If you've got a lousy manager right now, I have a sympathy for you. It can really convey the enjoyment from what it might be in a rewarding role in the future, which you might not think of. Leave your feeling undervalued, and consider whether you should begin looking for something new. However, before planning an exit strategy, you should be wise to rethink how you can better manage the manager you already have.
Having worked with many not-so-inspiring managers within my employment, I’ve learned that they provide invaluable opportunities for developing executive leadership skills and learning “what not to do” when managing people working for you. You just have to be proactive in looking for them and ready to practice some real self-leadership.
New research has found that being overworked is not the reason people leave their jobs. "We may have a tendency to associate depression and stress with work pressure and workload; however, our study shows that the workload actually has no effect on workplace depression,” Matias Brødsgaard Grynderup, Psychologist Researcher behind the study said. “People don't leave jobs, they leave managers.”
You can always learn to manage him or her. The secret is to "manage up" without him/her even realizing you are doing it. So rather than think of your manager as your manager, think of him/her as a difficult client. You should figure out how to work with if you want to get ahead, even if you’d rather not. Hopefully, the strategies below will help you on your way. Underpinning each of them is a commitment to take responsibility for your own success, regardless of the different (and difficult) personalities you will inevitably have to encounter throughout your working life.
1. Know his/her “Why” to identify prime motivations.
The better you understand what your manager does and more importantly “why”, the better positioned you are to deliver results, to manage expectations, and to avoid loss. Try to put yourself in his/her shoes and see the world and the workplace where they might do.
What does he care about?
What keeps him/her up at night?
What would he/she love more and what would he/she love less on a daily basis?
What frightens him/her?
Which important level does he/she place on impressing others?
How does he/she measure success and what does he/she think about failure?
When you know what drives your manager (even if your manager might not be fully aware of it), you can figure out his/her thoughts, which can be lined up with core values, concerns, and priorities.
2. Support success, work around weakness.
While it might sound against intuitive to support a bad manager to become more successful, there is absolutely nothing to gain by making him look worse, going to war, or facilitating his/her failure. If he is as bad as you think, he will likely do a pretty good job of that all by himself. Your misery and your bad reputation at work can be a compound result from this action.
One way is to help your manager focus on his natural strengths. Another is to proactively work around his weaknesses. If you know you have a manager who’s disorganized, then help him to be on top of things rather than whining about his lack of organizational skills. If you know your manager is often late to meetings, offer to kick off the next meeting for him. If he tends to change his mind frequently, or he is absolutely forgetful or often contradicts himself, be sure to document interactions so you can refer back to them. If you know your manager is slow to respond, continue to work on a project while you wait to hear back from him. If your manager is a shouter, don't react by shouting back. If they are petty or close-minded, don't descend to smallness yourself, rather maintain clam in professional demeanor to deal with your difficult manager.
Gandhi wrote, "Be the change you want to see in the world." In this case, act like the leader you wish your manager should be. Making yourself indispensable. Sometimes your manager can rely on you and to get help from you. It is a valuable asset when you start to look to “what's next?” By doing what you can to help your manager succeed, you lay a milky way for greater success yourself. It might not be an immediate reward. But in the long run, you can never lose by helping others do better than they otherwise would.
3. Make Your “Personal Character”.
Never let your manager’s bad behavior be an excuse for your own. It is very often that people start feeling to slack off, take longer lunches, lose interest, or stop performing well because of their bad manager. Don’t go with the flow. Keep in mind in focus on top performance. That can draw back bad tendency in the work environment. Other people do it. It does not mean you have to do it too. Stay engaged. Complain to your spouse or your friends all you want. Actually, handling a difficult manager well can really set you apart. Keep in mind that who can open or close future opportunities for you is this person.
If you feel you’ve run out of options to dealing with him reasonably, then don’t go rumor-mongering or bad-mouthing him to everyone within earshot. That will ultimately say more about you than it does about your manager. You had better following proper procedures with Human Resources or with higher-level management.
4. Give your manager a chance to respond.
Sometimes you might have some concerns and issues that you should discuss with your coworkers or manager. You may think whether you should suffer quietly or complain out loud to colleagues. Instead, you skip all by jumping to the conclusion of taking an exit from the company. That can make you miss possible and positive solutions for yourself at the end. Speak out and give him a chance to respond.
When you approach them with respect and with genuine desire to make things work better, you can open the door to whole new levels of trust, collaboration, and outcome. The door, that could remain permanently closed, would open for you otherwise.
5. Know his preferences and adapt to them.
Observe your manager’s behavioral style and preferences.
Is he fast-paced and quick to make decisions?
Is he slow to think about things or needs time to process information?
How does he like to communicate; via e-mail, in person drop-ins, by phone calls, or short memos?
The more you can tune in your style to your manager’s style when collaborating, the more he will really hear what you’re saying.
You should do personality assessments of your manager as well. It can help you adapt your style and spare a lot of strain. Working with his preferences is an obvious way of managing your manager without his ever knowing it. It’s a key leadership skill for you to develop regardless of the kind of manager you are working for. Be on top and ahead of your manager’s game!
6. Don’t be intimidated by a bully. Stand tall, never be coward.
If your manager is a yeller, a criticizer, or a judge, stand firm. If you think you have done the best you can perform, keep your head up high and don’t give him the satisfaction of pushing you down. Instead of being a coward and responding with anger, you had better asking questions, seeking to understand, and working to defuse difficult situations. It takes practice, but over time you will get better at it and he will look elsewhere for his powerful kick.
If you feel compelled to speak out to him on his behavior, go ahead and do so with a cool head and prepare in advance for the consequent fallout. It could get ugly so think throughout beforehand. What are your options? Who are your allies? Have you documented his behavior? Can you deal with the possibility of the worst outcome? Sure, it’s important to stand strong, but be smart about it. Before climbing out, be sure you've managed all risks and set up a safety net if you fall.
7. Be proactive: Do your research before jumping ship.
To manage a bad manager is not to have one at all at the beginning of your employment. Whenever you are looking to move into a new role in the same company or move to another organization, spend some time to get a sense of the culture, the leadership and the sort of management practices. If you are moving internally, make sure you do your networking ahead of time to get a sense of both the environment within the team you might be moving to. Are they leaders, who create an environment where people are inspired and supported to work hard, or are they slacked or fear about opportunities to grow? Have a coffee with whomever you know at the new company to get a sense of culture, employee engagement, morale, and management style. Investing a few hours up front could spare you a few years of frustration and strain down the line. It won’t make you feel like jumping from frying pan to fire.