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7 types of problematic bosses, and how to deal with them

Posted by Shivali Anand

February 14, 2022    |     5-minute read (926 words)

Even the most fulfilling work may become a bad dream when you have a problematic boss. Words like micromanager, narcissist or loose cannon might spring to mind if you work for one. These troublesome bosses can wreak havoc on their teams' morale and hurt retention.

Here, we'll go through the seven "classic" types of bad employers and how to cope with them.

1. The detail-obsessed / micromanager: This boss is always right, and everyone else is wrong. Worse, they may frequently hover, looking for an opportunity to point out your flaws. It’s no surprise that capable employees become irritated by this boss’s tendency to micromanage, which is often expressed through unnecessarily specific directions. The most vexing aspect of this type of manager is their tendency to abruptly turn hands-off when the team requires guidance.

How to deal with this boss: If your boss is a perfectionist who proofreads every email and reviews every spreadsheet, you'll have to appease them, at least for the time being, to acquire their trust. Keep them updated on your progress proactively until they have faith in your abilities. Then you can push the envelope a bit and communicate that you'd like to take on more tasks.

2. The friendly boss: This boss is so focused on building friendships with staff that they overlook work and professionalism. They seek to be acknowledged as "one of the team” rather than the person in charge. They may joke around with their direct reports and socialize with them regularly. To blend in and be liked by their team, a friendly boss is willing to set productivity and leadership aside.

How to deal with this boss: Having this type of boss isn't necessarily a bad thing, but you should be sure to communicate that you also want honest feedback and constructive criticism so you can keep developing. You may need to gently help them set boundaries with their direct reports.

3. The narcissist: Rather than focusing on the company's or workers' well-being, narcissistic leaders are only concerned with one thing: themselves. They've usually kissed more than their fair share of corporate behinds, and they may be preoccupied with impressing those above them to the detriment of those they manage.

How to deal with this boss: The narcissist can be surprisingly easy to deal with. Maintain a positive relationship by amusing them and keep them apprised of your efforts without threatening their ego. They'll probably advance to the next level soon enough.

4. The inaccessible boss: Although you may perceive their frequent absences from the office as a positive at first, the absence of leadership will eventually see issues arise that require their input. Employees may grow disengaged at their seeming lack of oversight, and minimal feedback and exposure might inhibit your professional growth.

How to deal with this boss: Use their absence as an opportunity to stand out. Take command and show off your skills. Find someone else to approve your idea if the boss's phone goes straight to voicemail again. Make use of your resources and collaborate with other teams and management. Your achievements will gain attention.

5. The frantic boss: These bosses are always on the go. Despite their eagerness to know more, they only have one minute to listen to a project update. They will request something from you and then swiftly forget about it. It's possible that the eventual outcome will be confusion.

How to deal with this boss: Send your boss a weekly report or synopsis of the things you're working on. Instead of updating them on the progress of several projects, use the limited time you have together to ask targeted questions.

6. The imbecile: As the term implies, this boss is out of their depth, leaving everyone under their command scratching their heads as to how they go there. But be careful before lumping your boss in this group. Just because you disagree with a particular decision they made doesn't mean your boss is inept; they might just be considering the big picture.

How to deal with this boss: If you believe you've been dealt an inept boss, you're in a tough place. You can either work hard and try not to let your boss's ineptitude reflect adversely on you, or you can speak out to top management about your worries. The latter is a risky strategy, because unless you have backup, you'll likely end up in an awkward situation. In this case, it's better to cut your losses and try your luck somewhere else.

7. The deceiver: There is a tendency to assume that manipulative managers are highly intelligent. However, this isn't usually the case. They do, however, possess a set of abilities that make dealing with them incredibly tough. To begin with, they can take advantage of any situation. Your achievements become their wins, and their mistakes become your misfortunes. They are passive-aggressive most of the time. They also have a secret goal: They'll go to any extent to be promoted, and you're just another stepping stone on their way to the top.

How to deal with this boss: First and foremost, don't try to outsmart them at their own game. They are not only better at it, but because of their position as your boss, they know more than you. You can try to be forthright and honest with them while demonstrating that you are not a threat. Keep your distance, don't appear weak or easily intimidated, and know your rights. Your HR department may be able to help you if they go too far.

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