Bosses come in a variety of styles and types, and it is up to the subordinate to identify his or her boss’ distinct style and adapt themselves to it. The two most distinct boss types we will deal with here are the overbearing and under-bearing types.
First, let us look at what distinguishes an overbearing or under-bearing boss. Did you ever work with a boss who assigns a task, and gives you the most detailed instructions ever, only to monitor your every step? Or a boss who finds fault in everything you do? Does your boss undermine your contributions or achievements, especially in the presence of outsiders? Does your boss remove you from any interaction with external departments and insist that all outgoing correspondences be routed through him or her? That, no doubt is an overbearing boss.
While you suffer under an overbearing boss, your colleagues on the next floor may be suffering from the exact opposite. Wouldn’t it be heaven if your boss would just keep his or her nose out of your business, give you a task and let you be? Wouldn’t it be great if you did not get a daily dose of criticism?
Actually, that’s not an ideal scenario either. Employees who don’t get enough guidance and feedback from their bosses are not happy either. Nor are those who receive no support from the boss when dealing with external entities. After all, they do need a boss that gives them their "weight," so to speak, with external parties. And how can they be expected to learn and develop if they don’t have someone to teach them and tell them how the job is done? Do they have to reinvent the wheel every time they get a new assignment and no instructions to go with it?
Such an undiscerning boss does not make for a pleasant experience. When your boss is less than willing to teach you how the job is done, or will not support you when dealing with other departments, it is as big a thorn in your side as is the overbearing boss who cannot stop telling you how to get the job done.
So how can you subtly tell your boss that he or she is driving you crazy?
Talk to your boss: Let him or her know that their attitude bothers you and makes it difficult for you to concentrate and be productive. Ask him or her to give you a chance to follow instructions closely and then to be judged on the outcome, rather than to be micromanaged. Tell him or her that the only way you will be able to learn is by doing the task yourself, making mistakes, and then being given feedback.
But how do you get this all-important conversation going? Start by asking your boss to describe the best boss he or she had. Ask him or her to recount how his or her boss dealt with situations similar to those you encounter with your own boss. And then ask about his or her memories of their worst boss, and what made that experience less than positive.
You will need to choose the right moment to turn the tables gently, and highlight the points mentioned about the good boss that you would like to see applied to your current employee-boss relationship, and to also highlight the negative similarities between the boss’ bad memories and the current situation.
The most important thing to keep in mind during this conversation is to keep it as constructive and impersonal as possible, so it doesn’t turn into an unpleasant confrontation. It is also a good idea to ask your boss about how he or she views the relationship you have. After all, you may unknowingly be pushing all the wrong buttons and need to modify your behavior as well. Sharing the responsibility of making your employee-boss relationship work will make your boss more willing to listen to your constructive criticism.
Needless to say, the ideal scenario would be a boss who stands somewhere in between the two previous examples – someone who knows exactly when to give the right amount of advice, when to let you make mistakes, and when he or she should give you those few extra tips to help you out of a rut. But, it is also important to keep in mind that an employee-boss relationship is one that involves two parties and its success depends on the attitudes and contributions of both parties involved. So, help your boss become the boss you dream of becoming in the future.