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Manage Your Manager – How To Cope With Ineffectual Leadership

Manage Your Manager - How To Cope With Ineffectual Leadership

Why should you manage your manager?

There have been several companies I’ve worked for in the past that, whilst having a good “social” relationship with my manager(s), I have felt un-wanted and un-rewarded by what I would class as bad management.

When I say “bad”, I don’t mean evil in a Freddie Kruger way, it can come in a variety of styles and disguises. Not only can they drive you to a nervous breakdown with their ineffectual management styles, they can also make you look exceptionally stupid and kill any chance of a pay rise/promotion/parking place that you may once had.

Bad managers are everywhere – you may even be one yourself and not even know it! Whilst some of this article takes a rather light-hearted (even tongue in cheek) look at managing a manager, I think there are some important points here that you’ll hopefully be able to use on your own boss (or indeed yourself).

Do you have, or are you a Bad Manager?

Have a look at the following list and see if you can recognise any of your managers (or your own!) bad traits. This is by no means comprehensive but it covers most management traits:

The Over-Promoted Manager

Has no idea what you do or how you do it and is completely out of their depth. They got to this position through:

  • Brown nosing
  • Nepotism
  • They had to be placed somewhere as redundancy wasn’t an option (i.e. too costly)
  • They can’t be fired as they have a secret video of the CEO with Madam Whiplash
  • They simply had the “right face” (or hair if you’re a Dilbert fan) for the job

This type of manager is frustrating as you have no-one to go to for guidance and when you do manage to collar them, their attitude is “Whatever you think is best…”

This boss may gradually turn into the “Invisible Man”

Scaredy Cat

This boss is very ineffectual for fear of upsetting anyone in the company from the CEO to the caretaker. They rarely make decisions and when they do it’s usually on someone else’s recommendations so they can pass the blame.

This boss was probably quite effective in the past but made one mistake (major or minor) and is now paranoid that the higher-ups are watching their every move and waiting to pounce.

Never, ever, expect them to make a decision.

The Bully

This type of boss Always knows what is right (even if it’s blatantly wrong) and won’t take “No” for an answer. They’ll ignore every recommendation you make, often bypassing you for another colleague they’ll know will toe-the-line.

The Bully will often keep odd hours and moan that you didn’t respond to the email they sent at midnight until 8.45am.But, as my Mum would say, they’re “All mouth and no trousers” and got to where they are for taking the credit and trampling on those beneath them.

Shirker

The Shirker thinks that work is where you go to drink free coffee, surf the net (or nap) all day and get free stationary.

The Shirker passes on work to everyone and anyone (whether they have authority over them or not) and then takes the credit for getting it delivered on time, thus keeping them in the cozy manner to which they are accustomed.

It’s not that The Shirker can’t do their job, unlike the Over-Promoted Boss, but rather that they won’t.

Expect a Shirker to increase your workload by about a million percent – no annual leave for you under this boss!

Major-General

The Major-General could be ex-army, Territorial (or National Guard in the U.S), have parents in the military or could just be a pain in the backside.

The Major-General micro-manages to the point where nothing can get done without forms being signed in triplicate by the Tooth Fairy, Wicked Witch of the West and Father Christmas.

The attention to detail that the Major-General pays would put someone with OCD to shame, and they’ll eventually rip the project from your (more than capable) hands and end up doing it themselves, not forgetting to complain about how “over-worked” they are.

Nothing you do for a Major-General will ever, ever, ever be good enough.

The Invisible Man (or woman)

The Invisible Man, as the name would suggest, can never be found – particularly in moments of crisis.

They will often be out of the office on client “meetings”, or in the office locked in “meetings” when everyone in the department knows full well that they are busy redecorating their kitchen or surfing E-Bay to find that “perfect” cushion.

The Invisible Man will essentially let the department run itself, often with a more senior team member taking on the role of manager, which is all well and good until something needs signing off.

This can be accomplished – as if by magic – by leaving something on the Invisible Man’s desk where it will be signed and deposited in your in-tray without anyone – not even the CCTV cameras – witnessing the manager entering the building.

Sightings of the Invisible Man are so rare you may even sit next to him (or her) in the canteen and not even know it.

The Idealist

In theory, this should be an ideal boss to work for. They want all their employees to be happy, well rewarded, well rounded individuals. They’re basically a hang-over from the flower-power movement in the 60s and 70s.

Whilst this may look like a great boss to work for on paper, the Idealist may actually be one of the worst. Caring more about morals, how you “feel” and whether your cubicle has the right “chi” means that nothing really gets accomplished as it’s more about feelings than action.

The Idealist will often be at odds with higher-up management decisions, branding them evil capitalists, and this can have a negative impact on you and your standing within the company.

The Idealist is still with the company as they were there when it was founded and can’t be fired, they only stay themselves as they feel that it’s better to fight “the fight” from within the system.

Expect a lot of group therapy sessions and hugging if you have an Idealist Manager.

The Weasel

The final entrant in our “Bad Management Hall of Fame” is The Weasel.

