Determine Whether Your Boss's Actions Are Personality or Personal
Before reacting to a difficult boss, client, coworker, and so on, determine whether the behavior or actions are personal or personality. There is a difference.
Some people are abrasive by nature. In fact, this trait might have helped them reach a level of authority. They might be naturally decisive and have high expectations. Both of these can be extremely desirable for a business.
You must determine if your difficult boss is difficult for everyone. If that's the case, you can take solace in this fact. Your boss is not personally attacking you. It is simply the way this person relates.
Although it might be difficult to clearly classify each boss's personality style, the following list is indicative of some you might meet. Also, any given boss could have multiple traits.
- The Micromanager— I'll start with this trait first. It is the Dilbertized caricature of a boss who attempts to get involved in every decision or task you undertake. Usually highly egotistical, this type of boss wants to ensure his ideas are acted upon. For me, this is the most challenging type of boss. I am highly independent and entrepreneurial in nature. I want broad objectives and then to be left alone to achieve them. For employees who do not want to make any mistakes and are risk averse, micromanagers might work, but most employees have a hard time with them.
- The Dictator— Similar to the Micromanager, this person wants everything to be done his way. There is no room for independent thought or action. This person is extremely controlling in his approach and deals harshly with any deviation. In many cases, this person might have been highly skilled in what he did to achieve his position, so an overactive ego resulted. Success with this type of boss involves bringing him into your ideas early so that he views the ideas as something he helped create.
- The Company Mouthpiece— This boss might find it difficult to stick up for his employees. If resources are needed for a project's success, and the company does not want to spend the money, this boss can spell doom for a project. Often, this boss has risen to his position through political maneuvering and is hesitant to take chances or take on even marginally risky projects. If you are like me and want to see dramatic career growth, you must avoid this type of manager.
- The Screamer— I've worked for a manager who literally banged on tables in anger and screamed. This type A personality can intimidate a staff. Usually, this type of boss is highly driven and is internally stressed about project success. He can become frustrated and agitated when others show similar stress.It is important that you separate your activity from this manager's behavior. I used to tell this manager that he stressed out for both of us—and then I would concentrate on the tasks at hand. Some people become highly productive when they are stressed, but in most cases, this behavior is detrimental to the work at hand.
- Everyone's Friend— This manager can often be highly motivating. He places a lot of emphasis on team building and job satisfaction. That can be great, but if employees are not producing, this person is often the last one to make corrective action. If you recognize this characteristic in someone you report to, you must learn to frame your projects and ideas in terms of how they will clearly help the company and the team. Also, ask for permission to be the lead on those projects—particularly if difficult decisions are needed. You, in effect, remove this manager from having to make those decisions himself, which might be too difficult for him to do on his own.
These manager descriptions are a small sampling. Also, just as you might be classifying your managers and to some extent your peers, remember that you are being similarly classified. I've given some ideas on dealing with various types of managers, but in this book, I place a much greater emphasis on how you deal with yourself. Your reaction to situations and people is much more important than the situation.
If you work for someone who is difficult, it is important to know whether that person's behavior is directed at you specifically, or whether it is simply his personality. This helps you remain objective.