Career Advice

The Six Different Types of Managers and How To Work With Them

Over a period of several years, we have researched the different types of managers in Corporate America, and we have identified the following six types of bosses and their leadership styles. Read through the descriptions below to find your own manager and discover the best strategies for dealing with a particular management style. Although it is most likely that your boss will be heavily identified with one type, we encourage you to read through all the types of managers because he or she may have some characteristics and influences of the others.

The Control Freak

These people need to have everything that is going on in the palm of their hand. They don’t like subordinates making any decisions, no matter how small or innocuous, without first consulting their opinion. Control Freaks will also tend to hoard information. They may assign you to work on a task but then not tell you everything you need to know to complete the task. You could spend hours working on the task only to find out that half the information you needed was sitting on the desk of your boss, who was aware of this.
Control Freaks would never dream of doing the following

  • Run into you in the hall and not asking about the status of a project
  • Let you enjoy your lunch in peace without interrupting to get the latest update on what you are working on
  • Allow you to make a decision without being involved
  • Coach you on handling a problem independently
  • Delegate responsibility

How to get along with a Control Freak: Control Freaks need constant information. The best way to deal with a Control Freak is to constantly report them your status. This can be a time-consuming pain, but continuously keeping him in the loop is one of the surest ways to keep him off your back. For example, if you are working on a presentation for a Control Freak and you decide to change the background color to better match your corporate color scheme, send him an e-mail to let him know just before sending him the updated presentation. Another way to keep yourself sane while working with a Control Freak is to ask a lot of questions about assignments or projects he or she may give you.
Control Freaks use information as power. As long as they have the information, they have the power. As discussed above, Control Freaks have been known to withhold information that was critical to the success of a project. Asking questions will help you to get a better feel for what he knows. Keep in mind that Control Freaks do not withhold information to make you fail. They do it because it assures them that you will return to them for more information, assistance, etc. When you return, it gives them a sense of importance, of being needed, and most importantly, of still being in control.
Unfortunately, Control Freaks do not trust anyone easily. They tend to live in fear of “what if”. For example, “What if my boss asks me a question and I don’t know the answer? He might think I’m incompetent” and so forth. So they use manipulative tactics to keep others pandering to them and to ensure that they will be involved in everything that is going on in their department. The trick to keeping your own sanity is to surrender to the fact that you can’t change your boss.
However, delivering what they want and gaining their confidence and trust are critical for your success while working with them. Give them daily status reports, even hourly if that’s what it takes. Send them drafts of your emails and memos. Know that it will take twice as long to complete projects because you will have to wait in line with everyone else to have him review your work. Therefore, keep several projects going concurrently so you can switch back and forth between them while you are waiting to hear back on other projects.

The Autocrat

This manager has one objective: his own. He does not care about his employees, and nothing anyone ever does is good enough to satisfy him. He is impossible to get along with and is convinced that he is the only competent person working in the company.
Autocrats would never dream of doing the following

  •     Ask how you think a problem should be solved
  •     Admit to making a mistake
  •     Tell you what a great job you did
  •     Tell you how much they appreciate your efforts
  •     Empower you to make appropriate decisions at your level

How to get along with an Autocrat: Autocrats are tough, no doubt about it. They typically have one objective. If you can get them to share that objective with you, it will make your job that much easier because you want to make their objective your objective. For example, if your boss’ objective is to be promoted to vice president, then you need to do everything in your power to help your boss achieve that objective.
You might even be promoted as well. If not, at least you will have made your life easier while coping with your boss. While there is a lot out of your direct control, such as how your boss is perceived by his or her boss, you can demonstrate you are playing on your boss’s team, and as he or she starts to see you working for his or her benefit, he or she will hopefully begin to gain some confidence and respect in you. Just don’t expect him or her to verbally express as much. You will know that your plan is working when you become the “go to” person with any problem that arises.
Autocrats and Control Freaks have a lot in common, but the difference is that Autocrats are usually pretty clear about what they want. Control Freaks are less certain about what they want, so they try to control everything in order to keep their options open if they need to change direction at a later date. That being said, there are many tactics that will work for both, such as keeping them apprised of the status of your projects and clearing any decisions you may be making with them before moving ahead.
One critical difference between the two is that an Autocrat will respect you if you take a clear position on a problem or situation. Even if the Autocrat does not agree with you, they will typically recognize you for your position. However, if you take a position but are not clear or are unsure of yourself, look out. The Autocrat will smell your insecurity and crush you for it. Control Freaks, on the other hand, will not appreciate you having your own opinions unless, of course, they are completely in line with theirs.

