Categorized | Workplace

How to Deal With Difficult Bosses

Posted on 22 March 2011

Face it: We’ve all had crummy bosses. How do these people continue to draw a paycheck in offices worldwide while making life miserable for their employees? Whether categorized as a Bully, Micromanager, Weak-Kneed Wimp, or Hopelessly Disorganized Mess, these sub-standard supervisors can seriously derail your career.

We recently spoke with a few workplace experts in order to find ways around the boss from Hell. Surprisingly, their tips and techniques are quite simple. Remember Michael Corleone’s rule of thumb? “Keep your friends close–and your enemies closer.”

1. The Bully Bosses

Stomping, cursing, shouting, insulting, growling… the Bully Boss should come with a muzzle. But bullies are often proven office performers who get results, which is why they tend to stick around. What’s one quick way to soothe the beast? Get the results that the Bully is famous for getting and develop your reputation as a valued workplace asset.

Pick your battles wisely and be flexible about the small stuff.

“Your boss wants to look good,” says HR Magazine contributor Lin Grensing-Pophal, an employee management expert and author. “You can help. You need to earn results and make sure that he or she knows it. You’re not looking for a relationship here. Do your job and maintain visibility.”

Bullies often exhibit a ‘what-have-you-done-for-me-lately?’ attitude, which puts you on constant high alert. “Look for ways to continually demonstrate that you’re growing,” Grensing-Pophal adds. “Don’t rest on your laurels. These bosses have short memories.”

They also love to play head games. “If you’re really brave, stand up to the bully boss the next time,” says Les McKeown, a top consultant and author of the Retaining Top Performers (McGraw Hill, Fall 2002). “Like most bullies, he’ll likely give you respect in the future because of it.” But some caution is called for: Pick your battles wisely and be flexible about the small stuff. It makes quite a difference when you take the time to do all the little things “their way.”

2. The Micromanager Bosses

This boss is “like a black hole, swallowing every decision or task that passes through their front door,” McKeown says. “If they delegate, they’ll stand at your shoulder every step of the way, telling you how to do it right–meaning, their way.” His remedy? “Send them the details of some complicated but unimportant decision to be made, like where to move the photocopier. Send everything in writing, with lots of questions for the boss to consider. You won’t hear back for weeks. That’s when you get the real work done.”

The micromanagers of the world are also notorious for incessant, pointless meetings. They want all their underlings in place while they drone on and on about everything. But there’s a remedy for this, says Patti Hathaway, co-author of Managing Upward: Strategies for Succeeding with Your Boss (Crisp Publications): “Be diplomatic but specific about how ineffective this is. Say, ‘When we end up with these long staff meetings, I’m late for my next appointment. I feel frustrated and rushed the rest of the day. I’m wondering if we could set a realistic ending time? Would you be willing to try that?’”

You might even suggest, for example, a greater dependence on group e-mails in lieu of those face-to-face meetings that swallow up too much of your workday.

3. The Weak-Kneed Wimp Bosses

This type of boss avoids negativity at any cost–an M.O. that often undercuts the performance of his or her team. The solution: Don’t let a superior’s lack of self-confidence affect yours. These bosses are often receptive to self-starters who take initiatives; it saves them from making those dreaded decisions. McKeown advises: “Don’t pose anything as a choice to make. Instead of asking, ‘Are we moving forward with that sales pitch?’ say, ‘Unless we hear otherwise, we’re planning to move forward.’”

4. The Hopelessly Disorganized Mess Bosses

Projects with theses bosses require twice as much effort because all of their energies are spent navigating through their chaos. And you will always be forced to adapt to their system–even if yours is vastly more efficient and effective. One key? Document whatever you can. Copy and securely file away all those memos and e-mails, thereby demonstrating that you’re really on the ball.

“If you ever have to prove that something was actually done,” McKeown says, “you’re on your own to do it. That’s where the documentation comes in.”


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1 Comments For This Post

  1. Bully Boss Help says:

    The best defense against a bully boss is using your employee handbook against him/her. Become familiar with company practices and procedures and every time the bully boss violates something in the handbook, document it. When you’ve had enough, turn it into HR and DEMAND they do something about it.

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