There’s nothing worse than a bad boss!
You’ve heard the old saying: “People don’t leave jobs, they leave managers.”
Well, guess what? It’s true! And I lived it!
At some point, you’ve probably lived it too. And we’re not alone.
A 2015 report from the market research firm Gallup found that out of 7,200 adults who were surveyed, about 50% left their job “to get away from their manager.”
Welcome to my nightmare
In my case, my direct supervisor was a … OK let’s keep this clean. He was a major, No. 1 jerk with a Napoleon complex!
My co-worker and I did all of his work, while he listened to a political radio show every afternoon and conducted his own private side business (he was in a band) the rest of the day.
And when things didn’t go exactly his way, he would yell, slam things and get in your face!
To say it was a stressful environment would be an understatement.
Luckily for me, my boss’s boss was a very good supervisor. He suspected what was going on, confirmed it and fired the guy.
Otherwise, my boss could have sucked the life out of our department and me!
There are many reasons people leave bad bosses: they aren’t engaged, they don’t trust their leaders, they’re micromanaged, they have no idea how they’re doing because of a complete and total lack of feedback, or, in my case, they’re scared to death of a psycho!
I only wish I knew then, what I know now, some 17 years later. Maybe I could’ve handled the situation better and avoided a lot of stress.
After all, there’s a way to handle just about every bad boss out there!
Let’s start with my ex-boss:
1) The fearmonger boss
This gem of a boss gets his way through fear and intimidation. He feels he needs to scream to be heard by all, and he feeds off the fear of his employees.
Often this sweetheart carries through on his threats and has a high turnover rate from all the firings and from good employees running for the door.
Little did I know then that the key to a handling a mean boss is to address it head on. Don’t be aggressive like he is, but then again don’t be a pushover.
Be strong and say something like, “I’m getting a lot of negative feedback from you lately, and I could use some direction on how you want to handle project A, meeting B, etc.”
Often being super nice and accommodating aggravates this type of person. Standing strong, however, can earn his respect.
Then again, maybe he’s just a psycho. If that’s the case, take it straight to HR. Believe me, these bosses get theirs in the end.
You know what they say about karma!
2) The micromanager boss
You may be an adult, but to the micromanager boss you’re still a child that needs constant supervision. Or at least that’s what he or she thinks.
Really, micromanager bosses are complete and total control freaks. They have to oversee anything and everything anyone does in their department. Nothing can escape their attention.
These bosses can drive anyone crazy!
An easy way to deal with them, give it right back with a big old smile.
Tell them everything you do, when you start, when you finish, when you have any little question, etc.
Drive them crazy by out-micromanaging them!
They’ll either love it, in which case you’re now working for a very happy boss who adores you, or they’ll hate it and give you permission to make decisions on your own.
3) The know-it-all boss
Don’t you wonder how “know-it-all” bosses got so smart?
Here’s a little secret: They’re NOT!
I’m not saying they’re dumb, I’m just saying they’re not as smart as they think they are. Sure, they probably know a lot. They likely didn’t get to where they are by chance.
But whatever their rise-to-glory story may be, these bosses tend not to:
- trust people under them because they aren’t as smart
- listen because others aren’t as smart as they are, so they don’t have anything worthwhile to say, and
- include you on things (Why should they? You aren’t as smart as they are, and you don’t know nearly enough because you aren’t as experienced as they are).
So how do you deal with such egos?
Easy. When you present ideas to them, only paint half the picture. Let them paint the rest. Yes, that’s playing up to their ego, but it gives them part ownership, so you’ll get their immediate buy in.
Plus, it’ll keep them busy and allow you to do your job.
Know-it-all bosses like to be involved with something new all the time. Once you give them something they can sink their teeth into, you’re home free to go about your own business.
4) The unrealistic boss
These supervisors always make work/life interesting.
They promise their bosses, other departments or customers that their staff can have that project done by next week. When in reality it will take close to a month.
But why shouldn’t they promise the world to others?
They aren’t the ones that’ll be coming in early, skipping lunch and burning the midnight oil.
Don’t despair. That can be changed and you don’t even need to complain. Just make them part of the team!
Here’s how: Agree that the project is a great opportunity to shine, but you just want to be crystal clear on how he wants it done.
Sooooo … bring in a calendar, sit down with him and map out every single little teeny tiny detail that needs to be done to meet the deadline.
Show him in black and white how many people it’ll take, how many hours it’ll take each person to accomplish the tasks, and then how many hours you and the department realistically can give to the project.
