Whistleblowing in the Workplace
Dealing with Difficult Employees in the Workplace

Difficult Bosses

Workplace Stress: Dealing with Difficult Bosses

Some difficult bosses are irrational or worse, while others have irritating habits and excessive demands especially in today’s lean and mean workplace expectations for productivity. And sometimes an employee and a boss are just a bad mix.  If you’re not happy with your manager, you need to determine if the problem lies with you, your boss, or the combination of your personalities. 

Mary G. MacIntyre identifies five types of difficult bosses and strategies to deal with them.

The Micromanager

  • Oversight is overbearing. Wants to be involved in every decision.Does not want to give up control.
  • Make the manager comfortable with your decisions and actions. Try to anticipate issues of concern to him/her and reach an agreement which ones you can make independently.

The Procrastinator

  • Poorly organized in words and expectations. Afraid to make the wrong decision. Reluctance to make decisions until input is over-analyzed.
  • Seek step by step approval for your work. Anticipate the people to be consulted by the manager and approach them before beginning the work assignment.

The jerk

  • Overly critical and may make personal attacks. The jerk does not know he/she is a jerk. They make hasty decisions without the necessary knowledge or information. 
  • If your manager is approachable, offer information in a helpful way.  Don’t be condescending and show respect for the knowledge or experience that your manager does have.  Offer alternatives and explain, in a non-judgmental way, the benefits of your point of view.
  • Don’t try to demonstrate your superior knowledge.  Doing so could be hazardous to your career.

The Dictator

  • Authoritative but may be open to input. May believe he/she has all the answer and expects everything to be done their way.
  • Be respectful of your manager’s ideas and approaches.  Don’t be confrontational. Don’t be argumental or induce defensiveness. Start sentences with “do you think we might” or “could we consider” instead of “we should” or “we have to”. 
  • Never tell dictatorial managers they “can’t” do something.  That makes them very angry.

The Abuser

  • May get upset and yells, but then calms down, talks rationally, and may even apologize. May be verbally abusive and even physically threatening and engage in sexual harassment. These days you may experience bullying in the workplace as one of my previous blogs point out.
  • With mild abusers, avoid the natural “fight or flight” reaction and remain in a calm, rational mode.  People feel stupid being angry by themselves, so the manager will usually calm down and may be willing to engage in a discussion. If the stress becomes too great, polish up your resume and look for a saner place to work.

I have received many questions over the years how to handle difficult bosses. In addition to the above, I recommend learning to deal with conflict using your head and not your heart. Don’t get caught up in your manager’s games. Assess whether all employees are treated the same way or just you. Do you have conflicts with others in the workplace? Consider speaking to a trusted advisor or, if necessary, your boss’ supervisor. Don't stand for bullying in the workplace.

I offer free workplace advice on an anonymous basis so consider asking a question on the main page of my blog and I’ll respond within 24 hours. Remember, no job is worth jeopardizing your health or family relationships.

Blog posted by Steven Mintz, aka Ethics Sage. on July 23, 2011