Careers

4 types of bad bosses, and how to handle them

Scene from the film Horrible Bosses with Kevin Spacey and Jason Bateman.
Source: Warner Bros. | YouTube
Scene from the film Horrible Bosses with Kevin Spacey and Jason Bateman.

Bad managers don't just exist in movies like "Horrible Bosses" and "Office Space." Real life versions of these characters populate today's workplaces, too.

My company, LaSalle Network, recently conducted a survey of more than 1,000 people, and 84 percent of respondents stated they have had a bad boss. Forty-three percent of these respondents quit because of a bad manager, and 59 percent would have stayed if given the opportunity to report to someone else.

Poor employee engagement isn't just a statistic; it's reality.

Bad managers, unfortunately, seem to fly under the radar. 55 percent of respondents stated they didn't report the bad manager to leadership. Employees avoid confrontation and instead move companies.

The negative impact a bad manager can have on an employee, both with productivity and emotionally, isn't a new phenomenon. According to Gallup's State of the American Manager report, managers account for at least 70 percent of an employee's engagement.

That said, just because you report to a bad manager doesn't mean you should quit. If you like the company, like the work, and like your team, here is a guide to working with four types of difficult managers and, eventually, grow past them.


NARCISSISTS

These managers care about self-promotion more than the staff. They only want to hear how great they are, and they rarely ask for feedback on their performance because they don't believe they are ever the problem. They take all the credit for an accomplishment and point the finger when things go wrong.

How to deal: If you are happy with your current role and want to stay at the company, humor this type of boss. Follow their rules and try to correct with empathy. Give them a compliment for their advice. Keep them informed on all communication you have with their boss and/or clients. They need to be in the know and feel in control.

The bright side: Others will know that more than one person worked on the project. They may even praise, or at least recognize, you for being humble enough to not jump up to take the credit.

If your boss gets promoted, odds are they will take you along, and you can continue to grow until the time is right to move on.


GHOSTS

These bosses say they care about employee development but are never there for coaching and support. They don't give frequent feedback and are rarely around to answer questions. They aren't responsive via phone, and emails from them are brief and sporadic.

How to deal: Whether the manager is on the golf course, or is constantly traveling for meetings, don't be bitter or fall into the mentality of 'out of sight, out of mind.' Keep working hard and compensate by communicating a lot with your teams on the status of projects to keep things moving along.

Be resourceful and find different ways to get the information and answers. If you get no responses from one boss, find someone else to green light your decision.

The bright side: Lack of direction can be frustrating, but it's a chance for you to excel and prove your ability. You could view this as an opportunity to tap on other leaders in the organization or other groups to get information. As a result, you can build relationships with people outside of your immediate teams.


BEST FRIENDS

These bosses want their employees to love them. They want to be included in the water cooler talk and get invited to the happy hours after work. Most likely, they were promoted from within.

How to deal: This isn't a bad attribute, necessarily, but you may have to be upfront about telling your manager you also want direct feedback and constructive criticism because it will help you grow. You may also have to help them set boundaries with you and other junior employees.

The bright side: People like to work with people they like, and if you can develop a good relationship with your manager, in most cases, you will be more productive, work harder and stay at the organization longer.

These types of managers are also more likely to be an advocate for employees, give you more time, and expose you to more experiences like the chance to sit in on executive meetings and go on client visits, which will help you grow.


WHIRLWINDS

These managers are always on the run. Although they want to get an update on a project, they only have one minute to listen. These managers ask you to do something and then forget they ever brought it up. The results can be chaotic.

How to deal: Send a short update on a weekly basis or a recap of the projects you're working on. That way your manager has the update and you can use the limited time together to ask specific question as opposed to updating your manager on the status of different projects.

The bright side: At least you're not being micromanaged.

Having a boss that prefers concise communication can also be beneficial because you'll have more time to get things done. In a world of limited interaction, it's great to be able to speak confidently and concisely. Often, less really is more.

Tom Gimbel is the founder & CEO of LaSalle Network, a national staffing, recruiting and culture firm.