Work isn’t always pleasant. One thing that can make your job even more unbearable is working for a horrible boss. In fact, a Gallup study found that roughly half of employees leave their jobs because of a bad boss. Learning how to manage a terrible boss is important not only for your work life but your home life. It’s important to learn how to cope. “Having a bad manager is often a one-two punch: Employees feel miserable while at work, and that misery follows them home, compounding their stress and negatively affecting their overall well-being,” said Gallup’s experts.
Interacting with a bad boss on a daily basis can do a number on your health. In fact, working for a boss who is a micromanager, for example, could even cut your life short. A study conducted by researchers at Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business found that employees in highly demanding jobs with very little control over their workflow were 15.4% more susceptible to death during the study in comparison to those who worked at less demanding jobs. Unless you want to go to an early grave, you’ll have to learn how to manage your manager.
Some supervisors are inexperienced and others are just not so good with people. Regardless of the reason for a bad management style, there are steps you can take to cope. On the following pages we’ll describe the four worst types of bosses and how to handle them.
1. The micromanager
Do you get that creepy feeling someone is looking at you, and when you look up, it’s almost always your boss? Either he’s got the hots for you or he’s a micromanager who can’t get a handle on his need to control every aspect of your work. This is the boss most employees do not want to deal with, and for obvious reasons. When being managed by a boss like this, you can’t make a move without approval. You also may be asked to re-do most of your assignments. Nothing is ever good enough for the micromanager. It’s perfectionism on steroids.
The experts say it’s best not to fight your micromanaging boss. Instead of rebelling, work on changing how you respond to his or her requests. Resist the temptation to complain or ignore your boss’s directions.
Jean-François Manzoni, a professor of management at INSEAD and co-author of The Set-Up-to-Fail Syndrome: How Good Managers Cause Great People to Fail says rebellious behavior will just cause your boss to micromanage you even more so that he can regain control. “If you push back in one way or another — passively or aggressively — your manager may conclude you can’t be trusted and get more involved … You absolutely, positively must deliver and deliver in a way that doesn’t increase your boss’s stress,” Manzoni told Harvard Business Review. “In fact, identify things that reduce your boss’s stress. Say to your manager, ‘I see you’re under unbelievable pressure, how can I help?’”
2. The ghost
The ghost boss is rarely ever around. He comes to work, closes his office door, and then emerges late after the work day is over. The only time you’ll see a ghost boss is if there’s a crisis or you screw up. Depending on where you work, this type of boss may rarely come to the office.
If this describes your boss, you’ll need to find ways to stay in contact. This is the type of supervisor who will remain silent, so you mistakenly think everything is fine. Then suddenly, you’re being let go from the company because of poor performance. Don’t be taken by surprise with this kind of boss. It will be vital for you to remain proactive about your performance every step of the way. You can do this by scheduling regular status meetings. Get way ahead of any problems before an issue arises that you weren’t even aware of.
3. The clueless boss
This situation will make you feel like you’re managing your manager. You’re more likely to be in this predicament if you’re being supervised (if you want to call it that) by a very young or inexperienced boss who doesn’t know what the hell is going on. You’re basically training someone who is supposed to be training you. This can be quite frustrating, especially if you have several more years of experience.
You’ll have to be careful when relating to the clueless boss. You may be wondering how this person managed to get a job at all, let alone this job. Your supervisor’s role could very well be the result of nepotism or some other insider hook-up, so approach with caution. By all means, have a meeting with your boss so that you can address your concerns, but don’t be rude or arrogant. The best way to approach this situation may be to have another more experienced manager with you at the meeting so you can all go over what is and isn’t working. Try to set some ground rules for what your boss expects from you and check in later to make sure you’re on target. Inexperienced managers are still learning the ropes, so they may not even know what they need from you. It will be important to be clear on what your role will be and establish a way to document when you’ve reached your target. Make sure to check in with your boss regularly (perhaps each quarter) to make sure you’re both still on the same page.
4. The know-it-all
The exact opposite of the clueless boss is the know-it-all. Even if this boss is failing miserably and makes terrible decisions with disastrous outcomes, the know-it-all will swear he or she knows what’s best. You may have a suggestion for completing a project because you’ve dealt with a similar situation, but the know-it-all boss will always insist that you do things his way. When things go wrong, it’s suddenly your fault.
The best way to handle this situation is to write down everything. Even the smallest instructions should be written down so that if your boss says he didn’t tell you to do something after yet another project fails miserably, you can refer to your notes. This way, if you’re about to be fired for blowing a big project, you have evidence that can be used to support your case if human resources wants to have a talk about your future with the company (and that’s never a good thing — you’ll want to pack up your cubicle before a meeting like this, just in case).