Having a bad manager can be severely frustrating for any professional. Great managers make the work day easier through prudent organization, strong leadership, quality problem-solving and clear communication. A manager’s leadership skills can strongly influence the productivity of a workplace, for better or worse.
Most seasoned professionals have encountered at least one bad manager in their lifetime. Others have encountered several. What they will tell you is bad managers aren’t just one type — there are several sub-classifications of a bad manager, from those who work too nonchalantly to the overly demanding types with unrealistic expectations.
When learning how to deal with a bad manager, it’s wise to first figure out what you’re dealing with. Out of the five below, which type of bad manager do you have?
- The Indecisive Manager
This manager is never fully confident in their decisions or the decisions of their employees, no matter how many statistics or case studies they’re presented with to validate the decision. Their indecision could be rooted in one of many things; they could be a perfectionist who refuses to make a decision without painstaking deliberation. They could also be fearful of failure, which in their eyes would threaten the position of power they currently hold.
Regardless of the internal reason, the indecisive manager is one who is a real pain to deal with.
How to manage them: You as the employee should enable an indecisive manager to take action, as opposed to relying on them to. Do not seek a decision directly from them. Instead, define the current problem to your manager while asking relevant questions designed to arrive at a conclusion that will result in action.
This process is reminiscent of the Socratic Method, where discussion can advance knowledge and consequently result in wise action. Additionally, it’s important to build trust with indecisive managers; they often need more than one opinion to feel safe regarding a decision, but if it’s from one person they greatly trust then that may be all they need to move forward.
- The Overly Confident Manager
Yeah, that’s a polite term for a know-it-all. These managers always assume they’re the most knowledgeable person in the room and recognize inexperience as a prevalent weakness. Some even have the mindset they are the only ones who truly want to succeed. There could be a brilliant leader under all this egotistical confidence, but it may be up to you to bring it out.
How to manage them: Present your ideas as not fully developed; even if you have a full idea in mind, present fragments so your manager can add on the obvious aspects to reinforce their need to “know it all.” This prevents them from feeling “shown up” while also showcasing your ability to think constructively and collaboratively.
Especially if this type of manager is overbearing and suffocating employees with his presence, pitching him an idea he can build upon will consume his time, so he will get a good impression of you AND provide you with more free time to work without his overbearing presence.
- The Insecure Manager
Managers are supposed to be confident in their own shoes, but some still have great insecurities despite their professional success. Oftentimes this may come across as personal, but it’s prudent for employees to assume it’s strictly related to results. Many times their insecurity arises from a fear of failure that may pertain to end-of-quarter numbers or a particular client deal.
How to manage them: Tackle uncertainty by identifying the root of your manager’s insecurity, if possible. Then do your absolute best to ease his concerns on a daily basis by centering at least some tasks around this concern.
For instance, if they are insecure about their or your ability to communicate with a particular client, provide optimistic weekly updates on the improving prospects for signing the deal, even if some hyperbole is involved. This should decrease their insecurity, raise their confidence and hopefully put them on track to become a better manager.
- The Disorganized Manager
Some managers have very poor organizational skills, resulting in many more consequences beyond a messy desk. Missed meetings, poor teamwork and other problems can occur as the result of their disorganization.
How to manage them: First, identify the most disorganized aspects of the office. For example, if it pertains to which tasks employees should be working at a given moment, consider proposing the implementation of a cloud-based management software that allows all employees to monitor the cumulative goings-on at the office.
With increased knowledge of what everyone else is doing, your manager can feel better organized and work more efficiently alongside everyone else. Plus, for proposing an idea that actually works, you’ll certainly get on their good side.
- The Micro-Manager
In stark contrast to the disorganized manager, the micro-manager prefers to be a bit too organized, peering over employees’ shoulders at every instance to ensure they’re doing precisely what is assigned. What they often don’t realize is that, by doing this, they are preventing themselves from doing more important managerial work. A manager who spends too much time going over your work isn’t devoting enough time to their own, which is no good for anyone.
How to manage them: The main reason why a manager may be micromanaging is a lack of trust. It’s vital to build trust by making sure your work is exceptional, in addition to showing up on time every day. Beyond those obvious good-worker traits, it’s very important to take initiative by providing status reports to your boss — without being prompted — at a consistent time daily or weekly. This will show them impressive initiative and work ethic, building their trust in you and decreasing the chances of them hovering around your workspace again.
In many cases, a motivated employee can actually improve their manager’s work habits and management skills through the strategies above. While some bad managers are so bad that they’re unfortunately beyond repair, many of the five types above can be remedied with the aforementioned approaches.