How to manage up when you have a bad boss

One of the tests of being a leader is knowing how to navigate a boss who doesn’t score highly as a leader him/herself.

1. What’s the driver?

All bad behavior is the result of an intrinsic motivator. If you were to strip away the outside façades of bullying, apathy, criticalness, sweety nice, indecision, micromanaging, etc. what is left? Put yourself in their shoes?

  •     What is he afraid of?
  •     What keeps her up at night?
  •     What does he really care about?
  •     What would she love more of? Less of?
  •     How does he measure success?

Listen to cues that demonstrate what he doesn’t want. How do you position your work and interactions to accommodate what she cares about? Preface strained interactions with a genuine, “Because I know that we want the team to _____” statements that underscore his priorities.

2. Have their back

Trust is crucial – especially for an insecure leader. Once they know your only motive is to help position their success, they will expect only good things from you and listen and react better.

3. Manage yourself

If you feed into the anger, insecurity or lack of skill of an underdeveloped leader you could allow your weaknesses to show instead of your strengths to shine. Who are you when under fire? How do you demonstrate grace and grit? If your work life were a movie who would play you and what would they do?

When in doubt as to what to do, pause first. The sacred pause allows you to squeeze in between the moment you feel an emotion (frustration, anger, overwhelmed) and react to it (say something you’ll regret, get emotional, withdraw in defeat).