Then – and this is the key – ask him which tasks you already had before this new project came along does he wants you to drop or put on hold so you can deliver on HIS promise.
5) The manipulator boss
This is one of the most dangerous bosses to work for because you have to be on guard 24/7.
People who work for manipulators should think long and hard about whether or not the job is worth it.
Reason: Manipulators will do everything in their power to get what they want!
They’ll blame others for problems and take credit when it’s not due to them.
Your best bet here is to focus on yourself and your work, and do the best job you can.
When you have to deal with your master manipulator, be straightforward and assertive with her, BUT be calm. Don’t get lured into playing her game, and don’t try to outmaneuver her.
They are masters for a reason and have spent years cultivating their expertise.
Do, however, keep your eyes open for win-win situations and jump on them. The less you’re seen as a threat, the less likely you are to be her target.
Your other best bet: Find a new job and a good boss!
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How lucky was I to have all of these types ROLLED INTO ONE!! The worst part? I WAS HR!! The flip side is that I had wonderful bosses over the years and they were true mentors…
Renee Cocchi says
Wow Maggie that is luck! While I had a real clunker for a boss, it only lasted a year. I’ve been fortunate to have a string of good bosses since then! And I’ve learned from all of them, even the clunker. He taught me what not to do!
You left one out-the Pushover Boss. They allow the manipulative slackers to walk all over them and load the bulk of the work on the responsible workers. They are too weak to confront the bums and try to get others to cajole the slackers into pulling their weight.
Renee Cocchi says
That’s a good one to add to the list! Thanks for sharing. The pushover boss can be very frustrating to work for. These people are often promoted — despite their lack of management skills — because the company was desperate or they were in the right place at the right time. Sometimes it helps to share your knowledge with them so they can grow and learn to be a better boss. On the other hand, if it doesn’t work, you look good in the end by stepping up.
My husband, too, had all five of these types of bosses rolled into one — or should I say two, since the boss’s son took over while his father took a leave of absence — and Boss Junior is even worse than his father. Why? Because he lacks experience running a company as well as having all the traits listed in this article. People are getting fired by him because he wants his ‘own people’ in, and most of the rest are looking for another job. Everyone hates him (and his father) and it is the sickest company I’ve ever heard of. The biggest problem? They own the company and there is no one to keep their bad behavior in check. My husband’s health suffered because of this job and I am so glad he is out of that . . . um, company from that hot place.
John Walston says
Colleen … it’s tough to watch your spouse go through that. I know from personal experience, too.
Thanks, John. It’s good to know I am not alone. This article proves that there are many toxic managers out there and it is difficult on the employee’s self-esteem to work for one of them.
You forgot the sarcasm boss. He doesn’t teach or explain how something is wrong, he just sarcastically comments on the issue. “Wow. Didn’t think that through, did you?” – “Do you really think that’s done?” – It can be hard to reply to comments that make you feel small. A tip – be straightforward. “I did all the steps I was taught, can you show me where I went wrong?” Don’t be afraid to say that you need better instruction when review time comes along.
Renee Cocchi says
Thanks Lisa, that’s another good one to add to the list, and we appreciate the advice on how to handle the sarcasm boss! It’s a shame there are so many different kinds of bad bosses out there that we didn’t list them all. If there are any others you can think of, feel free to add them!
You forgot about the ‘Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde’ in public and to those who kiss up to him all the time he pretends to be the benevolent benefactor. Woe to anyone that gets on his bad side. He combines aspects of all 5 types then throws in his own special twist of character defamation and passively and actively encouraging co-workers to ‘hop on the band wagon’ by both passively and actively rewarding them for doing what he doesn’t have the guts or valid reason to do. Even after he’s managed to run off great employees he’ll not stop there. He’ll take any opportunity to smear an ex-employees name and good reputation. He’s the ultimate ‘con’ man……..
Renee Cocchi says
That’s another good one Angela. Thanks for adding it. This may be one of those bosses where it’s in your best interest to cut your losses and move on.
However, for those who choose to stay, experts recommend looking for patterns. What sets the person off? Are they better at one time of day? Answer these questions and then avoid them during their bad times. Another piece of advice, don’t take what he or she says personally. I know easier said than done. But remember they are probably lashing out at something that has nothing to do with you. Stay positive and continue to do the best job you can. And finally document all incidents with Mr. Hyde so you have proof of the abusive behavior.
