4 Types of Bad Bosses and How to Deal With Them

April 5, 2017, 12:00 AM UTC
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The Leadership Insiders network is an online community where the most thoughtful and influential people in business contribute answers to timely questions about careers and leadership. Today’s answer to the question, “How do you work with an incompetent boss?” is written by Tom Gimbel, CEO of LaSalle Network.

Bad managers don’t just exist in movies like “Horrible Bosses” and “Office Space.” Real-life versions of these characters populate today’s workplaces, too.

My company, LaSalle Network, recently conducted a survey of more than 1,000 people, and 84% of respondents stated they have had a bad boss. Unfortunately, bad managers seem to fly under the radar; 55% stated they didn’t report the bad manager to leadership. More often than not, employees are worried that if they speak up, they’ll face serious repercussions or be fired. They avoid confrontation, and either move companies or suffer through.

If you like your company, your work, and your team, here is a guide to working with four types of difficult managers:

The narcissist

These managers care about self-promotion more than staff. They only want to hear how great they are, and they rarely ask for feedback on their performance because they don’t believe they are ever the problem. They take all the credit for an accomplishment and point the finger when things go wrong.

The best way to deal with them is to do your best work and humor them. This boss will take credit for many things you work hard on, but others will eventually realize your boss is not doing the heavy lifting—and they will notice you were humble enough to not jump up and take credit where it was due.

To satisfy these bosses, thank them constantly for their help and advice. Keep them informed on all communication you have with their boss and your clients. If your boss gets promoted, odds are they will take you along with them—so you need to maintain a positive working relationship.


These bosses say they care about employee development but are never there for coaching and support. They don’t give frequent feedback and are rarely around to answer questions. They aren’t responsive via phone, and emails from them are brief and sporadic.

Whether the manager is on the golf course or constantly traveling for meetings, don’t get bitter or fall into the mentality of “out of sight, out of mind.” Keep working hard and compensate by communicating a lot with your teams on the status of projects to keep things moving along.

Lack of direction can be frustrating, but it’s a chance for you to excel. You have the autonomy to prove you can execute on well thought-out decisions without micromanagement. Lean on other leaders in the organization to get information and support. As a result, you can prove yourself to leadership and build relationships with people outside of your immediate team.

The best friend

These bosses want their employees to love them. They want to be included in the water cooler talk and get invited to the happy hours after work. This isn’t necessarily a bad attribute, but you may have to be up front and tell your manager you also want direct feedback and constructive criticism to help you grow. You may also have to set boundaries.

Best friend managers are more likely to be an advocate for employees, and often let them sit in on executive meetings and accompany them on client visits. These are terrific opportunities to learn and grow.


The whirlwind

These managers are always on the run. Although they want to get an update on a project, they only have one minute to listen. These managers ask you to do something and then forget they ever brought it up. The results can be chaotic.

To deal with whirlwinds, send a short update on a weekly basis or a recap of the projects you’re working on. That way you can use the limited time together to ask specific questions, as opposed to updating your manager on the status of different projects.

On the bright side, at least you’re not being micromanaged. Having a boss that prefers concise communication can also be beneficial, because you’ll have more time to get things done. In a world of short interactions, it’s important to be able to speak confidently and concisely.

Unfortunately, bad bosses will always exist. But these tips can help you work with them to continue growing your career.

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