Bad and ineffective managers exist in every organization, so it’s very probable that we’ve all had to deal with them at one point or another in our careers. Dealing with a bad boss is no picnic. The worst of them fail to trust their employees, don’t respect their employees, or actually intimidate them. Even worse, bad bosses can cause top talent to look for jobs elsewhere. A recent Danish survey of 4,500 public service workers showed that people don’t leave their jobs—they leave their managers.
The stress that often causes people to switch jobs is more often due to a bad boss, not the workload, work conditions, or even compensation. Since so much of our professional happiness rides on our relationship with our bosses, it’s crucial to know how to handle a bad boss. The most important thing is not to let a bad boss derail our career goals, our professionalism, or our work ethic.
There are many different types of bad bosses, and dealing with each type requires a different approach. Here are our tips on how to deal with different types of bad bosses.
The Slow-Coach: Perhaps one of the most frustrating types of bad bosses, the “Slow-Coach” is a boss who holds you back. It may be that she is slow by nature, and likes to take her time with projects and feedback. Or it may be that she thinks she has to take it slow so her team can keep up. Whatever the case, this type of boss can really drag you down by making it impossible to get things done at a faster pace.
When it comes to this kind of boss, try to find out if she’s slow because it’s her nature or because she thinks she needs to be. If it’s the latter, show her that you can not only keep up the pace, but even pick it up. If it’s the former, try to be patient with her and look for mentorship from other managers so your professional advancement doesn’t suffer as much.
The Despot: This boss thinks he has all the power and that he rules absolutely, which can be a dangerous combination for those around him. He is likely to rule with an iron fist, making decisions without conferring with colleagues and establishing rules without responding to feedback.
Dealing with this type of boss must be done carefully, but without cowering. Consider ways to work around his management style, like making an effort to show him you work your hardest not just for yourself but to make him look good too. However, if his behavior crosses the line and he’s bullying or becomes too abrasive, stand firm but keep a cool head. Confront him on his behavior, be ready to report him to HR, and be prepared for the fallout.
The Bigot: If your boss makes comments under her breath about your openly gay coworker or about her Jewish secretary, then your boss falls under this category. She dislikes people because of their background and personal beliefs, regardless of their work ethic, productivity, and ideas. Her attitude creates a toxic work environment, making her one of the worst bad bosses out there.
The best way to deal with this boss is to try to ignore her comments as much as possible. If she’s just making them under her breath or trying to get a chuckle out of you, make it clear you don’t appreciate them. Don’t laugh and just walk away. Let there be an uncomfortable silence. If she says or does something that crosses the line, like directing derogatory comments towards your coworkers, then you should report her to her boss and the HR department. Never sit idly by if your boss is freely and knowingly harassing employees.
The Scaredy-Cat: This boss is afraid to take on new projects and he’s afraid of new ideas. Your team suffers because instead of being cutting-edge, you’re hiding in the shadows. Even worse, he never has your back—if you propose a new way of doing things or want to try a different approach, he’ll never back you up.
Dealing with this type of boss is all about slowly showing him that there’s nothing to be afraid of. If you excel at your work and show him he can count on you, he’ll be more likely to loosen his grip on the status-quo and start trying new things. Get him to back your ideas in private first, and excel when implementing them, and hopefully, he’ll be more willing to back you in public later.
The Inspector: Do you ever get the feeling you have someone constantly looking over your shoulder? If so, it may be this type of bad boss. She has to review everything you do and asks that you run every little thing by her, from email drafts to social media posts. She slows you down by asking to review everything and crushes your self-confidence in doing so.
This type of boss is difficult to deal with. Chances are she won’t change, even if you show her that you’re more than capable of handling your work. Maybe she’s a control freak or maybe she has trust issues. The best you can do is accommodate your output so that she has enough time to review things and continue to do your best work so she never has cause to think she was right about looking over your shoulder.
The Winger: The polar opposite of the previous kind of bad boss, the “Winger” is never aware of what his team is doing and is never prepared. When a meeting is called to talk about the latest project, he has nothing to report and looks to you and your coworkers to report for him. He wings everything from client pitches to your department’s presentations to upper management.
The best offense for this type of boss is a good defense. Take the Boy Scouts’ motto to heart and “always be prepared.” Ask a lot of questions and make sure to stay on top of your tasks. Just because he doesn’t prepare doesn’t mean you should let your own work slide. Prove to the higher-level staff that, unlike your manager, you’re always on top of things. And who knows—maybe his job will end up being yours someday.
Dealing with a bad boss is never easy. It helps to see clearly what you are dealing with, so you know it’s not just you. Most people are fixed in their ways, so instead of thinking about ways to change your boss, take it as an opportunity to practice your own management skills and “manage” them without them ever realizing you’re doing it.