No matter how great you are at your job or how much you enjoy working with other co-workers, the fact of the matter is that your success, happiness and fulfilment often comes down to your boss.
If you’ve ever had to work with a difficult manager, you know how much of a damper they can put on your entire attitude towards work and your career. Soon what you thought was going to be a great job can become a nightmare, changing your whole perception on what you should be doing or whether you are good enough.
You can soon find yourself spending more time worrying or getting frustrated by a bad manager than focusing on performing at your best. So, let’s look at six different common kinds of bad managers and give you some strategies to cope better with them.
1.The Manager who is MIA
Who knows where this boss is, but they certainly need a cleaner to dust away the cobwebs from their desk. However motivated and self efficient you are in doing work on your own, it would be nice to know that your boss is there to help if needed, and be engaged.
What to do: So, you can’t exactly tell them they would be a better boss if they were in the office more. But what you can do is schedule regular informal meetings or calls to chat about where you are up to.
If you literally can go for weeks without any contact with your manager, we would recommend getting something in the diary weekly even if it’s just for 15 minutes so you can both ‘get up to speed’.
This way they can come and go as they please, but you can be rest assured you have some time aside with them to ensure you are getting what you need.
2. The Manager who seems out of their depth
It can be frustrating when you have a manager that seems completely unqualified. Constantly asking questions or for advice, and seems to have little to give other than things you already know. They turn to you in big meetings to give the answers, and you feel like you spend most your time covering for them.
It’s hard not to question how they got the job, when if feels like you could do it better. Yes, it’s nice to have your opinion or insight valued so much. But at the same time, your manager should be someone who you can learn from – not someone you have to direct.
What to do: You never want to go over your boss’ head and complain or throw them under the bus. But, you also don’t want to feel like you’re doing their job for them while they get all the credit. So, instead why not start asking them more questions on how to handle things if you feel stuck or have a problem. Give them an opportunity to support you first.
If they ask you a question in a big meeting, but you don’t feel it should be you answering or making a decision, give a high level response and direct the question back to them. Simply say “that’s my high level understanding/opinion, however I believe ‘John’ you’re the best person to answer this’.
Taking this approach will soon reveal to you and everyone else whether they are qualified to be doing the job or not.
3. The Manager who is a workaholic
When you work for a boss that seems to work 24/7 – whether it’s weekends, in the middle of the night, on holiday etc, it’s hard to not feel like you have to do the same. Whether it’s urgent or not they seem to be on the phone, assuming you’re there to drop everything and respond.
You’re already willing to go above and beyond to impress and prove yourself to your manager so you can progress. But having to be constantly ‘on’ can soon wear you down, even to the point of burn out and that’s why everyone needs a work/life balance.
What to do: Just because your boss is a workaholic, it doesn’t mean you have to be. There’s a perception that sometimes we have to become a mirror image of our managers to progress in our careers and succeed. But that’s completely wrong.
You need to establish boundaries and not fall in to the trap of continually being at their beck and call. Start this by only responding to emails in the moment if it’s urgent, if it’s not it can wait until tomorrow.
If you’re out of the office on holiday or it’s the weekend, turn your phone off and allow yourself to switch off.
And to take it one step further, simply ask them to call you if something is really urgent as you don’t look at your emails past 7pm.
As soon as you change the behaviour instead of going along with it, we are almost certain this will become less of a problem for you.
4. The Manager who is awful at feedback
One of the number one priorities for any boss should be to support and manage their people by giving them regular constructive feedback and direction.
There’s nothing worse when you find yourself working for a boss who seems to either not give you anything at all (leaving you questioning how you are actually doing); their input is wish-washy and unhelpful, or they are at the other end of the scale and only seem to provide soul destroying comments.
None of these responses are helpful to you when all you’re looking for is some constructive feedback so you can use it to become better at your job.
What to do: Even though they are your manager they are not a mind reader. You need to take some responsibility and share with them how you like to work or how they can get the best from you.
So instead of being frustrated by getting what you don’t want, tell your boss exactly what you need, when you need it and how you would like to receive feedback.
Ultimately your manager should want to get the best out of you and should be open to receiving your thoughts on how they can do that.
5. The Manger who micromanages
You’re an adult and highly capable. You’re ready to be let loose to do things in your own way, come up with your own ideas and make things happen. However, your boss is dictating your every move and seems to be constantly watching you.
It’s easy to start wondering whether it’s because they don’t think you’re good at your job or simply they don’t trust you. Even worse, you can feel like you’re never going to be able to take the next step and progress with them standing in your way.
What to do: Micromanagers, in most cases, have good intentions. It’s often their own insecurities that are making them want to be on top of everything and in control. First of all, it’s important to ask yourself are you doing a good job (e.g. turning up on time, finishing assignments on time, being proactive) and if so make sure you’re regularly updating your boss with everything you are doing so they don’t feel like they are in the dark.
If nothing changes, you need to be brave and have that conversation with them. Again, your manager should be wanting to get the best out of you but more often than not you need to help them to do this by communicating your wants, needs and style so they can adapt. Don’t be afraid here to also tell them how their behaviour is making you feel and that it’s starting to effect your confidence or morale. Again, most managers will be glad of the guidance and should start to take a step back.
6. The Manager who never listens
This type of boss can literally drive you up the wall. No matter what you say or do they always seem to ignore your point of view or believe they’re right when often it’s clear they’re wrong. Even worse is when you’re managed by someone who always seems to talk over you or tries to dismiss your every word.
Yes, you respect them because you report in to them. But it’s hard to stay motivated and engaged when you feel everything you say is rejected or ignored. And it’s easy to understand why your confidence or self belief can start to be depleted.
What to do: This can be a tricky one to manage because often this sort of behaviour comes down to ego. But still you shouldn’t be prepared to be walked all over. It’s best first to try and communicate to them in concise to-the-point statements. Instead of providing a detailed summary, try and think about the three most valuable points for them and focus on that.
Also, if you have regular reviews with your boss around your performance, don’t be afraid to question whether they think you are doing a good job and highlight that their behaviour seems to be illustrating that you are not.
Finally, if they continue to talk over you in meetings or not listen to you, find an appropriate time after the session to tackle it head on. Call them out on what they were doing, in most cases you’ll find they’re not even aware.
When The Bad Are Just Really Bad
Unfortunately, there are some managers out there who are just terrible and nothing you do can improve the situation. If this is the case (and especially if their behaviour is inappropriate, degrading or inexcusable), it’s really important that you seek guidance and support from someone you can trust within your organisation.
Find someone in HR who you can have a confidential conversation with to seek their guidance and support, or confide in another manager who you have a good rapport with. But please never suffer in silence.
We spend a large majority of our lives in work and therefore our experiences there can affect our whole being both in and outside of work. So don’t let it get to YOU or bring YOU down, deal with it directly or talk to someone else before it gets any worse.
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