Sometimes learning what NOT to do can be as important (or even more important) than understanding what to do.
When it comes to working for a bad boss, try looking at the positive aspects and how it can actually help your career development.
The missing manager. This boss tends to be disengaged from employees and the day-to-day work. He or she might hang out behind a closed office door and have little interaction with others, or is frequently out of the office on business trips.
What you can learn: How to manage up. This is a great opportunity to learn how to keep your boss informed of your activities and how you’re contributing to the department or company. Try creating an overview document that briefly explains your projects or major tasks and your progress. Use this document for “check in” discussions and to discuss your work quality and productivity level.
The micromanager. This boss doesn’t just give work assignments, he or she provides step-by-step instructions on how to do the work, and then incessantly checks in to follow-up.
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What you can learn: Compassion and patience. You can’t force your boss to change his or her behavior, but you can learn to let go of your anger in favor of calm tolerance in your interactions. Find out the level and depth of progress updates your manager prefers, along with the best method for communications (email, instant messaging, face-to-face, etc.)
The “drive-by” boss. When he or she hands out projects at work, it’s like a Dilbert cartoon, they sprint past cubicle after cubicle tossing work assignments over the walls with little to no direction or clarification.
What you can learn: How to flex your style. Working with a drive-by boss can help you practice adapting your communication style to the style of others. If you tend to be slower paced and highly analytical, try slightly speeding up how fast you speak when you’re with your boss. Find out the results your manager wants you to achieve with projects or major tasks, and only dive into discussions with lots of specifics if they request it.
The “show stealer.” This boss is notorious for taking credit for other people’s work, and seems to have a constant need to be in the limelight.
What you can learn: Integrity and character. Take a deep breath and be thankful you’re being shown an example of how you will never act when you become a people manager. Find ways to acknowledge the contribution of others to create an environment where everyone around you feels appreciated.
Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “It is better to light a candle than curse the darkness.” The next time you’re stuck working for a bad boss, try taking a positive approach to the situation by considering all the wonderful attributes you’re learning.