by Resources for Humans
Over a period of several years, we have researched the different types of managers in Corporate America, and we have identified the following six types of bosses and their leadership styles. Read through the descriptions below to find your own manager and discover the best strategies for dealing with a particular management style. We encourage you to read through all the types, as it is most likely that your boss will be heavily identified with one type but may have some characteristics and influences of the others.
The Control Freak
These people need to have everything that is going on in the palm of their hand. They don’t like subordinate making any decisions, no matter how small or innocuous, without first consulting their opinion. Control Freaks will also tend to hoard information. They may assign you to work on a task, but then not tell you everything you need to know to complete the task. You could spend hours working on the task only to find out that half the information you needed was sitting on your boss’ desk and that he already knew it.
Things a Control Freak would never dream of doing:
- Running into you in the hall and not asking about the status of a project
- Let you enjoy your lunch in peace without interrupting to get the latest update on what you are working on
- Allowing you to make a decision without being involved
- Coaching you on handling a problem independently
- Delegating responsibility
How to get along with a Control Freak: Control Freaks need constant information. The best way to deal with a Control Freak is to status report them to death.This can be a time-consuming pain, but continuously keeping him in the loop is one of the surest ways to keep him off your back. For example, if you are working on a presentation for a Control Freak and you decide to change the background color to better match your corporate color scheme, send him an e-mail just to let him know before sending him the updated presentation. Another way to keep yourself sane while working with a Control Freak is to ask lots of questions about assignments or projects he may give you.
Control Freaks use information as power. As long as he has the information, he has the power. As discussed above, Control Freaks have been known to withhold information that was critical to the success of a project. Asking questions will help you to get a better feel for what he knows. Keep in mind that Control Freaks do not withhold information to make you fail. They do it because it assures them that you will return to them for more information/ assistance, etc. When you return it gives them a sense of importance, being needed, and most importantly, still being in control.
Unfortunately, Control Freaks do not trust anyone easily. They tend to live in fear of “what if”. For example, “What if my boss asks me a question and I don’t know the answer? He might think I’m incompetent” and so forth. So they use manipulative tactics to keep others pandering to them and to ensure that they will be involved in everything that is going on in their department. The trick to keeping your own sanity is to surrender to the knowledge that you can’t change your boss.
However, delivering what they want and gaining their confidence and trust are critical for your success while working with them. Give him his status reports daily, even hourly if that’s what it takes. Send him drafts of your emails and memos. Know that it will take twice as long to complete projects because you will have to wait in line with everyone else to have him review your work. Therefore, keep several projects going concurrently so you can switch back and forth between them while you are waiting to hear back on other projects.
This manager has one objective, his own. He does not care about his employees, and nothing anyone ever does is good enough to satisfy him. He is impossible to get along with and is convinced that he is the only competent person working in the company.
Things an Autocrat would never dream of doing:
- Ask how you think a problem should be solved
- Admit to making a mistake
- Tell you what a great job you did
- Tell you how much he appreciates your efforts
- Empower you to make appropriate decisions at your level
How to get along with an Autocrat: Autocrats are tough, no doubt about it. They typically have one objective. If you can get them to share that objective with you, it will make your job that much easier, because what you want to do is make their objective your objective. For example, if your boss’ objective is to be promoted to vice president, then you need to do everything in your power to help him achieve that objective.
You might even be promoted along with him. If not, at least you will have made your life easier while coping with him or her. While there is a lot out of your direct control, such as what your boss’ boss thinks of him, you can demonstrate to your boss that you are a team player (and on “his” team), and as he starts to see you working for his benefit, he will hopefully begin to gain some confidence and respect in you. Just don’t expect him to verbally express as much. You will know that your plan is working when he makes you his “go to” person with any problem that arises.
Autocrats and Control Freaks have a lot in common, but the difference is that Autocrats are usually pretty clear about what they want. Control Freaks are less definate about what they want, so they try to control everything in order to keep their options open if they need to change direction at a later date. That being said, there are many tactics that will work for both, such as keeping them apprised of the status of your projects and clearing any decisions you may be making with them before moving ahead.
