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Common Boss Types and How to Deal with Them

written by: theMallorys•edited by: Elizabeth Wistrom•updated: 5/25/2011

Different boss types require different strategies if you want to succeed in the workplace. Whether your boss is breathing down your neck or if you hardly ever see this person, you’ll want to know how to deal with them effectively. Learn about four different boss types, how they can impact your job,

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    One of the worst job experiences you can have as an employee is to end up with one of the boss types that are not compatible with your personality. While opposites attract in many other situations, conflicting personalities in the workplace can be a source of stress and even job loss. You need effective strategies to deal with these common boss types:

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    1 – Micro-Manager

    The best way to characterize the micro-manager is one who hardly lets you out of their sight. The micro-manager will make a point to “check in" with you often throughout the day. They feel an overwhelming sense of loss of control when they delegate work to you, and want to reclaim it by closely monitoring everything you do. A micro-manager will not share decision-making powers, and will require you to report on everything you do as soon as you do it. If your boss is a micro-manager, here are some strategies to help you deal with it:

    • Don’t turn your boss who normally is not a micro-manager into one by missing deadlines or failing to complete essential jobs properly
    • Gain your boss’ trust by going above and beyond in any projects assigned
    • Write memos for larger projects, summarizing assignments and deadlines, and ask for your boss to review it and confirm its accuracy
    • Be diligent in carrying out all instructions provided to you by your boss

    It takes time for a micro-manager to give up some control in the workplace, but any boss can be won over if you’re a skilled, trustworthy and competent employee.

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    2 – Hands-Off Manager

    The direct opposite of the micro-manager and one of the most common boss types is the hands-off manager. You have to hunt down this boss to get feedback, instructions or training. A hands-off manager may give the wrong impression; you might feel like they’re lazy or don’t care about your success. That may be true in some cases, but often a hands-off manager is an introvert. They prefer to work alone, and in doing so, will isolate themselves from you or other employees. You may enjoy working for this type of boss to some extent, but at some point, you’re going to want feedback and training to do well on the job and advance. Here are some ways to deal with a hands-off manager:

    • Request a meeting and show up with specific questions about assignments and your job performance
    • Set your own milestones for projects and check in with your boss each time you reach one
    • Don’t ask your boss to micro-manage you, because your boss may begin to question whether you’re the best person for the job
    • Document everything, because a lot of time may pass between your boss assigning you a project and the deadline for completion

    If your boss’ hands-off approach causes you to do your job poorly, then you have to act sooner rather than later. If none of these strategies lead to your boss providing you with the support you need, then you may have to confront your boss in a professional manner about the issue.

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    3 – Team Builder

    One of the least common boss types is the team builder. Many bosses are friendly in the workplace and can strike up a conversation all day long with employees, but lack the skill or desire to build a team that can effectively work together to accomplish the goals of the business. A team builder boss is still human and not perfect, so you’ll need to how to deal with one before problems arise:

    • Try to get feedback on your individual performance and not just the group performance
    • Seek individual time with your boss, away from the group, to get feedback, training or to clarify instructions that other team members cannot
    • Offer helpful suggestions, feedback and professional criticisms during group meetings to show your commitment to advancing the group

    Having a team builder boss can be one of the best things to ever happen to you in the work environment. Your boss will strike a balance between micro-managing and being hands-off, as well as provide you with the skills necessary to make you and the entire team successful.

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    4 – Self-Absorbed/Blamer

    The worst boss to end up with is one who is self-absorbed. You exist to advance their career, to be a scapegoat when things go wrong and to do all the tasks your boss doesn’t want to do. This type of boss shows little interest in training you, because you’re viewed as a potential threat. It’s all about making them look good for their supervisor or the owner of the business. If you don’t make your boss shine, your boss will find a way to get rid of you, and they often blame you and other employees when things go wrong. Here are some tips for dealing with a self-absorbed boss:

    • Find an experienced worker to help you solve problems with your assigned duties
    • Let your self-absorbed boss’ attitude motivate you to launch your own business, at least part-time to start
    • Build relationships with other key managers in your company, so that your opportunities to get promoted aren’t dependent on one person’s recommendation
    • Keep a work diary, documenting any interactions you have with your boss

    You must keep a diary to protect yourself when you’re dealing with a self-absorbed boss who also likes to blame others. If there’s a lawsuit, you’ll need the documentation to help defend yourself or prove your case.

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    In most cases, you won’t have much of a choice in which one of these boss types you end up with. You may be able to head off trouble by asking employers questions during an interview. It’s fine to inquire about the management style of the person who will be supervising you.

    Image Credit: Jana Koll