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Business & Life Skills

Managing up: Types of Bosses

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Managing Up. How to work with six different boss types?  Learn how to develop a more productive relationship by understanding your bosses’ motivation. CJ interviews Gonzague Dufour on this book “Managing your Manager”.  Plus, learn how to get ahead (raise/promotion) with any type of boss?

Modified excerpts from "Managing your manager: how to get ahead with any type of bossGonzague Dufour - McGraw-Hill - 2011"

How to work with a bully?

How do you know if your boss is a bully?

Gonzague DuFour provides a few clues with whether your boss is a bully. Your boss is likely to be a bully if:

  • Intensely ambitious- highly competitive, aggressive, driven and exceeds objectives.
  • They want power and control. Gets what they want.
  • Defends your group. Protects people they like.
  • Hate surprises
  • Have unexpected bursts of anger that may results in screams
  • Has an intimidating and commanding presence
  • Can at times be paranoid.
  • May micromanage. Expects you to be fast, smart, and politically savvy or will take over your project.
  • Generates fear, respect and fascination.
  • Uses straight talk even if hurtful

What is the best way to deal with a bully?

Based on his experience in Human Resources and his own exposure to Bullies in his career, Gonzague offers the do’s and don’ts for following strategies for working with a bully:

  • Try not to take things personally. Develop a thick skin.
  • Find humor and if appropriate point out the absurdity when your boss overacts. When your boss realizes that you are immune to their fear tactics they tend to back off.
  • Set boundaries by limiting your exposure to your bully.
  • Start observing the types of things that unleash the Bully’s anger or what placates or pleases them.
  • Avoid surprising or blindsiding them.
  • Keep them in the information loop to give them more control and power.
  • Fill the gap. Typically, Bullies are not great at relationship building (listening, patience) or unclear reporting structures.  Bullies like hierarchical command-and-control scenarios.
  • Make your boss look good, which for the bully means delivering measurable and meaningful results.
  • Don’t be a “yes” person. Stand up for yourself when it counts.
  • Maintain your cool and adapt your behavior situationally, so the bully can’t figure you out.
  • Use a direct communication style when asked a question, answer directly. When offering advice, offer them indirectly that allows bully to maintain control.

STEADY EDDIE: How to work with “The Good”?

How do you know if your boss fits the bill?

Here are a few ways  whether your boss is a what Gonzague labels “The Good”:

  • A solid citizen that consistently delivers good results (vs. out of box)- considerate, reasonable, logical, fair, sensible, and knowledgeable.
  • Stable and predictable, slow to change, prefer moderation
  • Offers good work life balance. Turns his phone off during non-work hours, doesn’t check electronics on vacation or when at home.
  • Offers work environment that is comfortable, reasonable, predictable, and logical.
  • Dislikes confrontation and avoids emotional messiness.
  • Dislikes risk. Prefers the tried and true and safe course of action.
  • Self-control. Calm during chaos. Likes precision and control.
  • Great faith in the system and will stay the course and be loyal.

What is the best way to work with “The Good”?

During his work experience with “The Good” and based on other experiences from his coaching clients, Gonazgue offers the following strategies for working with “The Good”

  • Help your boss minimize risk.
  • Meet your objectives consistently. Be predictable and consistent. Follow instructions, meet deadlines and implement programs.
  • Be transparent. Hidden agendas are a pet peeve.
  • Be your authentic self.
  • Liars will be cut out. Don’t pander.
  • Get challenge elsewhere through group projects.
  • Make sure to have good performance-based arguments if you want to propose something new.
  • Set boundaries on your emotional expression by keeping anger and frustration in line. The Good wants people to be happy or appear happy and believe things are running smoothly.
  • Help this kind of boss navigate the unfamiliar and when your boss is given a stretch project help them make decisions.
  • Widen your managers network as these bosses are generally not political nor are they building their allies.
  • Help them game the system and the politics needed to gain resources.
  • Make sure you have a clear ROI on your spending and don’t go overboard.
  • Fill gaps. Your boss doesn’t like dealing with conflict, telling customers bad news, or handling an executive who is upset. Nor is your boss comfortable managing across teams as they seek consensus and fairness and may get bogged down in decision making and team meetings.

Powermonger: How to work with “The Kaleidoscope”?

How do you know if your boss fits the bill?

Here are a few ways to identify the type Gonzague refers to as “The Kaleidoscope”:

  • Desire to accumulate, solidify, and freely demonstrate positional power-
  • Competitive, but unlike Bully can control their emotions. Can keep their col unless it works to their advantage not wo.
  • Shifts personal depending on situation and person to manipulate people and situations to their advantage.
  • Sees people as pawns to move around the board. He uses people to gain power and expect that others use them to gain power.
  • Convinces others that they are their favorites.
  • Radiates confidence and conviction bordering on arrogance.
  • Does not let people know the real person behind the mask.

What is the best way to work with this type of boss

Gonazgue offers tips on working with this type of boss:

  • Display your own power. Respects those who asserts their power and use it effectively. Display courage of your convictions.
  • Be ok with boss not disclosing information or giving you a straight answer.
  • Know that you are being used, and that there is some hidden agenda.
  • Accept that you never know who your boss really is.
  • Figure out how your boss defines power and help them within the context of their definition.
  • All your work efforts should be targeted toward the Kaleidoscope [e’s goals and helping them achieve their goals.
  • Collect information that helps your boss gain more power.
  • Suggest versus tell your ideas since your boss will be threatened if you are overly ambitious and are a threat to their power.
  • Reconsider playing games as your boss is skilled at knowing if you are disingenuous or trying to manipulate them.

