Managing Up Part III: 6 Common Types of Bosses

By Harrison Smith, VP Credit Manager, Stonebriar Commercial Finance and Camtu Vo, Digital Consultant, DLL Financial Solutions Partner. Editor: Jacob Fahl, VP Funding & Portfolio Services, Hitachi Capital America Corp.

This resource is part of the Career Development series developed by the ELFA Emerging Talent Advisory Council. Learn more.

In Managing Up Parts I & II, we covered how you can manage your boss and why it is important to do so. Again, Managing Up is not just to get ahead in your career but to develop and maintain a working relationship that benefits you, your boss and your organization. Here, in Part III, we’ve identified 6 boss types that are challenging to work for along with some tips to help you Manage Up

Managing Up Pt III
Types Characteristics  Tips for Managing
The Friend-Boss:
Your best friend or close co-worker becomes your boss, or your boss becomes a close friend.
  1. They were your go-to person for work talk.
  2. There may be some oversharing of information.
  3. You both are at the same events or hang out at work and outside of work too often.
  1. Create and maintain boundaries to keep you and your Friend-Boss accountable for when you are friends and when they are your boss. Do not go everywhere or do everything together!
  2. Do not flaunt the friendship as this can cause backlash from your peers.
  3. Share as much or as little with your Friend-Boss as if they were any other boss. Being your friend does not mean you have to share every work detail with them. It might mean you share even less as there is a different level of authority between you both.
  4. Ask for feedback as your Friend-Boss may not think you need it. However, they are still your boss and should provide regular feedback to you.
The Ghost:
A hands-off manager who delegates tasks and under-manages employees
  1. This is the boss that gives you a project and then disappears.
  2. They may assume that you can do the task.
  3. They are either not there to answer your questions or may be too busy to provide support.
  1. Do not use your Ghost-Boss as an excuse to be lazy and not work diligently on your priorities. You must have the internal motivation to get the job done and remember, there may be other people in the organization paying attention.
  2. Be proactive and take the initiative to do tasks before being asked.
  3. Pay attention to your boss’s schedule so that you can schedule a meeting to ask questions.
  4. Find a mentor within your organization or within the ELFA to help you grow professionally.
The Micromanager:
They have their hand in every detail of your daily responsibilities, refusing to grant you the slightest bit of autonomy or allow you to make any strategic decisions.
  1. It is their natural inclination to micromanage.
  2. They only micromanage a certain employee because they do not trust that person.
  1. Dig in and Manage Up! The more you anticipate your boss’s wants, needs and expectations and proactively address them, the sooner you can remove the opportunity for them to micromanage you. Micromanaging only lessens once your boss has confidence and trust in your ability to meet their needs (refer to Parts 1 & 2 of Managing Up).
  2. Prioritize the tasks that are most important to your boss.
  3. Keep your boss (overly) informed by providing regular updates and progress reports before they ask for them.
The Impulsive:
A boss who cannot contain their excitement about the next thing.
  1. Constantly having and chasing new ideas.
  2. Shifting priorities with no plan of action to carry an idea through to the finish line.
  3. Energetic about the newest, brightest.
  4. Can be unpredictable in mood and decision-making.
  1. Keep with the energy and enthusiasm of your impulsive boss. However, help steer and shape their vision with constructive and workable solutions.
  2. Stay calm, stay focused and keep an open mind.
  3. Mood-check your boss and follow their lead in terms of how you respond. Energy with energy. Moodiness with empathy.
  4. Remind your boss of the reality versus the dream through discussions about priorities and updates on plans. Circle around with your coworkers to make sure everyone is on the same page.
The Incompetent: 
This type is exactly what it sounds like—they may not be ready to be a boss or simply should not be one in the first place. 
  1. Does not make decisions or act.
  2. Makes the wrong decisions (a lot) from hiring to setting priorities.
  3. Does not have the right focus; therefore, cannot communicate effectively.
  1. Empathize if you can with your boss. Are they new to the role? What are they lacking that you can help with?
  2. Make sure it really is incompetence instead of a different approach than you are normally used to with other bosses or your own habits.
  3. Do not rely on an incompetent boss to mentor you. Go find a mentor that will guide you—maybe even through this tricky relationship.
  4. Fair warning: Be careful in bringing the incompetence to light. This could backfire against you fast.
The Workaholic:
They arrive before you and leave after you, often working late into the evenings and on weekends. You wonder if they have a life and worry that you are losing yours.
  1. Highly motivated, dedicated and hard charging.
  2. On a mission and expects those around them to share in their passion and work ethic.
  3. Thinks nothing of assigning projects at 5PM that are due the next day.
  1. Working for a highly motivated, task-oriented workaholic can be the fastest way to advance your career if you can survive the damage to your physical, mental and emotional health.
  2. Get. The. Job. Done. Maximize your productivity through time management, focus and setting goals. No lollygagging or Social Media during work hours!
  3. Start a conversation with your boss if your work-life boundaries are in conflict with their expectations. Negotiate your needs with their expectations in mind and suggest solutions that work for both of you. It is not an easy conversation but if you do it in the spirit of trying to adapt, you may find a compromise that works for both of you.
  4. If #3 fails and work-life balance is important to you, then ask yourself if doing the hard work now will pay off in the future. Being a workaholic isn’t the only path to success. It is OK to seek out other opportunities, especially early in your career.

The best leadership lessons often come from your worst boss. The experience may be terrible at the time, but the lifelong lessons they impart are priceless. Working with and managing different personalities is a critical skill set for emerging leaders. Actively Managing Up early in your career tests your flexibility, tenacity and resilience. These experiences help you learn about your own values—likes, dislikes, strengths and weaknesses. You also learn what kind of leader you want to be when it is your turn. 

Keep in mind that one day you will be managed by your employees! So, what type of boss will you be?