Empower employees to manage bad bosses
Employees can help manage a bad boss and avoid messy personality clashes, according to behavioural experts.
Set expectationsIn a new job, employees have an opportunity to clarify expectations from the start, Saunders says.
This can be done informally over a coffee. "Say to the boss, 'what does your picture of success look like, in terms of my role? What do you want to see a lot of, or very little of, and I'll see if I can match those or do better.'"
But if the relationship is older and experiencing problems, it's not too late to do something about it, he says.
"Put your hand up and say 'how are we going to best work together? Here are my wants, tell me about yours and let's build a bridge and get to the other side'."
"Mirror" a manager's style to avoid clashesClashes and difficulties communicating with a manager can be avoided if employees understand their personality style and how to deal with them, says behavioural specialist Nathan Chanesman.
Chanesman, the founder and CEO of assessment firm MyProfile, says the key to a good working environment is to identify and mirror the boss's personality style.
'Driver' bosses are those that "tell you what to do, how they want it done, and that they want it done 'now'", he says. These bosses tend to underestimate the time it takes to do something and the work required, and can come across as control freaks who make decisions quickly, micro-manage, and ask for reports they don't read. They raise their voice, have a quick temper and often lack people skills.
To keep them on side, he says, employees should:
To keep on good terms with a promoter boss, employees should:
Chanesman advises employees who want to keep this type of boss on their side to:
Analysers can be unsociable and introverted and have trouble dealing with people issues, he says. "They are hard to please, can lack a sense of humour and fail to see the funny side of a situation."
To maintain a good working relationship with this type of boss, Chanesman says employees must:
Turn a bad situation aroundIn cases where a difficult boss is causing ongoing problems, Saunders says a third party should become involved to help discuss the issues.
This person needs to focus on the issues, not the personalities, and see if common ground can be reached, he says. The two parties should clarify their goals and make promises that they can honour.
"Focus on the issues; don't waste time on trivia. An employee can give the boss quality information and the boss and employee can check each other's personality out."
They might be "complete opposites" (e.g. a controlling boss who's paranoid about resistance versus an ambitious "driver" personality who feels smothered and not trusted), but "it's important to move off personalities and remember why you're there", Saunders says.
"At the end of the day the employee and the boss are there for much the same reasons. Each wants to come to work to make a difference, to succeed, to be appreciated for a job well done and to be kept in the information loop."
If the discussion becomes too heated and difficult, the third party should call a time-out and start again the next day with a fresh mind, he says.
"Dangerous" to go over their headSaunders says it's very dangerous for an employee to go over their boss's head when experiencing problems.
"There are times when you need to do that but it's a risky career move. If you go over the boss's head, it's likely the boss will want your head in return."
Exceptions to this rule include when the manager is acting dishonestly, immorally, fraudulently or deceitfully, he says, or when the employee has real evidence of their lack of ability as a manager.
(Employees who are aware of their boss's illegal or immoral behaviour should "get out as fast as you possibly can", he says. There are no winners in these situations and, "if you hang around you're condoning their behaviour implicitly.")
Saunders notes that "some bosses treat their staff like rubbish, but bad news rises slowly to the surface" and their superiors might not be aware. If going to their boss's superior, employees should say: "Here is the real story from where I sit. Here are some examples [of the behaviour]; we'd like your help."
10 tips to avoid conflictSaunders says that to avoid conflict with their superior, all employees should:
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