Is Your Boss Ruining Your Life?

14 Dec 2011

If your manager is sending you into meltdown, worry not. Here’s how to deal with different boss behaviour

Most of us spend around nine hours a day at work. That’s 45 hours a week, or a whopping 16,425 hours a year slogging away at our desks. Of course, for some of us, that time is spent with nice colleagues, doing something we are (hopefully) genuinely interested in. But for others, going to work is an unpleasant experience, made so by tyrannical bosses who seem to delight in making their employees miserable. And what’s bad for employees is bad for the company, according to a recent study from Florida State University which says that people don’t leave jobs - they leave bosses. Survey participants cited bosses’ bad behaviour (ranging from not recognising achievements to giving employees the silent treatment) as one of the key reasons to move jobs. Wondering if your boss is more Norman Bates than normal? Take a look at the classic bad-boss types, outlined by Dubai based clinical psychologist Dr. Amy Bailey, and see if yours fits the mould.

The bully
How to spot them: The bully boss may come across as confrontational and display an excessive use of power. In particular, they will target those employees that they perceive as being weaker and unable to protect themselves. They may present a very different persona to more senior managers.
What to do: Remember that bullies behave in this way to hide their own insecurites. They may feel inadequate and be unable to manage stress; therefore they project this onto others. Try to find someone you can confide in to talk to about your boss’ behaviour. Avoid confrontations with them and try to control your own thoughts so that you only need to deal with what is, rather than what could be, and don’t take any comments made by your boss to heart. Also try to control your body language - bullies prey on perceived weakness, so don’t cower away from them, and make sure you maintain direct eye contact.

How to spot them: The friend boss may seem as if they want to know everything about you. They’re likely to show an over interest in your personal life or may talk at length about their own personal issues. These conversations may overshadow those focused on work-related issues.
What to do: It’s important to maintain a professional friendship only. Act as a role model to your boss and try to direct conversations to work topics rather than personal issues (but do this politely). Go to pre-arranged meetings with an agenda to try to keep these focused and follow your gut instinct - if the conversation feels wrong, try to divert or end it. Remember that your boss’ behaviour is likely to stem from their own insecurity and a need to be liked. They may be trying to create a positive work environment but are taking this too far.

The micro-manager
How to spot them: This boss provides an excessive amount of direction and attention which interferes with your own productivity. They may check on you every five to15 minutes or position your desk near to them so they can monitor your activity. This type of boss may be a perfectionist and has a need to be in control, not trusting that others can do the work to their standards.
What to do: Use lots of listening and communication to build your manager’s trust in your abilities, for example, copy them into emails and keep them in the loop with regard to what you’re doing. Try to provide visual cues to your manager to show how busy you are and that you are not to be disturbed (e.g. headphones whilst typing) or try to find another place within the office to sit and focus on work, like an empty conference room.

The nit-picker
How to spot them: This boss pays fierce attention to detail. You may experience them as having too much time on their hands! It may feel like nothing you do is good enough as your boss gives minimal praise and feedback, or does so with a warning on what you could have done better.
What to do: Learn to work by your own standards so that you don’t feel demoralised. Aim to find someone else within the company to act as a mentor to you and always try to be one step ahead by detailing everything that you do so that you are ready for their inevitable questions.

The delegator
How to spot them: It may feel like this boss is trying to shun their own workload. You may find them lazy and unsupportive or alternatively as a slave driver (e.g. giving you an unreasonable level of work).
What to do: Know how much work your boss really has on - they may also be overloaded and it may be that they are using delegation to try to empower staff. If you’re struggling with the workload, ask for some advice or direction by telling them what support you need. Phrase it by saying “I am feeling overwhelmed” rather than “You are giving me too much work” which will sound confrontational, and avoid getting burnt out by ensuring your boss is aware of just how much you’re trying to manage, for example, through regular work reviews. Try to think positively and rather than see the situation you’re in as a burden, view it as an opportunity to shine and build a great reputation for yourself.