse for your own.
Keep focussed on your own performance and make sure you’re giving of your best at work. Don’t use your boss’s bad behaviour as an excuse to let your own performance take a dive.
It’s okay to complain to friends and family outside of work, however, if you constantly bad mouth your boss at work, you are not creating the best impression of you in the eyes of others who may able to open or close future opportunities for you.
4. Speak up: Give your boss a chance to respond.
Just because it may be easier to say nothing, to “suffer in silence”, complain loudly to colleagues or to head for the door, you at least owe your boss the opportunity to try and change their behaviour or unhelpful ways.
Don't prejudge and assume they aren't able to take feedback, or don't care how miserable you are. When you approach them with respect and with a genuine desire to make things work better, you can open the door to whole new levels of trust, collaboration and outcomes. A door that will remain permanently closed otherwise.
One way to do this is to utilize The BEEF Model:
Behaviour – be clear what it is about your boss’s behaviour that is getting you down and affecting your work.
Example – give your boss one or two specific examples.
Effect – explain the impact this behaviour is having on you at work.
Future – discuss with your boss what the new future might look like if they change their ways.
5. Know their preferences: Adapt to them.
If you’ve ever done any personality assessments such as Myers-Briggs, DISC or MiRo, then see if your boss has as well and find out what their behavioural preference is.
It can help you adapt your style and spare a lot of strife. Working with their preferences is an obvious way of managing your boss without them ever knowing it, and it’s a key leadership skill to develop regardless of the kind of boss you are working for.
The MiRo Behavioural Profile identifies four behavioural types:
When communicating with people who lead with The Energizing Mode
• Discuss what effect your plan will have on people.
• Talk in concepts and broad ideas. • Acknowledge their contribution and that of others.
• Avoid heavy detail and keep to the big picture.
• Allow them to participate as fully as possible in the process.
When communicating with people who lead with The Driving Mode
• Show that you have an objective and a plan to achieve it.
• State your timetable and include milestones. • Avoid heavy detail and keep to the point. • Present your logic and avoid assumptions.
• Present your case in statements rather than convoluted arguments.
When communicating with people who lead with The Organizing Mode
• Show a strategy of cooperation and talk about how you will reach the goal together.
• Focus on people and what your ideas will do for them and their environment. • Don't focus on change but rather on how good will be preserved. • Present in a step by step manner and explain how and why things will happen.
• Give them time to think and don't rush them into decisions.
When communicating with people who lead with The Analyzing Mode
• Keep the process formal and don't get too personal. • Keep focus on the task and show how you have arrived at your conclusions.
• Don't hide anything and discuss all the pros and cons. • General ideas will need to be accompanied by fact. • Do your homework.
6. Don’t be intimidated by a bully.
If your boss is a yeller, a criticizer, or a judge – stand firm.
If you’re doing the best job you can do, keep your head held high and don’t give them the satisfaction of pushing you about. Rather ask questions, seek to understand, and work to defuse a difficult situation instead of backing down or responding in anger.
7. Be Proactive: Do your research before jumping ship.
Of course the best way to manage a bad boss is not to have one in the first place.
So whenever you are looking to move into a new role in the same company or move to another organization all together, invest some time to get a sense of the culture, the leadership and the sort of management practices that are tolerated and supported.
If you are moving internally, make sure you do your networking ahead of time to get a sense of both the environment within the team you might be moving to, and those who are creating it. Are they leaders who create an environment where people are inspired and supported to work hard, or do they incite fear about what will happen if people don't? (Forbes.com, 2019)
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