We spend an average of 90,000 hours at work, during our lifetime. With labor-consuming so much of our time, the last thing we need is for that experience to be a bad one. Working for a horrible manager is one of the reasons why many of us hate our job. Let’s be clear, there is no magic cauldron for management theory that can turn bad managers into good ones. I am constantly striving to improve my management skills. In my 25-plus years of hustle, I have seen every type of bad manager that one can imagine. The good thing is that I have honed a few skills that have enabled me to cope with bad managers and avoid acting like one. Here are my professional cues on how to deal with the five worst types of managers.
A good senior manager knows what altitude to fly their plane. The whole point of them being at the top is to deal with things at a higher level. A bad one does just the opposite. He or she has this obsession with getting involved in things that are assigned to those who are on the ground. It feels like they are piloting an airplane like it is an automobile. The wings of their authority are causing more harm than good because they are flying way too low.
Cue #1: Respectfully let them know that you appreciate their support and that you have everything under control. You can’t tell them to get out of your way, and you must not get upset. Convince them that you don’t need them in your air space by executing with excellence. An excellent performance will speak louder than anything you say, and it will encourage them to fly higher.
Nobody wants to work in an emotionally toxic environment. An even-tempered manager can set the tone for the team. Unfortunately, some managers’ constant shift from a good to bad mood pollutes the atmosphere. I refer to these dual-personality managers as the fictional character, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
Cue #2: There is nothing you can do about someone else’s mood. Believe me, I have tried every positive influence, Jedi technique in the book. I have found one of the best approaches to dealing with a temperamental manager is to expect them to be at their worse all the time. At first blush, this may sound a bit extreme. But if you do this, you will never be surprised or caught off guard by their unpredictable mood swings. Resist the temptation to respond negatively to them and never try to match their bad attitude with negative energy. Be positive all the time. This will diffuse the impact of their negative vibe on you personally.
King Solomon said, “There are four things that are never satisfied: the grave; the barren womb; land, which is never satisfied with water; and fire, which never says, ‘Enough!’” (Proverbs 30:15-16) The same is true about miserable people who become managers. You can give them exactly what they ask and they still will find a reason to not appreciate your efforts. If you are not careful, these types of managers will suck the life out of you just like a vampire.
Cue #3: After you have performed with excellence, you can be confident in your work, even if your manager never appreciates it. Sometimes their dissatisfaction is a personal pain that has nothing to do with you. Some people cannot be pleased. Don’t get bitter, just keep getting better for your sake. After all, it’s your career, and you must be content with your work.
Have you ever been in a meeting with someone who wants everybody to know how smart they are? This person has to be the center of attention and the source of all the great ideas. If I am describing you, please stop. The whole point of other people being in the room is so they can contribute thoughts and ideas that you can’t. Most successful ventures are the result of a collaborative effort.
Cue #4: Don’t make the mistake of trying to one-up them. But do make meaningful contributions to the discussion while maintaining your composure. Do not shut down just because the know-it-all is trying to dominate the conversation. Be humble, yet add value to the discussion.
There is nothing worse than having to report to someone who is physically in the building, but their presence is not helpful. I call these types of managers ghosts. They do not care about the success and personal development of their direct reports. They exert their authority through intimidation and fear, but they disappear when you need to be empowered.
Cue #5: Be a ghostbuster by being a present, solid performer and a team player. Become resourceful, be your own source of inspiration and empower others. Create an atmosphere of positive energy that will inspire others to collaborate to achieve the common goals.