One critical difference between the two is that an Autocrat will respect you if you take a clear position on a problem or situation. Even if the Autocrat does not agree with you, they will typically recognize you for your position. However, if you take a position but are not clear or are unsure about yourself look out. The Autocrat will smell your insecurity and crush you for it. Control Freaks, on the other hand, will not appreciate you having your own opinions, unless, of course, it is completely in line with his or hers.
The Blame Fixer
This type of boss makes it his/her job to make everyone else responsible for fixing his/her problems. He/she takes no responsibility for his own employees, department, or results. He/she is however, the first to take credit for something which went well.
Things a Blame Fixer would never dream of doing:
- Standing up at a meeting and accepting full responsibility for a problem
- Accepting responsibility for the mistake of one of his/her employees
- Actually getting something accomplished
- Creating an environment of creativity and openness on his team
- Sharing the credit with his team on a successful project
How to get along with a Blame Fixer: Blame Fixers are great at going around an organization and finding all the problems in everyone else’s job, department, team, project, etc. The problem is that all they do is point out the problems and then wipe their hands of any responsibility to fix them. There is a Dilbert cartoon that shows Dilbert, his boss and co-workers sitting around a table having a meeting. Every time one of the characters mentions an issue, Wally pipes up and says, “Someone should fix that problem” or “Someone should do something about that.” Wally is a Blame Fixer.
Blame Fixers will also be the first to point out any potential problems with an idea someone has. Nothing will ever work because any potential solution has problems that the Blame Fixer will say are “insurmountable”.
The important thing to remember is that fixing blame and responsibility does not ever fix the problem. It is easy to get sidetracked by a blame fixer because we all want to take pride in our work and we get offended when someone tries to blame us for something that went wrong. Everyone makes mistakes and no one is perfect. The Blame Fixer’s strategy is to get ahead by making everyone else look bad. But the strategy never really works, and the people who get ahead are the ones who actually solve the problems and get the team behind them. So in a situation like this, try fix the problem, not the accusation.
While it isn’t exactly fun to have a Blame Fixer for a boss, we suggest that you do. Make an effort to document everything that occurs between you and your boss, particularly on projects, task, assignments and goals. This way, if your boss screws up his work, you will have your own alibi. Be aware than in the event of an extreme blow up, he or she will try to evade accountability, and may try to blame you. However, if you have documented what you were told to do and how to do it, you will be more likely to come through unscathed.
The Soft Heart
When you first meet this person you will at first think that you have just met the sweetest, most wonderful boss in the world. You will initially get the warm fuzzies and you’ll believe that it’s going to be a great job. Do not be fooled. This person is actually spineless. They will tell you exactly what you want to hear, then turn around and do the exact opposite. He or she will leave you hanging out to dry and will be anything but supportive.
Things a Soft Heart would never dream of doing
- Giving you honest and direct feedback
- Being up front and open with you
- Consistently aligning their words and actions
- Being sincere
- Openly vacillate about a decision
- How to get along with a Soft Heart
How to get along with a Soft Heart: Soft Hearts are generally good people, they usually just don’t have the intestinal fortitude to be a manager, or they have just been promoted to the position. Being a manger takes guts to tell people what they need to hear, regardless of whether or not the employee likes it. Soft Hearts want their employees to like them, so they try to act nice and supportive.
Unfortunately, it is impossible to be a good manager and not piss your employees off every once in a while. Good managers have to make tough decisions, like asking employees to work overtime or to change their behavior. The best way to deal with a Soft Heart is to let them know up front that you would rather they be frank with you instead of telling you what they think you want to hear. Every once in while, challenge his or her praises on you.
Ask why he really believes everything is fine and beautiful. Share your concerns and your perception of reality. Demand that when receiving feedback, he or she also gives you your areas for development and how you can overcome them. Do take note that once you have asked for your boss to be up front and honest with you, you will then need to back up your request by listening to what they have to say and respecting it. If you fail to back up your words by not listening to your boss, you will destroy any chance of having the Soft Heart be honest with you in the future.
