Bad Managers: How to Deal

There is nothing more toxic to any work environment than a manager without the talent to manage. Unfortunately, just as with family members, we don’t always have a choice. There are some things you can do to “manage up” to help decrease the negative aspects of your experience of being managed poorly. All of this advice is coming with the understanding that you’re working to your highest potential with integrity.

The first thing to examine in your own behavior is your own communication regarding the problem manager. Don’t gossip. Don’t go there at all. Misery loves company but just keeps becoming more miserable. Peers who build a united front usually are not able to effect meaningful change. My mother quoted her grandmother all the time, “Keep your own counsel.”  That means don’t be a gossip, don’t adopt other people’s problems as your own. Take care of you first. There are several reasons for this first and in my opinion most important instruction; You never want to damage your reputation by gossiping, and going with the “misery loves company” behavior will only make you feel worse. Focus on the negative and the negative will be the most prevalent thing to you. The same is true the other way- focus on the positive and the positive will be the most prevalent thing to you.

Next, make sure you are listening at least twice as much as you speak. Sometimes managers really do need to be managed. About two months into a new job, I once walked into my manager’s office and said: “I’m overwhelmed and my activity level is unsustainable.” She looked at me and laughed. “You are really efficient. I was just seeing how much work you could handle at a time. Thanks for letting me know!” I listened, took assignments, asked questions when necessary, and only spoke up when I was overwhelmed. She was testing how much I could handle, and I was teaching her exactly what she wanted to know… the thing is,  before walking into her office and making the announcement that I was about to drown in my work, I thought she was an inhumane slave driver. I was wrong. Only by communicating by listening first, and then giving intelligent responses did our manager-employee relationship make it to the next level.

In my experience, the most difficult type of manager to deal with is the flip-flopper. This manager is one who says something, and then without even realizing it completely contradicts himself. Working with a manager of this sort can be beyond nerve-wracking, and I’ve been there. My advice with this frustrating manager is to listen very closely. It will also behoove you to take good notes, and follow up with him (or her) after each meeting with your notes. Until I adopted that practice, I only became more and more frustrated. My negative energy was severely impacting the relationship that manager an I had. In order to turn the tide, I had to focus on the positive, take notes, and circulate notes after meetings. These notes went to every person involved in the meeting, and it ended up turning me into someone the other folks found valuable.  My notes were complete, and they were presented in a positive way. Most of my communication of this type started via email with the sentence “Thank you for this morning’s meeting. Below are my notes; please let me know of any corrections or additions so we are all on the same page.”
If all else fails, this is an excellent spot for a coach. A good management coach can help you navigate difficult relationships. Though we can not control the actions of other people, we are 100% in control of how we react to them. A series of well-timed reactions can turn the tide.

Click this link to get started seeing if coaching is right for you. The Management Coach has a team of coaches ready to help you reach your next level in life and business. Our team also has resources and tools for businesses to use at all levels for managers and their crew.

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