I don’t disagree that your advice applies to the majority of situations where this occurs. Most people who find themselves *stuck* in this type of situation usually learn how to survive this type of Boss.
As long as nothing changes for Dr. Jekyll then the situation is tolerable for the employee. The danger for some employees with a Boss of this type is if the Boss is suddenly in a situation where he feels personally threatened. Perhaps an ‘investigation’ or ‘review’ that he ‘needs’ to result in a positive outcome. That employee… that he believed it was his ‘right’ to ‘exploit’…. could suddenly be seen as his greatest threat. Out comes Mr. Hyde and the greater the threat he perceives the employee to be, the more extreme the measures Mr. Hyde will resort to.
This is the type of Boss that is often at the heart of what has been termed ‘mobbing’ and the damage they are willing to inflict and the number of people they are willing to involve is in direct proportion to what they stand to loose. It is not uncommon for employees who have been victims of this type of Boss, to find that not only co-workers, but family, friends and even people that don’t know them, believe that the employee was somehow at fault or could have done something different to prevent the situation and therefore to blame for their resulting situation
I have been fortunate over the years to have pretty good bosses for the most part. My worst was a narcissist boss a number of years back. No matter what was going on, everything had to center around him. The really bad thing was he really did not understand the many facets of the business. He only lasted a couple of years but by then four managers, myself included, had left the organization. My current boss is a micromanager but I have learned how to work with him. He’s better than the narcissist and I’m hoping to retire in just a few years.
Renee Cocchi says
I’m glad Tim that you’ve had your share of good bosses, because it sounds like you’ve had your challenges, too. It’s a shame when companies lose good managers due to bad bosses. It’s costs them in a number of ways in the end! Good luck with your retirement!
Do you have an article for 5 Bosses you want to work for? I’d like to hear the other positive side. That would be interesting.
Renee Cocchi says
Right now I don’t, James. But you’re right, that would be an interesting article, and I will put that on my schedule to write! Stay tuned!
I have had pieces of many of these types of bosses mentioned. I have learned from all of them – learned what kind of boss I would want to be when I get there. Thanks for the descriptions and mostly for how to deal with each. I have shared this with the team.
Renee Cocchi says
Patti, I’m so glad you found the information useful to share with your team! I think we can all learn from bad bosses, what not to do, and good ones, what to do. They are all learning experiences, as long as you don’t let them affect your mental and physical health!
Jaya,t Trew, says
Crisp and to the point.
I had 4 of the 5 in one company, not all my bosses but they were my next level up. Battle scarred then but wiser today.
Renee Cocchi says
Glad to hear that despite a bad situation you learned from it and moved on! Congrats!
Graciano Matos says
Like many others I have supervisor that has the five issues mentioned plus some of the others described in the comments. I got to the point where I avoid speaking to him. Actually I have such aversion to his ways that I have stayed home on sick leave because just cannot take it anymore. But the one issue that I feel is behind all the crap he put out is that he is actually a coward who runs for cover at the slightest threat I mean this figuratively and literally at the same time.
Renee Cocchi says
I agree with you 100%. When people use tactics like these, they’re often compensating for their own inadequacies.
Cheryl R says
Interesting tone in the descriptions- Fear-mongers and unrealistic bosses were men, know it all’s and micromanagers were neutral and the manipulator boss was a woman.
So many examples of other bad bosses. Please let me add another – the “Empty Suit”. They are the boss by title or position, but are effectively never there. No direction, no support, no input. Quite often, it is backed up with the phrase – “You are the expert, you tell me …”.
Sometime autonomy is a good thing, but being in an organizational vacuum can be crippling
Wayne Orvold says
Wow. I can see all but number 1 in my boss. He thinks he is overwhelmed, so he puts projects on my plate that is usually done by multiple people in other workplaces. He micromanages everything that anyone does. He thinks he is smarter than anyone else and he will tell you that. He is probably one of the best manipulator I have seen. I guess I should be looking for a new job.
How about that INSECURE Boss? The one that does not welcome fresh ideas, Change, and just a different perspective? Immediate Bosses that put you down while their Boss commends you. It makes you not trust that boss. The topic of my shoes or professional attire should not be. It’s unfortunate that Women do it to each other, I am here to grow and learn under your leadership. When I look good it’s a reflection on you. When I do good it’s a reflection on who our department has become under your leadership. You’ll have to retire and it is me who will wear your shoes gracefully. Mandatory Reading. Who Moved My Cheese?