I have had managers that have inspired and encouraged me, while others have driven me nuts and forced me to resign. Sometimes things just click and other times they don’t, and the relationship can be disastrous. When I look back on managers that I thought were terrible, I am still thankful that I went through the experience because I'm much better because of it. In this article, I wanted to reflect on and compile a list of the types of managers I have had and lessons learned on dealing with each type while still excelling at your job and achieving your goals:
- Strict Uncle: This is the kind of manager who is direct and doesn't sugarcoat things and tells you exactly what you are doing wrong. The first time I had this type, I was mortified. I am a bit of a sensitive soul so I was on the verge of tears when I received the "talk", which consisted of 5 bullet points on a printed sheet. He started each bullet with "this is what you did wrong". To be fair, nothing he was saying was incorrect but the approach was draconian. My response was to tear up and his response to that was "don't be sensitive". I am a compliment sandwich kind of girl when it comes to crucial conversations so this was not fun. However, it did inspire me to not mess up on any of those bullets that he listed. He was not a bad manager, just very strict. And at least he was direct – I knew just what to expect from him and also what his expectations were. The best way to deal with someone like this is to not let it affect your work. It is easy to try to "even the score" by working slower or just plain giving up but this will not help the situation. I promise you, it will make things even worse. If you can keep your head up and keep trying your best, you will be motivated and everyone around you including your "strict uncle" boss will see that.
- Lazy Susie:This is the kind of manager that really doesn't care. This person doesn't motivate you or micromanage you. I personally love these kinds of managers. The more space I get, the more motivated and creative I become. I also find with this type of boss, however, that if you ever become a target, no one will have your back. The best way to avoid this is to document everything and have regular meetings with your manager. When your manager asks you for something, follow up with an email. If you are working on something, write it in an email and make sure your manager is in the loop. Even if this person doesn't care, you are covered and prepared to pull out documented proof that you included your manager in whatever you are working on.
- Squirrel:You know those managers who can't focus? They want the next best and shiny object. I think this is my absolute favorite type of manager – they are typically someone you can talk to and bounce ideas off. The downside is you receive multiple priorities and potentially feel like you can't accomplish or finish anything. This could also make you feel like you are never good enough because they are always looking for excellence and constant improvement. With these types of managers, you need to be able to manage your own workload. If they throw an idea at you, write it down on your board of ideas from your boss. I like to use tools like Trello to keep track of what I am working on. These visual tools help with this type of manager. You are able to show them exactly what you are working on while ensuring they feel acknowledged that their new shiny object is still relevant and amazing and you believe in their vision.
- Nice Guy: This is usually not a bad thing but there can be a downside - it's impossible to have a crucial conversation. I once had a manager who was extremely sweet. She would bring in cookies and donuts every week and I felt like she genuinely cared about me and my feelings. The level of attention was awesome, except I felt like I was walking on eggshells sometimes because I didn't want to hurt her feelings. The best way to deal with these managers is to be kind in return, but also truthful. It doesn't help either party to ignore issues. It is best to give your feedback in a respectful manner and then encourage her to return the feedback.
- Best Friend: The manager who wants to be your best friend. The one who wants to be friends with you on Facebook and you have no choice but to say “yes”. The one who wants to have drinks with you after work and invites himself/herself to your wedding. If you are like me and prefer to keep your personal and private life separate, this is so hard. A manager should be your mentor, not your friend. If this person can't draw the line then you will have to. Make sure your colleagues and others know that you are dedicated to your job but it's okay to distance yourself from your manager. It is okay to not want to go to lunch every day with your boss or make plans after work or the weekend with them. It's your life so if you feel uncomfortable crossing that line with your manager, gently distance yourself and have legitimate excuses to not hang out with them.
- OCD: These are your typical micromanagers. I had a boss who used to read every single thing I wrote and would take a red pen to it and leave it neatly on my desk. She would also give me a to-do list with elaborate explanations every week for what she wanted accomplished. She would then ask for updates - constantly. It would drive me nuts. I felt suffocated. Surprisingly and in hindsight, she was the best boss I have ever had and I'm so thankful I met her. Because of her, my deliverables are always something I can be proud of and as someone who taught herself to speak and write English only in her late teens, my writing has improved significantly with help from her. My advice in dealing with a micromanager is to study them. I love the big picture and fall asleep when I have to address details - look at your work and see where you are falling through the cracks and what gets nitpicked the most. I also suggest you anticipate what she is going to do - if she asks for updates, be proactive and provide one before she has the chance to ask. If you email her updates and tell her what you are working on a consistent manner, it will save you both time and may even surprise her. The other tactic you can try is to assign her work. Give her something else to focus on so you can get your work done. Provide her with a problem and ask her for a solution.
These are the types of managers I have had and the ways I navigated around their brands of leadership. What is your thought or advice on how to deal with these types of managers? Do you have a type that you have found the secret to that is not listed above?
Lekshmy Sankar is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.