» Actions with Challenging Managers – There are all over the place!


Another aspect of “hardlines” hard choices and actions relates to what to do if you have a difficult manager. I have had my share of them and I wish I knew then what I know now. Although it is often best to leave such situations, many times it is not practical. Perhaps now so more than ever.


I helped my friend and colleague Gary Ranker with the information below in the interview below. I studied some many of these management types once I started doing psychological profiles and reviews for corporations and their potential new recruits.


I think you will find it of interest.


The Australian Financial Review

 Sydney,    www.afr.com




“Getting inside the mind of a manager”


Recognizing your manager’s style can help you in your workplace,

writes AFR Editor  Fiona Smith.


Do you hate coming into work in the morning?


It is probably not the work you mind so much, but rather your boss is making your life a nightmare. Once you might have quit but, since the recession, you are probably stuck and you have to find a way to deal with it.


Research shows that one of the main reasons people leave their jobs is because of poor relationships with their managers or inadequate leadership. So with a tough job market, there are many people gritting their teeth and biding their time until they can make an exit. One way of making life bearable in the meantime is to ‘‘manage up’’, says US-based ‘‘corporate politics coach’’ Gary Ranker, who was visiting Sydney last week.


Ranker is a former president of Hallmark Cards in Germany who specializes in helping negotiate the power plays and emotional minefields that are unavoidable in almost any workplace.  His clients include senior leaders at General Electric, Goldman Sachs and Sony. He says the most important element in managing your boss is to let go of your own ego.


‘‘Remember, it is not about you, it is about them,’’ Ranker says. This means allowing their bad behavior to wash over you while you watch them loose their heads.  Don’t take it personally; try not to show emotion and work out how to best manage them. ‘‘More than anything, when you deal with someone who is problematic, take it seriously and try to look through their eyes – even if their view is distorted,’’ he says. ‘‘Try to think about how that person views the world, and how they view you.  Begin to get inside them.’’  


Then try to forestall their next ‘‘episode’’ by giving them the type of response that keeps their insecurities or other ‘‘inner demons’’ in check.  Meanwhile, make sure you document every interaction in case you need to protect yourself in the future. This may mean sending them an email detailing your understanding of an instruction or proceedings during a meeting.


‘‘Maintain your sense of humour, it can help defuse a situation,’’Ranker says.  If you want to directly tackle their behavior, talk to them about a specific incident as if it was all your fault,  your inability to understand what was required by them. Tell them you are the type of person who needs more clarification from them, which means you are likely to avoid misunderstandings or being blindsided.  Ranker says most of the dysfunctional managers he sees don’t see themselves as bullies;  they describe themselves as ‘‘hard taskmasters’’ or ‘‘people who don’t suffer fools lightly’’. They sometimes tend to mean the same thing: bully.


Most are surprised when they learn what effect their behaviour has on the performance of their organization – and they are more likely to be concerned about that.


Ranker gathered some strategies on how to manage some typically difficult bosses, with the assistance of some of his PhD students in management and psychology from the Marshall Goldsmith School of Management at the Alliant International University of San Diego, California.


The bully

If they are giving you a dressing down in front of others, go quiet.  Don’t engage with them. Otherwise, avoid contact with them as much as possible and limit meeting times by scheduling them 15 minutes before they are expected elsewhere. Walk in with notes and take notes from your conversation so you don’t forget anything. Try not to talk to them when they are stressed. ‘‘What you don’t want to do is trigger any defences they already have,’’ says Ranker.


The micromanager

Give them more information than they ask for and unsolicited progress reports, which note the status or stage of completion on projects. This means they have less reason to peer over your shoulder.   Micromanagers are usually control freaks, so be proactive and keep them fully informed.


The indecisive boss

Make like a psychologist and keep asking clarifying questions to help them understand what it is they want you to do. Those questions will also help you find out whether they favour one action over another.  You can also tell them what the problem is and what you think the ideal solution is and they are likely to agree. Have a back-up solution in case they can’t agree to the first. There is a danger with this tactic, however, because if everything goes wrong with your idea, you make a handy scapegoat.


The paranoid person

Do not appear threatening in any way. Do not withdraw or attack, it will only make things worse. Don’t acquiesce to their attacks, or you will mark yourself as an easy target and, if it is possible, let them know that you are not a threat to them.  Avoid getting into arguments and don’t contradict yourself as it will only add to their paranoia.  ‘‘Over communicate wherever possible and never surprise the boss,’’ says Ranker.


The grandiose boss

Don’t try to make them change their show-off behaviour or tell them how it makes you feel as they can’t empathize with you. Don’t criticize them because they will get angry or defensive.  Don’t gossip about them, as they will have their spies. Exercise an unusual amount of tact to protect their fragile self image, esteem and worth and don’t try to correct them, unless it is literally a matter of great importance and urgency.  If things go wrong with a project, accept responsibility and say you will do it differently next time.


The dysfunctional manager

This type of manager is just plain unpleasant. Make sure you document everything, don’t play dirty and make sure you have witnesses when you ask for feedback. Keep as much of your communications as possible in electronic form. Take care making alliances with your manager’s boss or clients, because it could be viewed as disloyalty.