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Creating Successful Leaders

three types of bad bosses

It happens more often than it should. A person rises to power who doesn’t have the interest, inclination, or skills it takes to be a good boss. It’s not always that person’s fault—many companies do not invest time and resources in training their managers and force many people to learn through “trial by fire.” And then there are those who are simply not interested in engaging with or developing their team. They would rather be doing office work than investing time in their staff.

Whatever the case, you’ve probably encountered the dreaded “bad boss.” I’m going to look at three different behaviors that your bad boss might exemplify and show you ways to overcome each scenario. Ready to grab your own success and jump over the bad boss hurdle? Read on!

1. The Micromanager

This is the boss who is always looking over your shoulder and checking in to make sure you’re doing things just how s/he wants them done. This person is a perfectionist and might go as far as giving you daily or weekly checklists. Such a boss can make you feel claustrophobic and limit your growth potential.

What to do:

First of all, understand that you micromanaging boss is likely acting the way she does because she cares deeply about the good of the company. But that doesn’t mean you should ignore it! If your boss is approachable and open to communication, consider scheduling a meeting in which you request to take on a project by yourself. If your boss waffles, ask if there is something about the quality of your work that is holding her back. You might learn some valuable insight from your conversation!

If, however, your boss is not the approachable type, consider a different tactic: Accomplish tasks and check-in before she tells you to. Anticipate the next item on her to-do list and do it before you’re directed to do so. This demonstrates that you are a go-getter and are perfectly capable of going above and beyond expectations without being directed to do so. You may even consider sending your boss your daily or weekly plans so you can gain even more control of your schedule.

2. The Unengaged

On the opposite end of the micromanager boss is the boss who is simplify unengaged. This is the boss who is largely absent or who rarely bothers to check-in with their team. This bad boss might think it’s a waste of time to invest in team-building activities, training, or one-on-one meetings.

What to do:

Initiate engagement. Schedule a meeting with your boss or, if he’s hard to pin down, make a point of stopping by his office when he’s around. Make sure you keep your meeting brief and bright—unengaged bosses often feel like they don’t have time for small talk. In your meeting, be sure to express your thanks to the boss for meeting and let him know that it made a big difference. Such encouragement will help him realize the value of such meetings.

If you’ve tried in earnest to get your boss involved in office life, but he hasn’t taken the bait, try going a different route. Engage your co-workers. If your boss isn’t lending much support, chances are your co-workers are just as frustrated as you are. Connect with them and use each other for brainstorming, problem-solving, and as mental or emotional support. Seek resources together and work on building a more collaborative atmosphere.

3. The Gossiper

“Did you hear about…?” The boss with gossiping tendencies can lower morale and create an atmosphere of distrust. What’s more, if you’re not buddy-buddy with this boss, you may wonder if you will be the next victim of their gossip.

What to do:

This is a tricky one. Although you might not be able to stop your boss from playing favorites and spreading rumors, you can make a personal commitment to rise above office gossip. Harvard Business Journal recommends setting firm boundaries with gossipers (whether your boss or a co-worker). When you see a conversation headed toward gossip, put a stop to it and say, “Please do not put anything in my head that you expect me to not act on. I will not carry around a conclusion about another person without sharing it with them.”

Your integrity carries weight. By refusing to participate in gossip, you build credibility and trustworthiness. And remember, silence is the same thing as complacence. If you are silent, you are promoting gossip.

And if your boss continues gossiping? You have a couple of tough decisions to make. Either you could choose to confront him about it and offer a solution (This article by Vital Smarts goes into establishing ground rules revolving around gossip), OR, If your quality of life is being severely affected by the gossip, you could seek employment somewhere else. If that’s the case, you might want to consult a career coach before making any major decisions.


There are, of course, many other types of “bad bosses” out there, but hopefully this list gave you some ideas for how to deal with your own troublesome boss. Feel free to add your own experiences and advice in the comments section (no name dropping, please!) or contact me for more advice.



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