How to work with “The Star”?

How do you know if your boss is a “Star”?

Gonzague recommends that expect the unexpected with this boss.  Here are some tips for identifying a “star”

  • Implementer that is dynamic and dramatic.
  • Shakes things up from one day to another.
  • Tons of energy and stamina.
  • Challenges the status quo and wants to do something never done before.
  • May blame others when things go wrong and may cause a scene.
  • Demonstrates zeal and focus for mission.
  • Committed and enthusiastic about job. Talks about work a lot. Talks fast.
  • Demands more from people than any other boss type. Expect to work and be available 24/7.
  • Are brilliantly analytical. Get enmeshed with details and lose big picture.
  • Responds to situations impulsively.
  • Impatient and hates any bureaucracy (meetings, slow processes, paperwork, long discussion, indecisive people)

What is the best way to work with this type of boss

Gonazgue suggests coping strategies for working with “The Star”.

  • Enjoy the ride.
  • Try to steer rather than control. It’s best if you steer early in the process.
  • Communicate quickly. Be brief and be gone.
  • Be a stellar sidekick. Listen attentively.
  • Ask for help because stars like to demonstrate their knowledge and authority.
  • Perform post-mortem and what went wrong as well as right.
  • Respond quickly
  • Don’t betray their trust. Many things can be considered disloyal from turning down a trip/assignment, going to family function rather than company party, making a slightly negative remark that contradicts what your boss said.
  • Indirect feedback or criticism. It’s better to email an article or find an indirect nonthreatening way to give your opinion.  Email an article and suggest they read it.  Beware of comments like “If I were you, I’d…”or “Have you considered what may happen if…”.
  • Don’t talk back. Stars don’t like if you are disobedient or disagreeable.
  • Don’t be a brown noser. They want to be understood. They want you to sincerely like their humor, be impressed with their daring, and to have a sympathetic ear.

How to work with “The Scientist”?

How do you know if your boss is a “Scientist”?

Enjoy the intellectual challenges is Gonzague’s words of wisdom for this type of boss. Here are some other identifiers:

  • Heavily into knowledge and trial of business theory and concepts (e.g.- supply chain, matrix mgmt.)
  • Will have a reason “why” they are doing something.
  • Likes work: the bosses, meetings, business trips. Work is place to test beliefs and theories.
  • May stick with an experiment past the point where most reasonable people would have deemed it a failure and moved on.
  • Relaxed and Comfortable in their own skin. Best boss at delivering bad news.
  • Enjoys intellectual and intelligent engagement, listens and can get absorbed with conversation.
  • Good with giving and receiving feedback and hearing ideas.
  • Prefers information that is objective and not keen on emotions (e.g.-anger, blame).
  • Offers advice and emotional support if needed.
  • Likes to teach and argue theories and may come off as pedantic
  • Lacks pretense of many managers and treats everyone as equals.
  • May be a little bit disorganized and distracted (absent minded professor).

What is the best way to work with this type of boss

Like the other types, you can build a positive work relationship with the “Scientist” using the following strategies: .

  • Be prepared as this manager may become distant and moody during bad times.
  • Make a commitment to grasp the Scientist’s concepts and learning.
  • Help by filling in the gaps in organization and keeping things focused during meetings through policies and processes.
  • Assist in translating and explaining the concepts to a broad range of people.
  • Form relationships and connections with those outside of organization to get political cover just in case your boss has a theory that bombs and you are on a sinking ship
  • Speak in terms that resonate with his conceptual framework.
  • Be around to bounce off ideas.
  • Keep your emotions in check.
  • Get comfortable getting clarity and ask for more precise direction. (e.d.- What specific day in January will we ship our product?).

How to work with “The Navel”?

How do you know if your boss is a “Navel”?

For many you may find this boss the most challenging to work with.

  • Want to be in the spotlight. Egotism is their dominant trait. It’s all about selfish satisfying their needs and pursing their own interest.
  • Conjures a credible argument out of thin air. Doesn’t admit when they are wrong.
  • Instinct for self-preservation. Won’t accept responsibility for failure even if it’s their fault.
  • Uses the force of their personality to get what they want (a Salesperson). If you help the Navel sell then you are value to this boss
  • Rarely shows empathy or asks others questions about themselves.
  • Doesn’t want to look bad, criticism bothers them.
  • Will throw people under the bus and will do whatever is needed to protect themselves.
  • Will not share credit. Will step on or over people to get what they want. Navels have no line they won’t cross.
  • Makes business decision with speed and will not solicit ideas from others.
  • Not thinkers, but great at execution, even when executing wrong strategies.
  • Impatient with people who overthink and over talk.

What is the best way to work with this type of boss

Gonazgue suggests coping strategies for working with “The Navel”.

  • Find a sympathetic ear to vent
  • Form relationships with managers you can learn from
  • Learn how Navel cuts through red tape.
  • Communicate potential problems and forewarn if you see something that may make them look bad.
  • Use flattery strategically.
  • Find out what Navel does well and learn from them.
  • Know that you will be sacrificed if need be.
  • Don’t depend on the Navel to advance your career. If you are productive, they will downplay your contributions to be sure you aren’t promoted.
  • Be careful not to succumb to their thinking
  • Watch how the Navel prioritizes and gets things done to learn other ways to navigate.