Cope with Five Boss Personality Types
Great bosses share similar traits -- they're clear communicators, good listeners and confident decision makers, for instance -- but as many of us can attest, each bad (or just difficult-to-work-with) boss is bad in his own way.
Nonetheless, some boss personality types are so recognizable that they've been immortalized in pop culture. Here's how to deal with five of them:
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1. The Authoritative Boss (e.g., Don Draper, Mad Men)
The authoritative boss is the ultimate risk taker and has a flair for drama. On the downside, he can be a poor communicator. He's creative and perceptive, but he's also suspicious of others.
"Most important is to acknowledge how clever they are, how they seek justice and how they find really good shortcuts to get the work done," says leadership and communication expert Sylvia Lafair, author of Don't Bring It to Work.
Lynn Taylor, author of Tame Your Terrible Office Tyrant and CEO of Lynn Taylor Consulting, suggests that when dealing with someone who is suspicious, you should "get specific" and allow little room for misinterpretation. She also suggests putting communication in an email to prevent miscommunication.
2. The Narcissistic Boss (e.g., Miranda Priestly, The Devil Wears Prada)
The narcissistic boss is hugely self-entitled -- often justifiably so. She puts herself on a pedestal far above subordinates, of whom she is ruthlessly critical. She does not welcome feedback and has little empathy.
Taylor recommends using what she calls the "CALM" method (Communicate, Anticipate, Laugh and Manage Up) with these bosses.
"Communicate frequently, honestly and regularly with aggressive bosses, so you understand what's behind all the blustering,” she says. “Anticipate problems before they occur or become more stressful [and don't encourage a tantrum with bad timing, either]. Taylor also suggests laughter. "A little levity goes a long way when tensions are running high," she says. "Manage up by being a role model of good behavior, using positive and negative reinforcement as you would with a child."
3. The Everyman Boss (e.g., Michael Scott, The Office)
This boss is likable enough, but he's sometimes inappropriate. He manages from the gut, and he's just too wishy-washy to lead effectively.
Janet Civitelli, workplace psychologist at VocationVillage.com, says one of the best strategies for dealing with an indecisive boss is to train him into realizing that decisions aren't so scary. "Indecision often stems from fear of making a mistake or looking bad, so try to find ways to help your boss shine," she says.
Vicky Oliver, author of 301 Smart Answers to Tough Business Etiquette Questions, suggest using your boss’s lack of leadership abilities as an opportunity for yourself. “Take the lead in the discussion, but stay detached from any particular outcome,” she says. “Use logic, rather than unbridled passion."
4. The Autocratic Boss (e.g., Vito Corleone, The Godfather)
Regardless of his physicality, Lafair describes this boss as "large and in charge." He is cruel (even a bit of a bully) and sometimes very frightening.
"The best way to handle these bosses is to let them know you appreciate how they have situations under control,” Lafair says. “[Demonstrate that] you're willing to be another pair of eyes, so that when chaos and anxiety are stirring, you can be available to help find ways to calm situations down."
5. The Pace-Setting Boss (e.g., Donald Trump, The Apprentice)
This is the boss who creates a competitive environment at work. He sets very high goals and standards -- and is very demanding of employees.
With a boss who sets hard-to-achieve goals, ask for as many details as possible, says Andy Kanefield, co-author of Uncommon Sense. "Ask for details about what it means, what the steps look like, who they've seen that has done it well,” he says. “Try to get a picture of what success looks like."
Then, Lafair says, you should acknowledge how much you appreciate those clear goals -- "and then the great policies and procedures fall into place."
Articles in This Feature:
- Boss Management Field Guide home
- Cope with Five Boss Personality Types
- Getting on the Boss's Good Side
- Manage Your Micromanager
- Neutralize Your Toxic Boss
- How to Bond with Your Off-Site Boss
- What to Do If Your Boss Is Incompetent
- Getting a New Boss Offers Challenges and Opportunities
- What the Boss's Body Language Says
- How to Disagree with Your Boss -- Without Losing Your Job
- Understand Your Boss by Astrology Sign