The Blame Fixer

These type of bosses make it their job to make everyone else responsible for fixing their problems. They take no responsibility for their own employees, department, or results. They are, however, the first to take credit for something which went well.
Blame Fixers would never dream of doing the following

  •     Stand up at a meeting and accept full responsibility for a problem
  •     Accept responsibility for the mistake of one of their employees
  •     Accomplish something
  •     Create an environment of creativity and openness for the team
  •     Share the credit with their team on a successful project

How to get along with a Blame Fixer:  Blame Fixers are great at going around an organization and finding all the problems in everyone else’s job, department, team, project, etc. The problem is that all they do is point out the problems and then wipe their hands of any responsibility to fix them. There is a Dilbert cartoon that shows Dilbert, his boss, and co-workers sitting around a table having a meeting. Every time one of the characters mentions an issue, Wally pipes up and says, “Someone should fix that problem” or “Someone should do something about that.” Wally is a Blame Fixer.
Blame Fixers will also be the first to point out any potential problems with an idea someone has. Nothing will ever work because any potential solution has problems that the Blame Fixer will say are “insurmountable”.
The important thing to remember is that fixing blame and responsibility does not ever repair the problem. Getting sidetracked by a blame fixer is easy because we all want to take pride in our work and get offended when someone tries to blame us for something that went wrong. Everyone makes mistakes and no one is perfect. The Blame Fixer’s strategy is to get ahead by making everyone else look bad. But the strategy never really works, and the people who get ahead are the ones who actually solve the problems and get the team behind them. So in a situation like this, try to fix the problem and not the accusation.
While it isn’t exactly fun to have a Blame Fixer for a boss, we suggest that you do. Make an effort to document everything that occurs between you and your boss, particularly on projects, task, assignments, and goals. This way, if your boss screws up his work, you will have your own alibi. Be aware that in the event of an extreme blow up, the Blame Fixer will try to evade accountability and may try to blame you. However, if you have documented what you were told to do and how to do it, you will be more likely to come through unscathed.

The Soft Heart

When you first meet this person, you will think that you have just met the sweetest, most wonderful boss in the world. You will initially get the warm fuzzies, and you’ll believe that it’s going to be a great job. Do not be fooled: this person is actually spineless. The Soft Heart will tell you exactly what you want to hear then turn around and do the exact opposite. They will leave you hanging out to dry and will be anything but supportive.
Soft Hearts would never dream of doing the following

  •     Give you honest and direct feedback
  •     Be direct and open with you
  •     Consistently align their words and actions
  •     Be sincere
  •     Openly vacillate about a decision

How to get along with a Soft Heart: Soft Hearts are generally good people, they usually just don’t have the intestinal fortitude to be a manager, or they have just been promoted to the position. Being a manager takes guts to tell people what they need to hear, regardless of whether or not the employee likes it. Soft Hearts want their employees to like them, so they try to act nice and supportive.
Unfortunately, it is impossible to be a good manager and not piss your employees off every once in a while. Good managers have to make tough decisions, like asking employees to work overtime or to change their behavior. The best way to deal with a Soft Hearts is to let them know up front that you would rather they be frank with you instead of telling you what they think you want to hear. Every once in while, challenge their praises about you.
Ask why the Soft Heart really believes everything is fine and beautiful. Share your concerns and your perception of reality. Demand that when receiving feedback, they also tell you your areas for development and how you can overcome them. Do take note that once you have asked for your boss to be up front and honest with you, you will then need to back up your request by listening to what they have to say and respecting it. If you fail to back up your words by not listening to your boss, you will destroy any chance of having the Soft Heart be honest with you in the future.

