Uncomfortable Job Situations: It’s Not You, It’s Them
The ability to shape and aid another in reaching their goals and ambitions is definitely one of the most rewarding things that one can partake of. Therefore, most of us who manage people take pride in our careers. We strive to create an environment that inspires. We want to foster honesty, integrity, the feeling of being part of a greater whole and of nurturing a person’s strengths. It’s therefore heartbreaking when we either witness or hear about bad managers, who usually end up driving people either out of the door or leave them operating at their lowest levels.
There used to be a time when such behaviors remained hidden, and these types of people flew under the radar. However, in a world where more and more companies recognize the importance of strong leadership, where managers are held accountable for stats like turn-over, and where 360 reviews are required, it’s not quite as easy for the bad apples to continue climbing the ladder.
The sad part is that these standards are not used for certain industries (entertainment comes to mind) or for smaller companies. So here are a few samples of the most common types of bad managers, and what one might be able to do when facing such an individual.
1. The Abuser
As the title already suggests, this person is abusive, and clearly cannot be reasoned with. They stand out by throwing tantrums, screaming and yelling at people. Some of them don’t ever raise their voice; they prefer to make snide or passive-aggressive comments and belittle or threaten their employees; preferably in front of others. They motivate with fear and bully people into submission. It’s always their way or the highway; they have zero self-awareness and arrogantly think themselves not only irreplaceable, but also excellent and above the rules. The only people they tend to respect (at least on the surface), are those who can get them further up the ladder.
2. The Crazy Maker
This is the type who expects you to mind-read. They change their mind about every hour or less. Working for them is a constant roller-coaster, and you can never win. It’s impossible to anticipate their next move. They don’t give a clear direction, and then become unglued when you did what they told you to do, which now, of course, is no longer accurate. This results in deadlines being missed and money being lost, which they then blame on you. They don’t know what they want and can’t make decisions.
3. The People Hater
This is the type who got promoted, because maybe they managed a project really well, or maybe because they’ve been there long enough and this was the only way up for them. They often inherit a team and either have never managed or don’t like managing others. They see management as a chore and therefore tend to ignore you. They don’t give a lot of direction, they don’t like to interact and they make you feel guilty for asking them a question, i.e. interrupting them, or needing guidance. They operate in a bubble, and you are the intruder.
4. The Best Friend
Believe it or not, this is not what you want in a manager. The buddy tends to be way too relaxed and is much more concerned about how they are perceived. This is excellent if you like to party with your boss and want him/her to understand why you are too hung over to come in to work the next day. This is not such a great scenario if you want to learn anything, want to be challenged or even get promoted. Your boss should be your mentor, leader and should definitely care for you. However, he/she also has to hold you accountable and treat you equally to others, which requires certain boundaries to be upheld.
5. The Slime Ball
This is the guy who is always friendly to your face. The guy who pats you on the back and tells you what a great person you are; while taking credit for your accomplishments and using you as means to the end, which is getting them promoted or to helping them look good to upper management. This is the manager who will give presentations that make no sense, because the content was provided entirely by their teams. They are wishy washy and hardly ever have concrete feedback for you, good or bad. They’ll tell you what a great contribution you are, but would never fight for you if you needed it.
So what can you do to avoid these types, or what can you do once you end up with them? First of all, try to avoid them! This means that when you interview for a new position, interview your new boss! Ask them questions like “how long have you managed this team? What do you consider your greatest strengths? What are some of your weaknesses?” If at all possible talk to people who are currently working for this person. Demeanor and body language will tell you a lot about how comfortable and valued someone really feels.
If you end up working for a bad manager, you must consider your options. It’s important that you don’t keep quiet! Talk to your HR department and provide them with specific dates and incidents. Be as detailed as possible, and try to remain calm. Remember that nothing can be done about a bad apple, if no one speaks up or takes action! Don’t be afraid. Most companies have great HR departments that handle issues professionally and fairly.
Sometimes, though, you won’t be able to turn to HR. There are these (hopefully rare) times where the abuser is the head of the company, a high up VP, etc. and instead of getting help, you’ll be driven out. Yes, by law this is not what’s supposed to happen—but let’s be real, it still does. Many, many years ago, I worked for the CFO of a company, who literally was the worst manager I have ever encountered to this day. He told me in my 1-year review that I wasn’t worth much of a raise and the only reason he had hired me was because I was the cheapest. Guess how confident I felt to talk to HR? When confronted with a situation like this, I would always advise you to walk! The stress, heart-ache and misery are not worth it—ever! No paycheck makes up for you ruining your mental and physical health!
Remember that a work environment operates just like a family environment in many ways. This means that abusive and bad behaviors will trickle down from the top to bottom. The entire flock will become polluted or infected in no time, which results in others also becoming bullies, or simply not caring and turning disgruntled and bitter. It is impossible to thrive in a toxic environment. So don’t take it, and worse, don’t think you can’t do better! Because this would mean that the abuser mentality has already won. Instead know that there are always alternatives. They sometimes may take time, but they are there. You’re worth it!