Tips for Surviving Challenging Supervisors

5 03 2007

Robert Half International

Building good rapport with your boss is essential to your career success. After all, he or she decides which projects you take on and how quickly you advance. But not all workers see eye-to-eye with their supervisors. Here are some common types of managers and tips for working with each of them.

Your Coping Strategy: Remain calm when interacting with this type of boss. When this manager is on edge, limit communication to email unless a matter is urgent. Do everything you can to ease this person’s stress level, which may be driving his or her mood swings.

The Bully
This boss has a consistent disposition: overbearing. This type of supervisor also tends to be gruff with others and is easily frustrated.

Your Coping Strategy: Deal with this person by standing up for yourself. In fact, this person may do a complete 180 once he or she is convinced you’re up to the challenge of working together. If your manager continues to bully you, however, move on.

The Control Freak
This person wants to know every detail of every project. He or she also has trouble delegating tasks, and may not give you very challenging assignments.

Your Coping Strategy: Trust is usually the issue, so try to build it. Start a log that details the status of your current projects and steps you’ve taken to ensure quality work. The more confident your manager is in your abilities, the less controlling that person is likely to be.

The Mute
This manager lets staff members “figure things out on their own.” Because this person relies on email — and works behind closed doors — you rarely have the opportunity to clarify ambiguous messages.

Your Coping Strategy: Don’t be afraid to ask questions, even if through email. If a topic becomes so complex that you begin shooting messages back and forth, your boss may eventually request an in-person meeting. If the conversation goes well, he or she may even realize verbal dialogue can be an efficient mode of communication.

The Best Friend
This person is afraid to set standards because he or she wants to be liked by everyone. This manager frequently relinquishes responsibility for the sake of friendship, compromising the team’s ability to function.

Your Coping Strategy: Enjoy the occasional lunch out, but keep a professional distance and support this person when he or she exerts authority. Once your boss understands leadership is needed, he or she may feel more confident in the role and be more active in managing you and the rest of the team.

Robert Half International Inc. is the world’s first and largest specialized staffing firm with a global network of more than 350 offices throughout North America, Europe, Asia, Australia and New Zealand. For more information about our professional services, please visit http://www.rhi.com. For additional workplace articles and podcasts, visit http://www.workvine.com.

The Box of Chocolates
As with selecting a bonbon from an assortment, you never know what you’re going to get with this boss. The manager may confide in you one day and turn a cold shoulder the next


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