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How To Work With A Difficult Manager

It’s natural for everyone to have a different management style – and a preference for the type of management they most like to work under.

One employer may respond best to a laid-back, hands-off management style where they can set their own deadlines and tasks. Another may prefer a boss who outlines how to implement a task with a strong sense of structure and clearly defined performance indicators.

It’s helpful to be aware of the types of personalities you may encounter on your career path. So what kind of challenging or difficult managers could you cross paths with?

1.  The Micromanager
This is the boss who asks that you report to them when you breathe – and labelling them as a difficult manager is often an understatement. Micromanagers are known for standing over your shoulder and dictating exactly how a task should be done, how an email should be written, and what you should do in every 5-minute bracket of your day to ensure everything is executed according to their notion of perfection.

A micromanager will often relax as soon as you’ve won their trust. So have a candid and open conversation with them, explaining that you work best when you are allowed some autonomy and room to grow. Suggest weekly or monthly objectives, plus meetings at agreed points in time, to reflect on your performance together. If you consistently deliver on what you commit to, you’ll find your boss may relax, start to trust your abilities and offer you more space.

2.  The Dictator
The classic difficult manager, this is the boss who rules with an iron fist. Their team is perfectly disciplined and always delivers on time, mainly driven by sheer terror that they’ll be sacked if they don’t (often because they’ve already seen it happen).

While some level of order and control is healthy, like the micromanager, this type of environment is likely to stifle creativity. Ultimately there’s only so much fear and pressure that a star employee is willing to take before they look for another job. While it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the negativity of a difficult manager who runs a dictatorship, the best response is to do what you have to, just get the job done and be confident about making suggestions that support the good of the whole team.

3.  The Boss Who’s Just ‘One Of The Gang’
This is the boss who spends more of their time getting their team to like them, than effectively managing them. Although it all may seem fun at first, a personality like this can still constitute a difficult manager. The whole team could lack focus or direction, which ultimately leads to a deficit in motivation and a limit to your career growth. The best response? Push your manager to set clear and objective goals for you, and take the lead in getting team projects accomplished.

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