Managing your boss

The term ‘managing’ usually suggests a boss giving orders to their subordinates.

However, modern workplaces require more inter-dependence: today’s bosses need the help of their workers, too.

Difficult bosses can be found in all industries and workplaces. Start by trying to understand what makes your boss tick. Figure out who they are, what they want from their team and why they operate the way they do.

Be clear about your role, objectives and aims. If unsure, seek clarification, make notes and send them to your boss to ensure you have the correct interpretation.

The impulsive, creative boss

They act before they think, are driven by emotion and frequently change their minds. They lose their train of thought and can be forgetful. They aren’t fans of rules but prefer to bring new ideas to the table. They move goalposts.

Share in their enthusiasm, but keep a written record of all instructions you receive. That way, when they change their minds, gently remind them that ‘a fortnight ago we agreed do to X, shall we now divert to your new idea of Y?’

The bully boss

Being bullied by the person responsible for your career advancement is thoroughly unacceptable. Learning to read the signs, i.e. distinguishing between a bully boss and one who is simply tough, is crucial.

Signs include passive-aggressive behaviour, unfair criticism of your work, ‘humorous’ personal put-downs in front of colleagues, exclusion from social events, unrealistic deadlines which eat into your personal time, and intimidating behaviour.

Try not to let the situation affect your self-esteem, but seek support for what you are experiencing and consider your options - reporting your boss, filing a complaint or even resigning. Your trade union will be able to give you valuable and independent advice.

Prospect, union for professionals, has a useful guide on harassment and bullying.

The workaholic boss

They live to work and make their staff feel under pressure to match their unreasonable working hours.

The best tactic is to speak directly and honestly with your boss, and to set boundaries around how many hours you are willing to work. Convey your loyalty to the company and keenness to perform well, but explain that stress and tiredness will negatively affect your productivity. During office hours, work as hard as you can to prove that it is possible to complete your tasks within the agreed time frame.

Workaholic bosses like to feel needed at the office. Asking them for advice on work-related matters will keep them on side.

The quiet boss

Someone who likes to keep to themselves, prefers privacy and never engages in small talk.

Respect their need for distance and consider effective form of communication to ensure business objectives are achieved – e.g. is  email the preferred form of communication. If you require a one-to-one, email them in advance and go into the meeting with a clear agenda. They will appreciate not having to engage in chit-chat.

Dealing with the ‘invisible’ boss is not easy if you expect frequent feedback. Presume that if they keep their distance, it means you are doing a fine job.

The micromanager

They appear to not trust you to do your job yourself and attempt to control everything. They focus on minutiae, wasting both their time and yours. They are procrastinators and bad decision-makers.

A micromanager has a problem trusting people, so make sure they see your potential. Go above what is expected of you, and you will gradually earn their trust and respect. Stick to the rules and company policies – you don’t want to reinforce their apparent belief that you can’t do your job. Be reliable, and try to stay one step ahead – submit work before deadlines, and always be ready with an affirmative reply to everything. Show that you are up to the challenge.

The worrier boss

Does your boss often seem stressed, nervy and negative? They may lack confidence in their own ability, so reassure them that you have things in hand.

Be a reliable source of help. If you need to impart bad news, off-set it with a list of possible solutions.

For more information on management, visit: