Our Bad Boss series part tow is here. In our last post, you can read it here; we talked about the evergreen subject of the bad boss, poor manager whatever you want to call him or her. This week we share more types you might recognise. On first sight the best friend and scatterbrain might sound; trust me they have their challenges too.
The Best Friend
At first, you think it’s wonderful that they’re so friendly and easy-going, with no critical feedback or strict targets. This is the dream, right? Well, that’s the case until you notice that your team members are slacking off and that you’re not sure if you’re on the right track with a project, but you can’t get any constructive feedback. All of a sudden, their kindness and soft manner starts to seem like weakness.
How to manage the manager: Tell them what you want.
This person wants to be nice, and really wants to be well-liked, so the best way to approach them is to tell them that you need more direction, and would appreciate a little bit tougher feedback. This will allow them to give you the feedback you require without feeling mean.
Also, if other members are slacking under this person’s soft management style, you need to frame it in a way that makes the manager realise that their ‘niceness’ is not being construed as helpful or particularly nice by the team members who are carrying the slack.
The Hyperactive Scatterbrain
This hyperactive type manager always has a big new idea but is a terrible consolidator. They often forget conversations they have, and enthusiastically promise the world but never get around to delivering. They also want to be kept in the loop, but often just confuse things by getting involved, as their attention is distracted by another shiny thing five minutes later. They often agree to unrealistic targets from senior management because they don’t understand the sheer breadth of work involved. You come out of meetings with them utterly bewildered, feeling like you’ve just spent 90 minutes herding cats.
How to manage the manager: Be precise.
You’ll need to have your ducks (or cats) in a row with this one. Communicate extremely precisely. Send short emails with bullet points and direct calls to action. Always follow up, never assume the request has been actioned. Know exactly the points you need to raise in meetings and try to keep the manager on track by having clear agendas to work through and redirecting the manager when they get distracted.
When talking project deadlines with them, be hyper-detailed. Provide them with a calendar plotted with the team’s available working hours and a list with the breakdown of each necessary task and ask them to plan the project accordingly. Point out what will have to be sacrificed in order to meet the deadline and ask them to sign this ‘trade-off’ in writing. (Otherwise, they may forget, and you’ll be hauled over the coals for letting that thing drop.)
Know what to involve them in, and what to just get on with. The manager wants to be informed (and fair enough too), but rather than getting bogged down in conversation, send email updates. If they never read them and come to you angry that they weren’t in the loop, you can point them to the email.
This manager has come from another department or industry and doesn’t seem to have the know-how to function in their role. They know significantly less about the specialist field than you do, and you find it difficult to respect them.
How to manage the manager: Help them
The day of having the most skilled specialist in a management role is approaching its end. Many companies are realising that they need to hire managers whose skill lies in getting the most out of others, rather than being the brightest in the room at a specialist skill. After all, the manager isn’t there to be an individual star anymore; their role is to support their team members (you!) to be individual stars.
It can be an adjustment, but your strategy is to help them get up to speed with the basic knowledge they need to lead you. Remember, they don’t need to be a specialist; their job is to develop you. Stop making it clear you don’t respect this person, assist them with any questions they have, and learn what you can in turn from them. They’ll be grateful, and this alone can be very helpful for your career!
Other team members get along with the manager fine, but you have a personality clash, or you don’t share the same values. You’re trying, but you just don’t work in complementary ways. You feel rebuffed when your long, detailed emails are responded to with ‘OK,’ or when your cheery ‘good morning’ is ignored or grunted at. You feel you’re communicating at serious cross-purposes, you get the feeling they don’t like you, and you don’t much like them either!
How to manage the manager: Adapt to their working style (but know your limit)
There’s real room for improvement here. If your manager likes short, abrupt emails, match that style: just cut the waffle and friendly greetings and go for bullet points. Dispense with the cheery greetings. Similarly, in meetings, match their style- if they want long, detailed explanations about things that don’t really concern them, be happy to oblige. Notice where your ‘flare-up’ points are with the manager, and strategically start to remove them- even if that means removing yourself from certain situations, such as when they get all political in the lunch room.
It may feel like you have to change your personality to get along with your manager, but all you’re doing is making it easier for that person to work with you so you can continue in your job. It’s often worth the effort to try to adapt to their working style.
When Things Don’t Improve: Final Steps
We’re realists here are JobFitts. We know that despite your best efforts, sometimes things won’t improve without more drastic action.
The first step is always speaking with your manager to alert them that you’re not happy with the current situation, and want to find a solution. It always helps to frame this conversation in light of how you will be able to perform better if you find a way to work together better.
For example, I feel we are sometimes at cross-purposes, and that we’re not communicating effectively. I really want to improve my performance in this team, so I’d like to know where you think our relationship is going wrong so we can fix it and I can deliver the results you want.
If no improvement is made, we suggest going to the manager’s boss or HR manager to discuss your complaint. In this scenario, we strongly advise that you go in with clear examples of the manager’s behaviour, and calmly explain how it is impacting on you and your job performance.
In many cases, a manager-employee relationship can be improved with some clever strategy on your part, and support from HR if necessary. However, there are exceptions.
If your value clash arises from a moral issue with the work you’re being asked to do, or you find yourself offended by the manager’s conduct—particularly if it involves discrimination, harassment or bullying—then you are much better off reaching out to your recruiter today and finding another opportunity.
Additionally, if your working relationship has deteriorated to a point where the manager is disagreeing with you out of habit or dislike or is putting you down in front of others, that’s a difficult situation to turn around, and a fresh start is often the best course of action.
In our candidate short market, there are plenty of great new opportunities in the financial sector (with great managers that we know personally), so please get in touch.
JobFitts Consultants are a specialist provider of professional Recruitment Services for the Financial Services sector and related suppliers in Australia. Since 2003 we have recruited and placed a breadth of operational roles at all levels from; HR, Accounting, Marketing and Customer Service/Frontline.