Difficult boss? Implement coping strategies now.
It’s been said employees don’t leave bad jobs, they leave bad bosses. If you are at the receiving end of an employer’s bad behaviour – from those who make you work well into the night, to those who use you as a scapegoat, or those who simply fail to communicate at all – leaving isn’t the only solution, says a leading workplace communications expert.
Psychologist Dr Mary Casey, CEO of leading health and education organisation Casey Centre, says most employees have dealt with a boss’s unprofessional behaviour at least once: “Bosses do what they do because they can – especially since they are in a position of power. Setting strong boundaries early on helps. Whether your boss is a slave driver or a micromanager, if they know where they stand with you then it’s harder for them to push your buttons.”
Maintaining a professional working relationship with your boss is important so how do you address their behaviour without it souring? Every boss is different and so you need specific strategies to most effectively deal with them, Mary says, “Unfortunately, difficult people can’t be changed – we can only learn strategies to ensure we aren’t their targets. My strategies focus on dealing with their behaviour, rather than trying to change their personalities,” says Mary.
Dr Casey’s strategies for dealing with 7 difficult boss types -
The Micromanager: Does your boss want a meeting with you several times a week, be cc’d in every email, and check your work on an hourly basis? While this behaviour can be annoying initially, eventually it can make you doubt your own abilities. “Micromanaging has nothing to do with your work quality – it’s about your boss,” says Dr Casey. “Develop a strategy to find a good balance between the micromanaging and your freedom. Suggest a dedicated meeting time and create a list of successful projects you've worked on to prove your work quality. Be honest: let your boss know you feel they’re monitoring your work too closely and you work better with more space.”
The Bully: Does your boss use his or her physical presence to intimidate, shout at you around other staff, or is not open to hearing or taking on your suggestions or ideas? “Even though it seems like it’s their way or the highway, stand up to them and you may find they back down,” Dr Casey says. “Ask them not to yell or interrupt. When a situation gets heated, use their first name and ask them if they can outline exactly what the problem is.”
The Non-communicator: They come and go without telling you, don’t give staff an opportunity to contact them when they need them, and never give performance feedback. “These employers are basically an emotional brick wall,” Dr Casey says. “Observe if they use the same behaviour with all staff. If so, it is not something to take personally. Communicate through notes or emails, and set deadlines for responses – such as “please respond by Tuesday, and if I don’t hear from you I assume the proposed action is okay. As these bosses are emotionally withdrawn, it may be hard to communicate with them, so ask open-ended questions.”
The Drama Queen: This type of boss seeks drama in the workplace, or tends to worry or panic over every incident – and quite openly in the presence of staff. “It’s important not to give them the attention they crave. Remain calm and, if possible, ignore their over-the-top behaviour so as not to add fuel to the fire,” Dr Casey says.
Gossip Monger: What do you do when your boss is the source of office gossip and conversations eventually lead to discussing people? Dr Casey says, Work on constantly changing the subject from people to positive things. Let your boss know in the first few minutes of gossiping that you’re not interested. You can do this by refraining from commenting.”
The Slave Driver:A master delegator, this type of boss ensures staff work well into the night, with no mention of “time in lieu”. When another employee leaves, you may also suddenly find yourself doing their job, too. “Set the boundaries of what your hours are; work within these hours and within your scope. A good idea is to check with your boss that your job description is the same and that you are doing everything you were hired to do and nothing more,” Dr Casey says.
The Detractor: Does your manager shift the blame to you or other staff whenever results fail to come in or something goes wrong? Do they take credit for good results you have achieved on your own? “This type of boss is not just insecure but a master manipulator,” Dr Casey says. The best way to deal with this situation is to put in writing your concerns. “It’s important that you outline the issue and the outcome. You may write something like “I’d like to say exactly what occurred so that you know why I’m upset”. Due to their insecurities, they will more often than not agree with you. They will also be careful of blaming you or taking due credit away from you,” says Dr Casey.
Dr Casey warns: “In some instances, be prepared to leave if necessary. An employer’s habits won’t change overnight but if after many attempts to improve fail, it may be best to move on. Weigh up whether the effects on your health, your emotional state and your personal life are worth staying in the job for.”