This boss is by far the most deadly, and hated throughout the cosmos. The Weasel is worse than the Gestapo and will pounce on any comment, email, voicemail or thought and go running to HR to denounce you as the Devil incarnate.

The Weasel is part Over-Promoted, part Major-General, part Shirker and part Spanish Inquisition (and nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition).

The Weasel got to where they are today by trampling on anyone and everything that gets in their way, and unlike the other managers who probably don’t know that what they’re doing just isn’t cricket, The Weasel loves every minute of it and takes pleasure in the discomfort of their “underlings”.

Stay away from a Weasel at all costs – you can’t manage this weirdo and you’ll be sacked for gross misconduct before you can say “PHB”.

So you’ve figured out the Boss Type – How do you deal with them?

The first step is to decided whether you want to use an offensive or defensive strategy and this will depend on manager types:

Offensive

  • Major-General
  • The Weasel
  • The Bully
  • The Shirker

 

Defensive

  • The Idealist
  • Over-Promoted
  • Scaredy Cat
  • The Invisible Man

Offensive strategy means you go out all guns blazing, with demands – threats even. Defensive strategy is a more “softly, softly”, “touchy-feely” approach centring on your faults rather than the managers.

Know what you want in order to get it

There’s no point in launching a major “manage your boss” initiative if you don’t know what you want to achieve from the exercise.

So, what is it that you actually want from your manager? Emails responded to in 24 hours (or less)? More freedom to manage XYZ project yourself? More input and support when dealing with the difficult client Mr ABC?

Write a list of the desired outcome(s) that you would like to see from your manager, not only as a reminder of what you’re asking for but so you have some measurable goals to achieve.

Speaking of measurable goals…

How are you going to judge if something is working or a success? Obviously if emails are responded to in the time frame you specified that’s an achieved target but what of the more emotional aspects of your goals such as “I want you to be nicer to everyone” – that’s a broad church so it may be better to break such a target down into more manageable (and achievable) bite-sized chunks.

Communication Style

It’s important to recognise your bosses communication style. There’s no point leaving a voicemail if he doesn’t pick them up or respond to them, like wise there’s no point sending an email if your bosses style is more face-to-face.

Figure out which style your boss is more comfortable with dealing with an plan your “attack” along those lines.

Treat your boss as a client

Don’t be afraid to tell your boss what it is that you want, after all you have a clear contract set out with all of you clients listing expectations, deliverable dates, end product etc. why can’t you have the same contract with other employees in your firm?

This is especially important if you’re using the offensive strategy.

Manage your boss like you would manage a client, if you need something done within a certain time frame; ask him politely, mention what’s at stake (and for whom) if it isn’t done on time, if using the offensive strategy CC your bosses boss in on these communications, get an agreement (i.e. a sign-off) that they will provide this by a certain time.

In a defensive strategy, mention what it means to you, personally, and what it will mean for your boss. In an offensive strategy, mention what it will mean for your boss and the company (not you as they won’t care a bit).

If a response isn’t forthcoming, in an offensive strategy go over your bosses head – let their boss know how ineffectual your boss is being (hence the CC’ing in the first place). In a defensive strategy, book a one-to-one (in the case of The Invisible Man it may be worth while CC’ing their boss in and asking them to attend too just in case they disappear off the face of the planet again) as a face-to face approach will be lest intimidating for them.

Your manager has a boss too

Don’t forget that your manager reports to someone, whether they be slightly higher on the food chain, the CEO or all the major shareholders, your boss has to ultimately report to someone.

Make sure that what you’re asking for isn’t at odds with what your boss wants (or is requested) to do. If you make it clear that whatever happens you’re on his side then it’ll help things run a lot more smoothly and they’ll be more willing to help you out, after all “I scratch your back, you scratch mine”.

Regular meetings

Once you have the ball rolling – with even a small change in your bosses behaviour – keep it going by scheduling regular “meetings” with your boss.

These can be physical sit-down meetings, an email updating him on project status or a quick ‘phone call to touch base. Once you have him begin to communicate with you, don’t let all of your hard work come undone by losing momentum.

Conclusion

These are just a few basic techniques to help you on your way to start managing your boss and turn them into someone you actually enjoy working for – of course if you’re boss is a stubborn, pig-headed weasel, they may ignore you completely and get you fired for going over their heads but in that case do you really want to work for a person/company that treats you like that?

My last piece of advice, which may seem trivial now but could be of utmost importance at some point in the future, is to keep a record of every email you send. I have had no end of bosses saying to me “I didn’t get that, you obviously didn’t send it” whilst sat around the meeting room with the companies major directors.

“Ha!” Thinks the boss, “I managed to wriggle out of that one.”

“I thought you might say that,” I say, “If you turn to page 3 on the agenda you’ll see a copy.” And there it is for all to see with the From, To and Date/Time sent – who looks like a moron now?

Now it’s your turn…

Are there any boss types or techniques for dealing with them that I’ve missed? Perhaps you think this is a load of twaddle and you should leave well alone?

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