Ten ways to Manage the (Unmageable) Manager

July 28, 2020 | Leadership & Management | Written by Mohamed Soliman

A good manager might be the #1 benefit that we never talk about. It is not a secret that recipients of “incivility” at work—like condescending comments, put-downs, and sarcasm from their bosses—feel more mentally fatigued. That can lead to incivility spirals, where the recipients of bad behavior start internalizing and projecting the same uncivil behavior on employees below them. There is a big price tag; the average annual impact on companies is $14,000 per employee due to loss of production and work time. A Gallup poll found that half of the adults surveyed left a job to get away from a manager, not companies at some point in their careers.

If you find yourself stuck with a difficult manager, it won’t be easy. It can an emotional drain. Acknowledge that it will not be an ideal situation. Here are 10 strategies that might help you manage even the most annoying and exacting managers around.

#1- Be flexible but set healthy boundaries - Sure, you are willing to stay late or come in early to work on a big project. Just do not make it a regular expectation. If you constantly stay in the office until 9 p.m., it will become the new norm. Leaving at 7 p.m. will be perceived as early.

#2 - Use reflective listening - This approach stems from the work of the great psychologist Carl Rogers and his focus on client-centered therapy. It includes all components of active listening and reflecting the thoughts and feelings you heard in your manager’s words, tone, and body gestures. When your manager tells you something, repeat it back to them so they know you get it.⁣

#3 - Try to observe your boss push point/triggers and avoid them– This is especially relevant if you have a boss who has a moody temper. Anticipating what words or attitudes is going to set them off will help you avoid those pitfalls.⁣⁣

#4 - Ask about top priorities for the boss - Your manager may be giving you five projects to work on, and you feel overwhelmed. Try to ask which projects are most important so you can manage your time and ultimately deliver.⁣

#5 - Document - This one truly depends on the conflict between you and your boss. If you think that the relationship with your boss is going from bad to worse, document what you are doing and why you are making certain decisions. This works particularly well with bosses who change their minds constantly or are too overextended to remember the directions they gave in the first place. Did you have a talk with your boss about a project? Follow up with a recap email. Making a big decision? Send them an email saying you are going to do this - unless you are told otherwise.⁣

#6 – Disagree…privately - when you disagree with your manager’s decisions, do it in private. Support the decisions in public, even if you do not agree. Remember, you might be wrong.

#7 – Think of yourself as a problem solver - Oftentimes, you do not know the day-to-day pressures they are facing—and the last thing they need is more problems. Try to find places where you can make your work more efficient, find ways to save money or step-up (occasionally), and take (some) workload off their plate.

#8 - Share good news (occasionally) – would you like someone to only interact with you when there is a problem or when you are going to ask for something? ” Probably not! Same to the boss. Share a small win (when the boss is in the mood to listen to good news) or share a new idea.

#9 - Know your rights - If your boss is a true headache, pushes too hard or—most importantly—violates your rights, say something to them or someone more senior as how to handle the situation. Use your voice when employer actions violate those rights. Communicate and give them the chance to make corrections.

#10 - Know when enough is enough. Don’t be afraid to quit. It is easier said than done, especially if you need this job to pay the bills. However, trust that there is usually another opportunity around the corner. It takes guts. Yet, for your sanity and your career, sometimes you have got to know when it’s time to move on.


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