National Boss Day, on Oct. 16, offers a chance for you to thank your boss for all their hard work.
However, there’s a chance your boss is a terrible leader — not exactly the type of person you want to celebrate.
While you can’t change how your boss acts, you can control your own reactions. “When your boss is incompetent, you step up,” says Nicole Williams, LinkedIn’s career expert. “You’re not going to play the victim or the martyr, you’re going to see this as an opportunity to take a leadership role, and compensate for whatever your boss is doing.”
Dealing with a difficult boss comes down to figuring out where they’re failing and making up for it through your own work. “It’s not going to help you to play the martyr and complain about your boss,” Williams says. Instead, figure out ways you can work your behaviour into that boss’s style so you’ll both succeed.
Williams walked us through the worst types of bosses and how to deal with their shortcomings. Here are the top seven:
1. The ice block
Some bosses like to keep a divide between their personal and professional lives, making it difficult to form a genuine connection. “This boss seems to be very cold, aloof, and hard to get to know,” Williams says.
In this case, you need to be the one who takes the first step. Find out where they went to school, who they know, or where they have worked before — any common ground you can connect over. “Chances are, he or she won’t try and initiate conversation, but if you ask great questions, especially smart ones, they’re more likely to answer,” Williams says.
2. The serial innovator
This boss is always jumping from idea to idea, making it difficult to fully focus on one project. “They always have a new idea and expect the same from the rest of the team,” Williams explains. “Even while you’re in the midst of working on a project, he’s already on to the next.”
The best way to deal with a boss who is all over the place is to stay on top of new ideas as well. Constantly check LinkedIn, know what similar companies are doing, and keep your ear to the ground for any new innovations in your industry. “If your boss walks in and asks if you saw that article in The Wall Street Journal, you have to know it,” Williams says.
3. The boss who plays favourites
The people this boss likes seem to get all the benefits, from attending an out of town conference to earning a coveted promotion. If you’re not one of the lucky few, shift your focus elsewhere. “Get the attention of other people within your organisation, and he or she will see that someone else — someone they respect — like and appreciate you, and that’s going to give them pause and give you a second round of consideration,” Williams advises.
However, favoritism can be tough from both sides. If you’re the boss’s pet, your colleagues likely think that you receive opportunities solely because of your relationship, and not your talents, Williams warns. In this case, do your best to stand out separate from your boss and prove yourself as an individual.
If your boss is constantly looking over your shoulder, you need to prove they can trust you.
4. The micromanager
Micromanagers have trouble relinquishing control, and constantly bombard you with emails and reminders, no matter how many times you promised to follow-up on a project. “It’s such a competitive workplace, and people are afraid to delegate opportunity because they’re afraid it’s going to go wrong,” Williams says.
The best way to deal with a controlling boss is to over-communicate until you earn their trust. Williams recommends asking questions to prove that you’re competent. “This person wants to answer a lot of questions, so do that,” she says.
5. The “talker, not a walker”
This type of boss is all talk, no action.”The problem is that their ideas are essentially great, but nothing in terms of the development of your experience and talents will happen unless they’re executed,” Williams says.
If you’re dealing with this boss, you need to be the one who steps up and takes charge. “Be the one who gets the ball rolling, who takes the first step to build the momentum,” Williams suggests. Your boss and teammates will appreciate the effort.
6. The thunder thief
This type of boss not only steals everyone’s ideas and takes credit, but also tends to put down other people in the process. “It’s hard to sneak around and get credit because a lot of time they’re having conversations that you’re not privy to,” Williams says. “You have no way of defending yourself.”
If your boss is petty enough to take your ideas and go over your head with them, it’s best to keep your distance. Rather, focus on ways you can make yourself known independently. Williams recommends posting pictures and updates on a site like LinkedIn, so others can see your involvement in a project.
7. The indecisive boss
Similar to the “talker, not a walker,” this boss gets nothing done because they’re afraid of making decisions. “This is the person who isn’t usually experienced at managing, and doesn’t know how to delegate,” Williams says.
An indecisive boss leaves you a chance to take on a surrogate leadership role by stepping up and pushing them to make a decision. “Give them options where they feel some source of empowerment and control, but essentially you’re presenting the options to them and limiting the scope,” Williams suggests. By asking them to choose between two things, they feel like they’re making the decisions, but you’ve already done the work to narrow things down.
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