How to Deal With a Difficult Superior at Work

Supervisors and bosses come in many shapes and styles. Some micro-manage, some couldn’t care less and some shoot down any idea that comes from a subordinate. How you deal with your supervisor could be the difference between having a peaceful work environment or having to turn to drink to maintain your sanity.  These are few ways to bridge the gap and cope with a supervisor that might make the workplace feel like you’re in Dante’s seventh circle.

The Micro-manager

This style of management would make the NSA tremble with excitement. You are under constant scrutiny, surveillance and pressure. Working for such a boss can be stressful, unrewarding and mentally tasking. Usually micro-managers have trust and control issues. This probably stems from being highly invested in the company and its operations (they could be founders, owners or have a high personal invest in the specific project). You need to go above and beyond to prove to this type of manager that you are up to the task and trustworthy. To further alleviate the constant monitoring, provide them with frequent updates, questions and ask for their feedback regarding the progress of the project. Never leave them in the dark. This could result in them scrutinizing your every move or even sitting on your shoulders like a parrot in a business suit while you work.

The Blame-gamer

This type of supervisor can be the most frustrating to deal with. Usually they are middle management and have someone above them that they must answer to. They try to distract from their own inadequacies by throwing a member of their team under the proverbial bus. As in any structure when a part of it is weak, the other supports must take more strain. Assess the Blame-gamers inadequacies and self-regulate within your team. If communication is an issue ask as many questions as you can and convey any answers to the team. If they are insufficient motivators, find your motivation within your group or within yourself. No blame, no game.

The Up and Downer

Praise followed by criticism. Lack of feedback followed by demands. This managerial style is about as consistent as a kid with a sugar high, blindfolded trying to walk a straight line, while hopping on one leg. Unlike our hopping little friend, predictability and consistency are crucial for smooth day to day operations. Inconsistency can create anxiety, stress and diminished productivity. Nothing is well defined and because they constantly back paddle, you and your co-workers could be working in circles instead of linearly towards a goal. The best way to deal with the Up and Downer is to learn to be adaptable. Fluidity is the only way to cope with this style of management. Roll with the punches and try to stay sane is my best recommendation.


This management style is tricky. If you happened to work under one of the aforementioned management styles then the Hands-off manager seems like a god-sent. Until the first major crisis where he/she plays the violin while Rome burns. Guess who you are? You’re the poor shmuck with his toga on fire, trying to put out the flames consuming his house. Usually these managers come from a position of privilege thus their Devil may care demeanor. You expect them to be sons/daughters of CEOs, owners or stock holders. At best they might be an executive’s first degree relative. Either way, you’ll be the one sitting there with a smouldering toga.

Have you ever worked for a manager or supervisor that made your life feel like working in a gulag would be a vacation? Or is there a style of manager that I skipped over? Let us know in the comment section below.  




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