Understanding your Boss

It’s no secret that tough times bring out troubling traits even in bosses who seemed supportive and easy to deal with, and employees should learn to develop strategies to cope with this behaviour.  When times are bad, employees are usually much more reluctant to push back.

Bosses, too, are under more stress from their bosses and from the economy.

All this stress makes for a dangerous work environment that senior management should be monitoring, because left to fester, it can demoralize workers, reduce job performance and damage relationships which cannot be repaired.

In order to learn to cope and succeed in these troubling times, it’s time for employees to develop strategies to manage their bosses and develop ways to avoid being a victim of their leaders’ rogue behaviour.  An employee will want to make sure that they stay in frequent contact with their boss and make it clear that they understand his or her agenda and do whatever you can to help make it happen.  Act as if you are in survival mode and that your boss is not going to want to sink their only possible life raft.

Another way to look at your bosses odd behaviour in times of recession or when the company is struggling is by trying to see your uncooperative boss like an unruly kid, and use the variety of parenting tactics that work on kids to get them to play nice.  By setting limits and boundaries, anticipating their needs, creating distractions to get their attention off a tantrum, you may be able to prevent conflict, and be prepared to use good timing and humour and reward their good behaviours to encourage it to continue.

 So what are the kinds of bosses to watch out for?   Do any of these resemble your boss, or you?  Here are some stereotypical bosses found on the Internet via Google;

 1) The chronic critic

The behaviour:  Frustration over having things not go his or her way makes this boss find fault with everything you do.

How to deal with it:  Stay resilient. Don’t try to defend yourself against the corrections or you will receive more of them. Instead, smile, take notes and then walk away without taking the comments personally.

2) The pass along boss

The behaviour:  This person responds to a growing workload by passing it on to you.

How to deal with it:  Keep a careful record of the fallout you’re carrying because of your boss’s absentee behaviour. Then when you have a review with your boss, show him or her the facts and ask for a reward for handling it, or a less arduous workload in the future.

3) The spineless boss

The behaviour:  This boss tends to hide out, either due to indecision or to uncertainty about what to say about a challenging situation.

How to deal with it:  Take the lead. Decide what needs to be done and approach the boss with documented evidence of why your recommendation should go forward.

4) The rule changer

The behaviour:  This boss reacts to uncertainty by regularly changing decisions and rearranging priorities.

How to deal with it:  Remain flexible and accept the fact that plans are tentative.  Check in daily to keep abreast of priorities to avoid wasting efforts.

5) The demanding boss

The behaviour:  When over-burdened and out of control, this boss turns to you, assuming you will take on ever more of his or her load.

How to deal with it:  Set boundaries, and stand your ground. When the boss gives you more work and your plate is full, make it clear you are busy and may need more time.  A reality check lets you show you’re helping with the load but setting limits on further burdens.

6) The insecure boss

The behaviour:  Constantly checking in and asking you to revisit finished work for fear of being second-guessed or reprimanded for not being good enough.

How to deal with it:  Stroke their ego.  Express confidence that work is on track.  Avoid talking about any doubts that could provoke further insecurity.  Regularly remind bosses of their, and your, past successes.

7) The distracted boss

The behaviour:  Too many things are on the boss’s mind, creating a short attention span, so ideas get forgotten and discussions need to be repeated.

How to deal with it:  Use props, visual aids and supportive materials to hold his or her attention. Make communications compelling and to the point. Follow up with a written summary of decisions.

8) The tantrum thrower

The behaviour: Angry because something is not going his or her way, this boss panics and lashes out at whoever is being blamed for the problem – or even the nearest unsuspecting target.

How to deal with it:  Call a time out. Never fight a tantrum with a tantrum, which will only make it grow. Find shelter until the storm passes. For instance, look at your watch and say, “I’ve got an important call scheduled. Would you agree to defer this discussion until later?” When you come back to the discussion, the emotion will invariably have lessened.

9) The fickle boss

The behaviour:  Even though you got approval and your project is well under way, the boss suddenly has another prime directive and asks you to start over.

How to deal with it:  Shore up the boss’s confidence in having picked the right course to begin with to make for less flip-flopping. Offer up supporting materials and endorsements of the wisdom of the plan from others.

10) The control freak

The behaviour: Fearful of being caught off guard when so many things are changing so quickly, this boss wants constant status reports and final say on everything that is going on, which means time-wasting meetings and long waits for a go-ahead.

How to deal with it:  Provide constant updates. No matter how time-consuming it may seem to soothe the boss’s anxiety, over time it will win trust and mean less constant interference.


In other words, its better to react like an adult, even though your boss may be acting like a child.  Also it helps to know the least stressful way to discuss things with your boss.  Some bosses prefer e-mail, whereas others favour phone conversations or face-to-face encounters.

Also learn to pick up on queues for the best and worst timing.  Avoid bringing up bad news or asking for favours at the wrong times – close to lunch, late afternoon, nearing time to go home.

Communicate regularly!  Sounds like a marriage…  Make dialogue with the boss part of your routine so it becomes more natural and less stressful.

Anticipate.  See problems coming and prepare a calming, positive spin.

Avoid unnecessary conflict.  If your boss is under a lot of stress, stay out of the line of fire.  

Don’t snap back.  If caught when the boss is having a tantrum, listen calmly and react with a comment such as, “I hear you,” then walk away.

Use humour.  Laughter is a great diffuser of tension, if appropriate.  Breaking out in spontaneous laughter might not be the best remedy, unless the situation warrants it.  

Manage up.  Be the voice of reason and calm under pressure. Your boss will appreciate that and want to stay on your good side.  Also shows your boss what you are capable of in times of crisis.

Work, don’t worry.  Dreading the storm clouds or wishing for a different boss just wastes time and will distract you from doing your best work.

 With all this insight into what your boss may or may not be like, the key concepts to remember are the same in work as in play;  communicate, be respectful and work hard.

Good luck!

Author: Warren Orlans

Welcome to inTAXicating. inTAXicating has been published since 2008 to provide clarity around Canadian taxation issues, primarily related to the Canada Revenue Agency. As the primary author, Warren Orlans, has over 20-year's experience in the taxation industry, 11 of them working for the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA), and 7-years working in the private sector Managing the tax departments for large financial institutions. If you have a collections, compliance or audit issue with the CRA, inTAXicating is the place you need to contact. inTAXicating works in strategic partnership with amazing accountants, tax lawyers, insolvency practitioners, mortgage brokers, debt counselling experts and much more. If you have a tax question, email it to info@intaxicating.ca or to intaxicatingtaxservices@gmail.com.

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