Managers are rarely what you think. In fact, they are rarely what they think. They are painfully human, prone to all the mistakes people make. In an “us against them” workplace world, the great majority of supervisors are earnest folks who want to do the right thing.
But, too many just don’t get what their role is or how to handle it. So, you may just need to know how to manage the boss who’s nasty, mean, incompetent, or unimaginative.
6 hot tips on how to manage the problem manager:
- Try to understand. As often as not, managers are promoted without preparation or training in management skills. Some are hired for their past experience which may or may not relate to your work environment.
They come to the job meaning to do well, but they don’t know how to show it. They enter an environment that’s alien or hostile to them, so they start off on the wrong foot. So, you need to give them a break if they come on too strong.
: try to offer assistance – helping them with their challenges might prove more beneficial for you then you might think.
- Name the problem. If you can identify the boss’s behavioral problem, it should help you deal with it.
- Some problem managers are basically incompetent. They simply do not know the work.
- Some bosses lack basic social skills. The have trouble relating to people, especially when those people are subordinates.
- Some have psychological problems that appear as anger or hostility. Sometimes, they can be blatantly offensive and/or abusive.
- Others have an ego that demands absolute compliance or refuses to accept criticism.
- And, still others are troubled by family or financial issues that manifest as moodiness and instability.
: When you focus on work and process, you deal with what is working and not working in terms of outcomes. That helps keep personal opinion and taste out of the measurement. For example, you might not like the boss personally, but if the work is getting done well, it puts things in a different perspective.
- Manage up. Coping and getting along gets you nowhere. Having given the problem manager a break, you want to manage the situation from the bottom up. You might start with what the boss should do; that is, focus on the work problems, processes, or behavior instead of the personalities.
If you can read the manager’s strengths, you might compliment the behavior or expertise. Managers like respect and acknowledgement, too.
: Instead of bad-mouthing the boss, you can position yourself to be the boss’s “go-to” for input and feedback. This will likely take your relationship in a good direction.
- Lead by example. If you continue to excel at your work, the manager will have to come to you. Before long, even bad bosses will see that your performance is in their own interest. They will also notice that your focus and engagement influences the behavior of co-workers.
: become the informal leader where the manager fails to lead. As long as you and your teammates are working towards your goals, the micro-managing style and hostile behavior are likely to disappear simply because they do not work.
- Agree with everything. Under the appearance of agreement, you can redirect the boss to a more positive path. If your motivation is keeping things aligned with business goals, it helps to educate the problem boss.
Any manager would feel respected by your agreement. As often as not, they have some doubts about their own decisions and position, so your agreement reinforces them. At the same time, you can suggest alternative approaches based on your experience with higher management powers. You can suggest where the manager might be making a mistake and what more senior managers might prefer.
: agreeing doesn’t mean you can’t express an opposing opinion. It simply means you lead the conversation with an agreement to something. It’s a tactic, and usually a good one.
- Stroke the ego. When you listen well, you discover what keeps this boss up at night. If you can do it authentically, compliment the boss where it is deserved.
: When the manager is not capable of being your mentor, find someone else in whom you can confide.
Some more senior manager, perhaps in Human Resources, will listen as you bounce ideas off them. If the manager’s style affects productivity and quality, you can discuss the process and operational problems without making it personal. Remember, the burden created by bad bosses should not be yours alone.
The take away!
The problem manager is not a problem if you just don’t care or if you are just biding your time. There is no personal or business gain in your keeping your nose to the grindstone and tail between your legs.
A CBS News 2015 poll reports
that 51 percent of American workers are dissatisfied with their bosses, but that is an improvement over 2008 numbers. And, an SBS News survey of Australian workers found
71 percent believe their bosses have “vision and direction” while said 35 percent identified “poor leadership is most stressful workplace issue.” So, you are not along.
If you can’t find the personal or organizational strength to turn the problem manager around, it’s in your best interest to leave. It might be liberating – after doing your best – to walk away from such a relationship of your own free will.
The six hot tips offered here on how to manage the problem manager do not exhaust the possibilities. Most boss/individual relationships reflect complex human dynamics. But, there’s enough direction here to help you influence, modify, and relieve the stress it puts on you.
How do YOU handle “challenging” managers?
Feel free to share ideas that worked for you in this matter.
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