5 Bad Bosses And How To Beat Them

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Karsten Strauss, Forbes Staff
A journalist covering entrepreneurs, technology & business.
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ENTRE PRE NEU RS | 3/27/2014 @ 10:07AM | 3,902 views
5 Bad Bosses And How To Beat Them
Being in charge isn’t easy. Running an
organization takes expert knowledge of
an industry, an understanding of
logistics that’s based in reality and
leadership qualities that forge many
different personalities and expertise
into a single force greater than the sum
of its parts.
Those that are good at it can make life
for their underlings inspiring and
rewarding. Those that suck at it irk
everyone and ultimately diminish the
chances the organization will thrive.
They may even scuttle the boat
Antoine Gerschel and Lawrence Polsky
of management consultant PeopleNRG
have a thing to say about bad bosses.
The two have written books on
leadership that include such titles as
Perfect Phrases for Conflict Resolution
and The 19 Steps to Lead Employees
Over the River of Fear. I spoke with
Gerschel recently and he outlined the
traits of 5 types of poor leaders and
how to deal with them. Here’s what he
had to say…
The Robot. When a leader focuses on
the technical at the expense of emotion
or people, you may have a robot on
your hands. This type can often be
found in technology startups, says
Gerschel. “They are used to solving
technology problems but once they get
into a management or a leadership role
dealing with people their intuition says
they can apply technology and technological approaches in dealing with
people problems. Oftentimes that’s a
Some bosses inspire to be your best self, both professionally and in your
everyday life. Others make every day seem tense, dreary and frustrating.
Learning how to deal with a bad boss is an important step to career happiness. (image credit: William (Tactum Macula) Walsh on Flickr)
big trap they walk into.” This misstep
can create conflicts and barriers
between leadership and everyone else.
Solutions? Break down the barriers.
Forget emails, IMs and texts—go for a
face-to-face and push for actual
meetings when you want to make
yourself heard. “If it’s your boss you
have to be assertive,” says Gerschel. “It
also creates a certain level of urgency.”
The Micro-Manager. In a sense,
micro-managers are perfectionists
stuck in the past. They’ve had success
in their careers by being detailoriented and going deep into
problems—sometimes solo and
sometimes with small teams.
“Suddenly they may be in a position as
a boss where they need to have a little
bit more distance, a little bit more
overview and they have to let go,”
Gerschel explained. When not in
control, insecurity sets in.
Solutions? There is no one remedy
for a micro-manager as your place in
the organization can mean changing
tactics. “It has to do with what level of
experience you have—the more you
know, the more autonomy you’re
asking for.” A beginner in the industry
may see a micro manager as an
awesome boss, he said. As you grow,
it’s essential to let such a leader know
you can handle yourself don’t need a
boot on your neck at all times. “It’s not
easy for them, but find a friendly way
of having conversations with them and
be ready to negotiate with them.”
The Dreamer. Usually part of the
entrepreneurial set, dreamers are
visionaries whose illusions sometimes
include those within their own organi-
zation. Because their visions are not
exactly concrete, they will often decline
to go into specifics, which can be
problematic when people working for
them need precise direction. “One
important consequence of it that
dreamers may struggle with is that they
do not give feedback—we also call them
the ‘no-feedback-bosses,’” Gerschel
explained. Working in a fast-moving
industry or space can make things
more complicated. “The strength of the
dreamer entrepreneurs is that they’re
very quickly re-adapting and redefining their dreams, but when you work
for one of those it can drive you crazy.”
Solutions? You need to ask questions.
Don’t let conceptual or hazy explanations about what is envisioned take the
place of specific information you need
to proceed. This may take more than
one conversation—in fact it may take
many, especially as the playing field
and the dreamer’s vision changes.
The Bully. These types of bosses
attack, insult, sometimes steal ideas. In
startups and turnaround situations,
bullies can propser because they’re
high energy, assertive, seem to know
what they want and make things
happen one way or another. Unfortunately they are very difficult to work
with – sometimes harassing – and are
productive at the expense of others.
Gerschel focuses on a type of bully he
calls the “disruptive innovator,” which
is a category where a figure like Steve
Jobs would fit nicely. “He wanted to
disrupt a whole industry: he had a
mission, he had a passion for something. Those people who stayed with
him were willing to stay with him
because of what he was trying to do.”
Solutions? If you are working for an
unbending jerk, consider either taking
formal action in sticking up for yourself
or simply leaving the organization to find
a job where the boss is not a lunatic.
Though The Bully can be a pain to work with, certain types of bully can be worth
following. Just make sure to stand your ground. (credit: Paul Kelly on Flickr)
If you find yourself working for a
disruptive innovator, it’s possible to
make things work. “You may want to
stay,” says Gerschel. “He or she is
still a bully and it’s still very difficult
to work with them – and that has
been extensively documented in the
case of Steve Jobs – so what do you
do?” You need to decide if the
mission is worth the pain. If it is,
stand up for yourself but do so
cautiously. “Oftentimes strength
respects strength,” Gerschel
explained. A-players want to work
with A-players and if you prove
yourself to be of that caliber – and
you are assertive – you can thrive and
the respect you command will be
your armor. “Oftentimes those that
are not standing up are the ones who
are suffering the most.”
The People Pleaser. The extreme
opposite of The Bully, People Pleasers
tend to be indecisive and most happy
during a Kumbaya singalong. “Even if
they’re in authority, they do not want to
exert their power,” Gerschel explained.
The noncommittal, vague leadership
style tends to keep people happy yet
unsure of where they stand or whether
progress is actually being made, all at the
expense of the organization.
Solutions: “Find a way out,” advises
Gerschel, laughing as he says it.
“Usually, if you’re working with a
People Pleaser, you will not be part of
the winning team.” These types of
bosses are not entirely doomed, he
adds, as there is a place for them in
sales, particularly in forging longlasting relationships. But as bosses,
they’re out of their element.
Antoine Gerschel and
Lawrence Polsky, of
PeopleNRG, make a
living by studying
management and
For more information, contact us at: [email protected] or 609.333.0653