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5 Boss Personality Types every Professional needs to manage for peace of Mind

The one in the highest chair is the boss


There are good bosses. There are great bosses. Then there are bosses whom you remember years later for all the wrong reasons. The deal breaker here is their personality type and how they treat their subordinates and team members.

In the course of your career, you will meet many supervisors and managers. You’ll meet the ones that will lead you, mentor you to reach your highest potential and endorse you on LinkedIn years after you have left the company where you worked with them.

They’ll be the ones you can contact when you’ve hit a rough patch and request them to be a reference and they will gladly do it. Your relationship with them will transcend the workplace to form a bond for a lifetime.

On the other hand, the Boss could also be one who makes Frankenstein look like a kitten – the Boss from Hell.

I still remember the Service Line Partner in my last corporate job calling an urgent meeting with the Senior Managers to discuss a surge in attrition rates. The firm invested a lot of money in its staff’s development and the partnership was concerned about the loss of its main asset – qualified manpower.

The official reason cited during exit interviews was work life balance and as the next level of management, we were encouraged to assess and change the situation.

At a deeper level, I noticed certain managers whose teams had the highest turnover were the ones who were known to be difficult. As a Technical Resource Manager who worked on assignments with floating resources, it was easier for me to see the problem was connected with personalities and how the professional handled the situation.

There are some great bosses out there, and I speak from experience. My 2 mentors were the best bosses I ever had but for some of us, it takes years to find them.

Until then we believe the Great Boss is either a mythological creature like the Unicorn or a figment of someone’s imagination translated into a management book on utopian management.


Surviving in the corporate jungle with a stress creating boss

In the real world, there are all types of bosses with whom one has to work requiring special survival skills, particularly in a highly political organization.

This week, I’m walking down memory lane looking at 5 difficult boss personality types with off the cuff tips for survival, managing the boss or situation and getting some peace of mind.


Indifferent Boss

This Boss really does not care about anything other than keeping his job and avoids managing conflict. It is possible that this Boss rose through the ranks through natural promotions or because people left and the slot became empty.

This Boss does not mean any harm but does not mean any good either. The plus point of working for this boss is that if you are driven and like to work independently, you can. You don’t want to work, don’t. Beware though, when it comes to annual appraisal time, you might find the rug pulled from under your feet.

Survival Tip: Work for the organization, raise your profile and let the Top Brass relocate you to a more challenging area of the organization.

2 useful resources that you can use are



Executive Presence: The Secret Weapon for Professional Success (free 5 day ecourse)



Soft Cushion Boss

In contrast to the Indifferent Boss, this Boss would have read up on a lot of management articles and books and is ready to offer mentor services and free advice at the drop of a hat.

The door is always open for chats and you tend to get so taken in with this boss that you don’t mind when asked to stay late or even work on weekends.


Boss's Open Door Policy


This boss is not very good at conflict management and actually dislikes confrontation. You might find yourself complaining to him and feeling better when showered with praise for your abilities.

But so would the colleague with whom you have a conflict.

At the end of the day, no issue will be resolved; your work life balance will go for a toss while you sing praises of Boss to anyone who will listen.

Years later, when you have moved on, you will realize that Soft Cushion Boss was responsible for your leaving your job even though you might have quoted balance and other issues in your exit interview while feeling guilty about leaving boss behind.

Survival Tip: Understand that boss is not a replacement for a parent, use the open door policy prudently and work on your own conflict management skills.


Diplomatic Boss

This Boss is cool, suave and has a razor sharp brain. He runs a smooth department, never makes anyone angry and will meet every target.

He sees the Big Picture and knows how he is going to win the race. He will analyze each issue and take required action accordingly.

Like the Soft Cushion Boss, he is a good listener (too good in fact) and knows how to get work out of subordinates.

These bosses often attain powerful positions within the organization and in order to piggy back to success; you will need to align your goals to be the Boss’s goals.

Survival Tip: Review your career aspirations and prepare a logical business case for your own goals. Be circumspect when dealing with this category Boss. Keep your secrets to yourself.

You would also need to polish up your negotiation skills.



Pain in the Neck Boss

This Boss cannot be pleased. A perfectionist to the core, the very act of delegating is traumatic.

You simply cannot do the job well, even if you put in the late hours, work weekends and cancel your leave.

Some clues indicate grumbling co-workers, high attrition rates in your department and being called in just as you are about to go home for a review or task which could either have been scheduled for earlier in the day or is not quite that urgent and important other than the fact that boss is making it so.

A good example is the Big Brother Cat style Manager.

Survival Tip: Develop a thick skin, do your job to the best of your abilities and update your resume for use if required.


Mean Boss

This Boss is very mean and does not like anyone to take credit for any good work.

Sometimes hidden under the Soft Cushion Boss or Diplomatic Boss camouflage he will represent to the outside world that he has done the job while you squirm.

If any attributes or credit has to be given, be prepared that it will only happen when things go wrong and a fall guy is required. Worse yet, admonitions will be copied to a number of people up the seniority chain to discredit the employee.

Survival Tip: You might have visions of playing dirty with this boss but know that meanness can be inborn and this Boss is the master of his game so you might be out of your league.

If you choose to play office politics; proceed with caution, stay a step ahead and find supporters. In fact play positive politics.


 Parting Advice for taking back control in the work place


A lot of the power that the Boss has over you is due to the organizational structure and line reporting. Just because the boss may make your life difficult at times does not mean quitting and finding a new job. There may be a better fit with another supervisor. Besides, you will run into these types sooner or later.

The better route is to be assertive, know where to draw the line and establish healthy boundaries.

Maintain open dialogue with the boss, read the HR policy of your organization and consult the Human Resources department before taking any drastic steps.

There may be a way out without having to leave the organization or at least leave knowing that you did your best to survive.

Going forward, when you are the boss, at least you’ll know what you don’t want your reporting colleagues to experience. You’ll have a clearer idea of the leadership style you want to develop.

Are there any difficult boss personality types that I’ve missed out?

Tell us more about them with a tip to manage them in the comments box below.



This post was originally titled Do you know the category of your boss? It has been updated for relevance in February 2017.

Written By: Vatsala Shukla

The One On The Highest Chair by Frits Ahlefeldt

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I believe the world would be a better place if high achieving professionals accepted setbacks and challenges to their careers as Wake Up Calls to embark on a Journey where their empowered course correcting actions create a New World Order that encompasses achieving their career aspirations & potential with authentic life balance.

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