• Charlotte Worth

Be More Like Theo! How to Handle a Difficult Manager

My mum sent me this video as she thought it would make me laugh. It definitely did that, but it also got me thinking about what it’s like to work with a manager who is difficult to work with and what you can do to be more like Theo and navigate your way through an uncomfortable situation at work. You know the types. The overbearing kind, the micromanagers, the needy types, the overly demanding ones or the ones who simply have no social skills and rub you up the wrong way before they’ve even said good morning.

If this is the type of person that you work with, and you can currently see no way out, what can you do to make things better for yourself and still allow your talents to shine? To start with, and this may be a tough ask, you need to be the better person and rise above it. For any of you who have children, you have probably used that line when they’ve come home with tales of their friends being to bossy or leaving them out, but it is also true of how we should be with our managers at work. The office space is really just a grown up playground and all the things that went on there and behind the bike shed still go on, but now it is in the workplace. There are the quiet ones who sit in the corner hoping that nobody notices them, the cool kids are still making everyone else feel inadequate, there is always the one that is never wrong, even when they are, and sadly there is still the overbearing one.

To survive and thrive in this situation it is essential that you work out a strategy to deal with this. One of the ways of managing a difficult manager is to treat them the same way that you would a tricky client. You don’t want to lose that client, so you work out how to manage them and the situation. So just like you would with your new client you need to get inside your managers head and work out what makes them tick and how you can stay one step ahead of them, so that you can avoid being on the receiving end of their anger. So, start thinking about the following….

· What are their work goals?

· What do they care about?

· What is their behavioural style?

· What do you think causes them to worry both at work and outside of work?

· What do you think they like about their job?

· What do you think they don’t like about their job?

· Do they like to impress people, or do they not care what other people think?

· What is their idea of what success and failure looks like?

· What are the things that they do wrong and that you can help them out with?

Once you have worked out what you think these answers might be, then it is time work out how to use them to help yourself. For instance, if you’ve developed a feel for their behavioural style, then try and mimic it. This will not only flatter them, but it will also help them to understand you more as you will be talking on the same level as they are.

If you think you have worked out what their goals are, can you help them achieve them? Or if there is something that they aren’t very good at or that they don’t like doing, can you assist them to complete those tasks? Yes, I know, I can hear your shouts of “why would I help my manager look good when they are always so horrible to me?”. Well firstly, if you enable them to look good then it will reflect well on you and the team. It might get your manager that promotion they want, which will hopefully move them out of your area. However, more importantly, constantly locking horns with them is not going to do your own mental and emotional health any good.

Make yourself indispensable, be one step ahead of them and try and make sure you have already thought about the task or completed it before they have to ask. Be that someone that your manager can rely on and turn to. I know that might seem counter intuitive when you really don’t like them, but by doing this you will again assist your manager to succeed and hopefully create the foundations of trust between you and them.

If your manager has a tendency to constantly change their mind and forget the tasks they have already assigned to you, and they just keep piling on the work, then make sure you document everything that they’ve asked you to do and make sure that they have an updated copy of it after each meeting and ask for confirmation of receipt. This will hopefully negate any confusion or angst over workload. It will also hopefully stop the quiet resentment brewing inside you as you have made clear what has been agreed so there can be no misunderstanding.

If your manager is slow at making decisions and never gets back to you with answers, which in turn has the potential to hold a project up, don’t wait for them. Instead, where possible, try and work around that part of the task and concentrate on other elements of the project. That way the work-flow isn’t halted, just temporarily redirected and your manager will not look bad for holding things up.

And one last thing, that I personally think can heighten your angst regarding your manager, is seeing their emails pop up in your inbox. If this happens to you, then create a separate email folder dedicated to their emails and have all their emails automatically redirected to that folder. You then take control of the situation as you can decide when you want to deal with them and can mentally prepare yourself at your pace for opening them.

Whatever you decide to do to deal with your manager, do not be the person who is always heard complaining about them, however bad they are. Find one trusted person that you can use as your sounding board and stick to them only. Remember you never know who might be listening into your office conversations or watching your actions. They might not be aware of your boss’s testing behaviour and instead may make a negative judgement about your behaviour. Alternatively, there is also the prospect that other people more senior maybe aware of your managers behaviour and will also be watching you to see how you handle it. So, your bosses inappropriate behaviour might actually help your career and move you up the ladder.

So be more like Theo and take back control. You may have to go backwards to eventually go forwards and you might get a quick swipe along the way, but once you are at the top of the stairs it will be worth it.

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