Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Dealing with a Bad Boss

Is your boss the bane of your existence? You're not alone if you answered with an emphatic yes. According to a Monster.com poll, 70 percent of workers say they have a "toxic manager." And now a recent Florida State University study proves what experts have been saying for years: Employees don't quit their company — they leave their boss. So before you let a less-than-stellar supervisor drive you away from your dream job or delay your climb up the corporate ladder, consider this tip: "The key to getting on with a boss is learning how to manage him by understanding the underlying motivations for his behavior," says career management expert Barbara Moses, PhD, author of Women Confidential: Midlife Women Explode the Myths of Having It All. To stop a bad boss from holding you back, simply find your supervisor's management style among the descriptions below, then read on for ways to cool the conflict and get your career back on track.

The Taskmaster

He expects you to burn the midnight oil on a regular basis, and his deadlines are impossible to meet. According to Moses, sometimes extremely task-focused managers are so set on achieving results that they're not aware of how their behavior impacts those around them. The solution: Set boundaries. For instance, Moses suggests, say, "You've asked me to do A, B, C. I won't have time to complete everything by your deadline. What is the priority?" If you're having trouble putting your foot down, "Remind yourself work-life balance is your right, not a privilege."

The Absentee
He provides little direction and doesn't seem to know (or care) what you've accomplished or how busy you are. An "invisible" management style is typical of a supervisor who's preoccupied with his own affairs, like a problem at home, or maybe he's close to retiring and his mind's not on the job anymore, says Larina Kase, PsyD, author of The Successful Therapist: Your Guide to Building the Career You've Always Wanted. Your boss is probably unaware of how his lack of guidance is impacting you, so tell him, Kase suggests. Ask him to sit down to a weekly or monthly meeting so that you can start getting more regular direction, Moses adds.

The Devil
He seems to take pleasure in making your life a living hell, by reprimanding you in public, for example. A nasty boss may feel threatened by you, or he may just be mean, Kase says. Either way, you need to communicate that he can't continue to treat you poorly. Kase recommends confronting him by saying something like, "What you said in that meeting about my performance really undermined my confidence. I'd appreciate it if you could give me that sort of feedback in private in the future." Moses agrees, but she suggests prefacing your words with "You probably didn't realize it…" to avoid putting him on the defensive.

The Micromanager
He nitpicks constantly or redoes everything you do because nothing is ever good enough. This boss is a control freak, and his obsessive ways are often driven by insecurity about his own position, Kase explains. To build his trust in your competence, make a point of updating him on all your accomplishments before he has a chance to check up on you, Kase recommends. "If you continually go to him first with progress reports that show you've covered all the bases, he'll gradually start to loosen he reins."

The Jellyfish
He never gives feedback, stands up for you or takes risks. The result: You're underutilized. Anxiety is often at the root of spineless, weak behavior, Kase says. "To make him more comfortable with confrontation, regularly request feedback. Ease him into it by asking multiple-choice questions, which guarantee a definite response." For example, try, "X says I should have started my presentation with the quote I ended it with, but Y says it worked best as I had it. What do you think?" That's better than an open-ended "How was my presentation?"

The In-Over-His-Head
He's constantly overwhelmed and seems to know less about his job than you do. At the rate downsizing occurs these days, his responsibilities likely expanded beyond his skills before he could get the necessary training. Instead of becoming frustrated when he can't give you guidance, see this as the opportunity it is to develop your skills (read: request training), Kase suggests. And look for chances to fill in the gaps, like taking on some of his responsibilities when he has too much on his plate, or accompanying him at important meetings where your input will be noticed by higher-ups.

The Self-Promoter
He's ambitious, he'll only stand up for you on issues that make him look good and he's not above taking credit for tasks his staff has accomplished. This type of manager makes no secret of his underlying need for recognition. "To make the situation work for both of you, pitch him on work you want to do by emphasizing its profile and importance to senior management," Moses suggests. And, she adds, next time your boss fails to publicly recognize you and the team for a job well done, know that, given his reputation, most people will realize that you did all the work anyway.

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