Satisfying a difficult boss is always a challenge, but doing so becomes critically important in a weak economy with a nearly 10% unemployment rate. The last thing you want to do is give your hard-to-please manager an excuse to replace you.
If your boss exhibits one of the following behavior patterns, use these proven strategies for keeping your job and your sanity…
The Micromanager. “Control freaks” worry that if they don’t supervise every last detail of a project, chaos will ensue. Since their perfectionism results from insecurity, you need to reassure them.
Frequent progress reports go a long way toward calming down an intrusive perfectionist. You also might tell the boss that you are driven to do even better work when given some autonomy because you are a self-starter — but always explain how you plan to deliver the expected results. Finally, if you have made mistakes or missed deadlines in the past, tell the boss what you’re doing to ensure that it won’t happen again.
The Undecider. Some managers give little in the way of direction and can’t seem to decide what they want — until something goes wrong. The trick here is figuring out why you’re not getting enough guidance.
One possibility is that the boss is busy. If that’s the case, ask for input only when you need it. Get straight to the point, and present the issue simply — too many details make choosing a course of action more difficult.
Another explanation for chronic indecisiveness is, again, insecurity. Afraid of making the wrong decision, the boss won’t make any decision. In this case, make a recommendation and explain why it’s the best choice.
The Machiavelli. The relentless career builder wants only to impress superiors and get ahead. Such managers take credit for everything their subordinates accomplish. They don’t spend energy developing staff, but they frequently have “pets” — the people who make them look good.
This kind of boss has a fragile ego and needs a lot of attention. Preface your sentences with compliments, and be careful not to say anything that may be taken as a challenge. If the boss claims credit publicly for your work, speak up — but share the limelight by using “we” and “our,” rather than “I” and “my.”
The Compulsive Critic. Managers who never seem satisfied with their employees’ performance (even though the employees are doing good work) often are deeply angry. Sometimes they believe that recognizing good work in others would diminish their own accomplishments.
For that reason, you shouldn’t try to defend yourself if your boss disparages what you know is fine work. Develop a thick skin. Often, you won’t have to redo or change anything.
The Moody Personality. Extreme mood swings, unpredictable reactions and irrational rages characterize borderline personality disorder, a condition that’s hard to diagnose and treat.
Borderlines don’t respond to reason because they have no insight into their behavior. And they don’t respond to emotional appeals because they’re too absorbed in their own feelings to care about others.
The only way to cope with a borderline boss is to keep a low profile. Avoid getting dragged into dramas or confrontations. Do the best work you can, and rely on your colleagues for inspiration.