This person is charismatic and is always the life of the party. Always fun to be around, the Politican always has something positive to say. The problem is that there is rarely any truth or substance behind it. This person has no real competence, they got to where they are by schmoozing the right people.
Your company’s organizational culture and values weigh heavily on whether these type of individuals can flourish and thrive, but be assured that you will always find one of this kind at any employer. Politicians depend on individuals who are competent to make them look good, then turn on them and make them a scapegoat when the employee gets tired of being used.
Things a Politician would never dream of doing:
- Actually being competent at their job
- Telling the whole truth
- Having achievement orientation on their own
- Working their way up the corporate ladder
- Not blaming a problem on a disgruntled employee
How to Get Along with a Politician: Politicians are naturally gregarious people. When Bill Clinton went on the Arsenio Hall Show and played the saxophone, everyone loved him for it. Bill Clinton’s ability to be the President had nothing to do with playing the saxophone. However, It did make for great entertainment, just like his presidency.
Politicians need someone to make them look good. Politicians may never admit to their weak spots but they do know the value of covering their ass with someone who makes them look the part. You need to be that person. The Politician will recognize you for it and take you with them as they get promoted and move through an organization.
The best part about working for a politician is that they know everyone, as well as knowing how to talk to them. Use this opportunity for networking potential. Since you will be the Politician’s right hand man, you will get the chance to meet everyone he/she meets. Get their business cards and get to know them yourself. This network will be invaluable to you in the event your relationship with the politician sours.
The worst part about working for a Politician is that you will never really get the full spotlight for your accomplishments. The Politician will always be center stage. And if he/she does share the spotlight with you, believe us when we tell you that they will make sure you know that its his/her spotlight and that you are only there because they allowed it. Once you get tired of being the brains in the Politician’s organization, put that network to use and find another job or boss within your current company.
This is the kind of manager we all want to work for. They are competent at what they do, they know how to be open, and they solicit ideas and creativity from their employees. They are a pleasure to work with. They know how to make the tough decisions, but can do it in a way that is respectful and professional to all involved.
Things a Team-Builder would never Dream of Doing
- Blocking a subordinate’s promotion/transfer
- Ignoring what an employee had to say
- Not keeping his word on a promise
- Telling a lie or withholding the truth
- Being disrespectful to an employee
- Taking credit for something one of his team members did
How to get along with a Team-Builder: Team-Builders are truly the best kind of manager to work for. They know that their success is your success and vice versa. They give you the tools you need to succeed and enough rope to hang yourself if you want to. However they will also be there to catch you when you fall. Team-Builders will coach you while letting you grow at your own pace.
The best way to work with a Team Builder is to be open with them. Don’t hold anything back. Tell them what you want and what you think. Don’t be afraid to share your ideas and creativity. They may not always agree with you, but know that they will respect any idea you bring to the table. Ask them for help when you need it. Don’t expect them to fix your problems for you, but know that they will be there to help you think through problems and provide you with additional resources so that you can solve them.
Be aware that Team Builders delegate and empower their team members, and in exchange they expect commitment and involvement. Like in a football team, they will make sure that a player who isn’t doing his/her part will be addressed. Make sure you understand your role in the team and know what is expected of you. You need to work well with both, if you only focus on your boss and not the team, this type of behavior will bite you back sooner rather than later.
In reality, all of our managers are some combination of all six of the above types. We can never change who they are, but we can adapt the way we work with them in order to be successful. Working with other people is never easy, but it is required for success in corporations today. You cannot be successful if you don’t work with others, especially with your boss. Sorry, it’s just not going to happen.
In addition to identifying your boss’ leadership style, try to understand his/her values and principles. This assessment will allow you to anticipate what you can expect from him or her, and also to draw the line on where you will adapt to his/her style, and when you will need to stand and say No.