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The Three Types Of Bosses That Drive You Crazy And What To Do About It

Wouldn’t it be great to work for a boss who is competent, understanding, and supportive? Unfortunately, that’s not always reality. From my own corporate career as well as the experiences of my coaching clients, I know that having the perfect boss is nearly impossible. It’s critical for your success to learn how to deal with the boss you have.  Sure, you can change jobs, and that might be necessary sometimes when the situation is so toxic that there’s no solution. But you never know what type of new boss you’ll get in your next job and company. The best first step is to try to understand your boss and learn how to deal with their personality. There’s no doubt. Sometimes our bosses we can be extremely difficult.

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Early in my career, I had a male boss who was such a misogynist and bully that he intimidated me. I avoided him as much as possible. He didn’t bully me perse. But his personality was so strong and abrasive that I was silent in his presence. I didn’t seek him out and let him know what I was working on; what I achieved and how I did it. This avoidance did not serve me well. When a potential promotion was available in my territory, I had no relationship with him. He didn’t understand my value and I was overlooked for that job.

The lesson here for me is that no matter what your boss’s personality is, observe them, figure out their motivations, their triggers, and learn how to work with them in a way that benefits both of you.

I asked Vicky Oliver, author of Bad Bosses, Crazy Coworkers & Other Office Idiots, what are the worst types of bosses; the types that drive workers most crazy. Her answer was bullies, absentee bosses, and narcissists. She offers her best advice on how to deal with these different bosses.

The absentee boss. Often, the absentee boss can’t help the fact that he or she is not around. Maybe there were cuts, so this type of boss is trying to manage several different offices, located a time zone or two apart. You need the boss’s approval on a project, a green light to go forward. Problem is, you can’t find him. You email… you leave voice messages. But the boss is on an airplane or on route to an airport. And there is not a system in place to handle this boss’s absences.

Solution: If your boss is not available, sometimes you just need to go with your gut, and let good sense guide you. Think about what you believe your boss would do–and do it. Eventually, a decision maker, be it your boss or someone else in a position of authority, will get back to you with feedback. If your decisions were good, the feedback will be positive. But even negative feedback gives you a chance to grow and learn. Take heart that an absentee boss needs people under him or her who can make good decisions and add value. If you are doing this consistently, a promotion may lie in your future.

The bully. The bully has it in for you. He or she yells at you, dressing you down in front of other workers. Even passing by his office makes you cringe. The bullying may take place in person or via email. Either way, you hate working for this person and want to leave.

Solution: Do not lose your cool. Wait till the bullying episode has stopped. Never challenge a bully in the midst of his yelling tirade. Instead, wait for a quiet time a few days after the incident. Pass by his or her office. Knock on the door and ask if you can have a moment. Recount the episode. Tell your boss how you felt during that situation. Sometimes just being made aware of the behavior can help tone down a bully’s ire. You can’t cower. You need to let the person know that you feel bullied and belittled, and that you don’t find it to be professional behavior. If the bullying took place in a group email, resist the temptation to fire back an immediate response. Cool down. Walk away from the screen. Write an email — and save it in your drafts folder. Then, 24 hours later, rewrite the email to make it sound as neutral as possible. Defend yourself via email — but strike a professional tone.

The narcissist. Narcissists charm their employees, initially seeming to care about their development. Gradually, though, as their underlings grow, the narcissist’s true nature shows through. They seem to no longer value the employee’s input. They say “No,” a lot, and now it seems they are holding the person back.

Solution: Try to be your own motivator. Focus on making a good impression on others. Maybe there’s a lateral move you can make to another team or department before your boss completely turns on you. Give yourself extra assignments. Offer to pitch in a lot Maybe offer to help with social media for the whole company. Try to raise your profile so that others discover you. You will need to leave, so be diligent about planning your escape route.

At the end of the day, you can only control your own behavior. Despite how difficult your boss is, chances are they aren’t going to change. Over the course of your career, you will have many different bosses who present a variety of challenges. Learning to manage these different types of bosses, will help you develop your own leadership style and be successful in the long run.

Bonnie Marcus, M.Ed, CEC,  is an executive coach, professional speaker, and author of The Politics of Promotion: How High Achieving Women Get Ahead and Stay Ahead. She is currently working on her second book about ageism and women over 50 in the workplace.

Originally published at Forbes

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