The Politician

This person is charismatic and is always the life of the party. Always fun to be around, the Politician always has something positive to say. The problem is that there is rarely any truth or substance behind it. This person has no real competence; they got to where they are by schmoozing the right people.
Although your company’s organizational culture and values weigh heavily on whether these type of individuals can flourish and thrive, we assure you that you will always find a Politician working in any type of business. Politicians depend on individuals who are competent to make them look good but then turn on them, making them a scapegoat when the employee gets tired of being used.
Politicians would never dream of doing the following

  •     Actually be competent at their job
  •     Tell the whole truth
  •     Have achievement orientation on their own
  •     Work their way up the corporate ladder
  •     Not blame a problem on a disgruntled employee

How to Get Along with a Politician: Politicians are naturally gregarious people. When Bill Clinton went on the Arsenio Hall Show and played the saxophone, everyone loved him for it. Bill Clinton’s ability to be the president had nothing to do with playing the saxophone. However, it did make for great entertainment, just like his presidency.
Politicians need someone to make them look good. They may never admit to their weak spots but they do know the value of covering their ass with someone who makes them look the part. You need to be that person. The Politician will recognize you for it and take you with them as they get promoted and move through an organization.
The best part about working for a Politician is that they know everyone and how to talk to them. Use this opportunity for networking potential. Since you will be the Politician’s right-hand man, you will get the chance to meet everyone he or she meets. Get these people’s business cards and get to know them yourself. This network will be invaluable to you in the event your relationship with the Politician sours.

The worst part about working for Politicians is that you will never really get the full spotlight for your accomplishments. They will always be center stage. And if they do share the spotlight with you, believe us when we tell you that they will make sure you know that their spotlight and that you are only there because they allowed it. Once you get tired of being the brains in the Politician’s organization, put that network to use and find another job or boss within your current company.

The Team-Builder

This is the kind of manager we all want to work for. They are competent at what they do, they know how to be open, and they solicit ideas and creativity from their employees. They are a pleasure to work with. They know how to make the tough decisions but can do it in a way that is respectful and professional to all involved.
Team-Builders would never dream of doing the following

  •     Block a subordinate’s promotion or transfer
  •     Ignore what an employee had to say
  •     Not keep his word on a promise
  •     Tell a lie or withhold the truth
  •     Be disrespectful to an employee
  •     Take credit for something one of his team members did

How to get along with a Team-Builder: Team-Builders are truly the best kind of manager to work for. They know that their success is your success and vice versa. They give you the tools you need to succeed and enough rope to hang yourself if you want to. However, they will also be there to catch you when you fall. Team-Builders will coach you while letting you grow at your own pace.
The best way to work with a Team-Builder is to be open with them. Don’t hold anything back. Tell them what you want and what you think. Don’t be afraid to share your ideas and creativity. They may not always agree with you, but know that they will respect any idea you bring to the table. Ask them for help when you need it. Don’t expect them to fix your problems, but know that they will be there to help you think through problems and provide you with additional resources so that you can solve them.
Be aware that Team-Builders delegate and empower their team members, and in exchange, they expect commitment and involvement. Like in a football team, they will make sure that players who aren’t doing their part will be addressed. Make sure you understand your role in the team and know what is expected of you. You need to work well with both; if you only focus on your boss and not the team, this behavior will bite you back sooner rather than later.
In reality, all our bosses are some combination of all the six types of managers. We can never change who they are, but we can adapt the way we work with them in order to be successful. Working with other people is never easy, but it is required for success in corporations today. You cannot be successful if you don’t work with others, especially with your boss. Sorry, it’s just not going to happen.
In addition to identifying your boss’ leadership style, try to understand his or her values and principles. This assessment will allow you to anticipate what you can expect from a boss, and also to draw the line on when you will adapt to his or her style and when you will need to stand and say No.
by Resources for Humans