How do you deal with a monster boss?

Horrors of the Workplace

A few blogs back we promised you a “horrors of the workplace” post, and we don’t want to disappoint. Just as there are clear drivers of employee engagement, there are drivers of disengagement, more often than not pointing to … your manager.

Terrifying tales of monsters aren't just for Halloween. In our experience working with various organizations, one universal challenge emerges: the presence of bad managers, difficult colleagues, and truly monstrous individuals. Bad managers and a toxic work atmosphere inevitably result in disengaged, demotivated employees.

So, to celebrate the season, we’re going to have a little fun. Which one of these classic Halloween characters resembles your manager or co-worker? And, how is it best to handle it? Here’s 2023’s Halloween Post – Horrors of the Workplace!

Three Types of Monster Bosses and How to Deal

First, you've got to identify the monster (clearly!), then taken the appropriate action (a wooden stake, proton pack etc.)

The Ghost

“Ghosting” has made its way into everyday vernacular. Though it might seem like a new concept, the Ghost Manager is not a new phenomenon for workers.

Profile: This is the manager who just doesn’t seem to be around. They’re nearly impossible to contact. They don’t return phone calls, emails, texts, or even carrier pigeons. They are out of touch with what teams are doing. In fact, it might feel like you need supernatural powers, a Ouija board, or turn the meeting room into a séance to summon them, when BOO! They pop out of nowhere and hit you up with a project.

Because they’re so hard to contact, it’s hard to get a take as to why your boss is a ghost. That said, these managers tend to be leaders who don’t particularly want to be leaders. They might be absorbed with their own work. They might hate confrontations. They might feel socially awkward. They simply might not like their jobs.

Strategy: Always, keep a ghost boss updated via emails. (Remember, if it’s not in writing, the communication didn’t happen). Follow up on short meetings (if you ever get one) with an email. Be consistent about reporting on progress and needs the team has. Manage up! And, if needed, call the séance – meaning, another senior leader to help you work with your boss and hold them accountable.

The Vampire

Oh that blood-sucking, after-hours manager who never seems to leave the office. Many an employee has had to deal with the Vampire Boss.

Profie: This is the boss that never needs a break. They’re the ones with supersonic hearing that, as soon as you shuffle in your desk, ready to have lunch, they call you to their office to talk about work, work, work. They don’t notice the sun going down, and they expect everyone to work late into the night.

It’s possible your manager is feeling incredible pressure from their senior leaders. It’s possible this person has just gotten caught up in the hustle culture. There could be good reasons for which the resurgence of vampires in literature coincided with the peak of the hustle culture. It’s possible they simply love to work and don’t have as many home responsibilities. And it’s probable they don’t realize what they’re doing.

Strategy: Establish boundaries. If your manager asks you to stay later for a project (and if this seems to be a pretty common request), say, “I know this is an important project, and it is a priority for me as well. When is the deadline, so I can be sure to work it into my schedule.” Stick to your guns. Recognize the need to finish the project and assure your manager that you will use your office time to the max. Offer another solution, if it’s absolutely necessary, like coming in earlier another day, or working through lunch. There’s no need to make up excuses. It’s simply reestablishing your work-life space and balance.

The Werewolf

We don’t know anyone who hasn’t dealt with a little Werewolf Boss rage in their lives. This can be tricky!

Profile: This is the boss that is Alpha – leading the pack. And this can be an incredibly positive thing. They are team players,, oftentimes charismatic, compelling, then they might go into a rage. They might belittle someone in a meeting. They might be aggressive or cold. It just feels like someone flipped a switch. Then it passes, and everything goes back to normal. Which, it doesn’t because it leaves employees on edge, wondering when the next rage will come. Know that this isn’t in your head. When the claws come out and bosses howl, it’s devastating for morale.

They might not be aware of how damaging their outbursts are, dismissing them as their way to communicate and vent. It’s tough to identify reasons for this behavior.

Strategy: Address the behavior calmly and discreetly. Talk to your manager. There’s no reason for which anybody should feel threatened or belittled at work. If nothing changes, then it’s time to involve HR and establish clear behavior expectations.

All of us have watched horror movies, and naturally, the best reaction to any of this is to run. But this is real life and real work, and people have bills to pay and lives to lead. So, instead of running from the monsters, try these strategies to deal with them. You might be surprised and tame the beasts. Manage up and refine your leadership skills in the meantime.

We hope the only monsters to encounter are the ones dressed up at your door, asking for candy, or the ones on TV. Happy Halloween!

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