It’s a strange realization when you start a new job, especially when you’re an entry-level employee and this is possibly your first “real adult” job, that you have to manage your boss. If you had good mentors, a good internship, or perhaps a really good Career Center in college, someone may have told you this would happen. If you’re like me and heard of this but never really thought it was true, it might be a shock when you find out, yes, you do have to learn how to manage your boss.
Learning how to manage your boss is extremely delicate and depends a lot on your boss’ personality. Are they Type A’s who like to know everything, are they less hands on and expect you to go to them with problems, or, perhaps the most difficult of all, are they all over the place with no consistency?
Luckily for you, I’ve had all three types (plus many more, and many that share similar qualities), and I’ve successfully navigated the waters around all different types of bosses. Here are a few ways you can learn to successfully manage your boss without making it look like you’re managing them.
Managing a Type A Boss
A Type A boss can either be a dream or a nightmare to work with, depending on what kind of Type A they are. Are they Type A until they realize you can handle the work, then they back off but still check in regularly? Or will they never relinquish control and basically micromanage your work?
In some cases, you can get a Type A boss to eventually let you do your work by consistently proving to them you can handle the work. Type A bosses typically get a bad reputation for being micro-managers, but in many cases this is because they found they couldn’t trust the work product from their employees, so they assume they can’t trust anyone – especially the new person (you).
Here are the best ways to handle a Type A boss:
- Get work done ahead of schedule. Fair or not, your best bet with managing a Type A boss is get your work done ahead of schedule. If the deadline is Friday, have it done by Wednesday. Have it completely done with maybe one or two questions for your boss, and have it done well.
- Be confident. When you approach your boss with questions, be confident in how you ask them. You don’t have to be confident in your (assumed) answer – heck, you could be completely clueless about the answer! But when asking your Type A boss, ask your question confidently, like it’s a completely normal question anyone (new or not) would have.
- Document everything. Because Type A bosses have usually been let down by employees in the past, as you complete work, make a running list of things you’ve completed in that week. If you notice a process being done inefficiently that you could do more efficiently, write down some notes about how you could improve this process. Type As (and micro-managers) typically look for things that make you look bad, so document what you do.
Winning over a Type A boss and managing them effectively takes a lot of time, more time than any other boss. However, if you win over a Type A boss, and they trust you, they’ll give you a lot of opportunities to shine. They’ll likely give you more work, but if you’re looking for a promotion and a raise, this will be exactly what you need. Type As also make great references, because they typically have good memories (or take good notes) so if you’ve been a high performer, they’ll sing your praises.
If your Type A boss stays Type A, then they’ve become a micro-manager. In this case, continue documenting everything you do and start to set boundaries once you’ve proved yourself. You want to make it so your boss isn’t hovering over you, like a micro-manager, so encourage your boss to set up weekly meetings with regular email updates from you. It may be tedious to send unnecessary email updates to your boss, especially if you work in the same office and already meet weekly, but it’s better than having him/her sit next to you and interrupt your work every single day.
Managing the Disappearing Boss
The opposite of the Type A boss is the disappearing boss. Whether it’s because your boss is actually checked out or because they think you can handle your work all on your own, managing a disappearing or checked out boss can be a challenge.
Here are the best ways to handle a disappearing boss:
- Find out why they’re gone or checked out first. Is your boss really busy, so they are never there? Do they like work so much that they forget to come out and socialize? Or are they checking out because they’re close to retirement and just don’t care? Figuring out how to communicate with your boss (or their potential replacements, however temporary, if your boss is retiring) will determine how you move forward.
- If your boss is busy or forgets to check on staff, be persistent. See if you can set weekly or twice a month, one-on-one meetings with your boss to check in. If your boss is busy, these meetings can be short (30 minutes or less). Keep the topics focused on questions you have or challenges you’re not sure how to overcome.
- If your boss is checked out, see who the next in line may be. If your company usually hires from the outside, that might be more difficult, but usually someone will be a temporary boss or shoulder more of those duties as your boss nears retirement and after s/he retires. Try to work with them, ask them questions, and understand what their work style is. Even if they’re only a temporary boss, you need to have someone to answer your questions if your boss is truly completely checked out.
Managing the Eccentric Genius Boss
Depending on your personality, managing an eccentric (genius or otherwise) boss can be entertaining – or frustrating. These types of bosses typically have so much going on in their heads that they don’t really communicate effectively – with you and with everyone else.
Here’s how to manage an eccentric boss:
- Be prepared to sift through what they’re saying to understand anything. After a meeting with your boss, you may have more questions than answers. Try to take some time, think about what your boss said, then see how it applies to the questions you have. You’ll probably have to rely on your coworkers for clarity until you understand your boss’ quirks.
- Be prepared to accept more responsibility, quickly. Eccentric bosses, particularly brilliant and eccentric bosses, will assume you’re just as talented and bright as they are, and they’ll assume you can handle more work than you think you can. If you feel overwhelmed, set a meeting with your boss and express your concerns (do you need more training, more time, a coworkers assistance?) Typically, eccentric bosses are understanding once they realize they’ve give you way more work than you can handle, so don’t be afraid to speak up. Accepting more work if you can handle it, however, is great for your resume.
- Understand that sometimes you will act as the boss. If you go to meetings with your boss and other people outside of your organization, you may have to act as a “translator” for your eccentric boss. Be prepared that people may start calling you for information because they “see” you as the boss (or the Boss Whisperer). Always remember you speak for your boss and, if you’re asked questions you can’t answer, defer to your boss.
In my experience, the eccentric genius boss has always been the best to work for, because you learn so much from them. Compared to the other bosses, eccentric genius bosses rarely have egos and are so excited to teach you about the job that they give you a ton of freedom, flexibility, and opportunity for challenges. They can, however, be frustrating, so certain personalities do better under eccentric bosses than others.
That’s not to say you won’t find a lot of variation in bosses either – some bosses’ personalities will overlap and some you may never understand. Most bosses, however, have some type of these personalities under the surface. When in doubt, they’re probably Type A.
With these strategies, you’re on your way to successfully managing your boss. Have you found these personality types to be true and, if so, how do you manage your boss?
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