Along with paychecks, deadlines, and overtime, bosses are one of the things you just can’t avoid in the workplace. But how to identify these strange characters and deal with them? Don’t go it alone—it’s a jungle out there. We’ll show you how!
1. The Robot
Distinguishing characteristics: An empty desk, no family pictures.
What they do: All business, all the time: That’s The Robot. We’re not saying she’s not human, but we’ve definitely got our doubts on the matter sometimes. The sworn enemy of fun, levity, and emotion, The Robot would rather you just get to work. At all times. While it can be nice to have someone driving you to do your best, it would be nice to feel a little bit of emotional connection from time to time, right?
How to make her love you: It may not sound like a lot of fun, but you’ll probably have to conceal your own feelings and buckle down to The Robot’s schedule. On the up side, she can teach you discipline and efficiency. Try making allies of your co-workers. They’re probably as frustrated as you are! Inside jokes and friendly chit-chat can make the day seem brighter.
2. The Softy
Distinguishing characteristics: Second chances.
What they do: They think they’re making things easier on their employees, but in the long run The Softy’s kid-glove approach to management just makes it harder for great workers to succeed and easier for slackers to stick around. Being a boss involves making difficult decisions sometimes, especially when it comes to employees, but The Softy doesn’t seem to realize this.
How to make him love you: The worst thing to do is hurt The Softy’s feelings, so try changing things up by commending them on his toughest calls, however rare. A little positive reinforcement can go a long way when The Softy learns that being the bad cop doesn’t have to be the worst job in the world.
3. The Weasel
Distinguishing characteristics: Empty promises.
What they do: Promising one thing but delivering another, The Weasel will say anything—and we do mean anything—to get what she wants out of you. A raise? A promotion? Some time off? Sure, you’ll get what you’ve been dreaming about eventually if you take on extra work or a hellish new project. Or so she says, but we wouldn’t recommend holding your breath for The Weasel to actually deliver. Why should she? You’re already doing the extra work for free.
How to make her love you: Completing all the grunt work will get you great distances with The Weasel, but just remember to trust nothing The Weasel says, ever. Or, at very least, get it in writing and double-check with whomever The Weasel answers to in upper management. A paper trail will be your best defense against lies and false promises. Maybe you’ll actually get that promotion!
4. The Mystery
Distinguishing characteristics: Closed doors, “Out of Office” messages.
What they do: Who knows? The Mystery is an expert at the arts of subterfuge, denial, and … whatever it is he does. Either he’s on a business trip or in a locked-door meeting or plotting world domination all day or … something. Whatever it is, you’re left to your own devices to figure things out, minus any guidance at all. Too bad you’ll still be on the hook if things go wrong. The Mystery will be gone when it comes down to it.
How to make him love you: Wait it out and give him space. If you stay patient (and we mean really patient) you may be able, like a persevering biologist in the jungle observing shy animals, to learn a little bit more about The Mystery’s habits.
5. The Viper
Distinguishing characteristics: Backhanded compliments, fake smiles.
What they do: Does The Viper wake up on the wrong side of the bed every single morning? It sure seems like it. From snippy comments about personal matters (“Are you pregnant? Oh, it just seemed like you were gaining weight.”) to undermining your efforts at work (“So you’re just learning Excel, right?”), The Viper has a real talent for making you feel bad about yourself. No matter how thick your skin is, it’s hard not to let her get to you.
How to make her love you: We’re not actually certain that the Viper is capable of loving an employee, so it’s probably best to just stay a good distance away from her. Keep feelings to yourself, and share as little information about your life as possible, all the while being extremely pleasant. The Viper can’t hurt you if she doesn’t know where you’re sensitive.
6. The Buddy
Distinguishing characteristics: Baseball caps, high-fives.
What they do: The Buddy wants to be your friend, not your boss. Too bad for him you’ve already got friends and wouldn’t want to hang with him anyway. From “happy” hours that seem more like a punishment to unfunny jokes that you’ve just got to laugh at (or else!) The Buddy really has a way of making fun into a chore. And don’t get us started on his habit of trying to start questionable relationships with subordinates. It’s just painful to watch.
How to make him love you: Laugh at his funnier jokes, but don’t stoop to laughing at every joke—being a suck-up isn’t a great way to maintain your dignity. Say no thanks to all the invitations you can, and keep your own interactions with The Buddy on an extremely professional level—you’ll be helping him in the long run, and he’ll respect you for it. Protect yourself with a thick layer of decorum and common sense, because he sure isn’t going to do it for you.
7. The Miracle
Distinguishing characteristics: An office that looks like yours, encouraging emails.
What they do: Fun, supportive, capable, and inspiring, The Miracle is truly an employee’s dream come true. She does what she says, always follows up, and usually can push you to do your best in a way that makes the hardest work seem like play. If you’re working for The Miracle you’ll know it, from the smile on your face at the end of the day to your rewarding paycheck at the end of the week. Just try not to brag too much!
How to make her love you: Work your butt off and thank your lucky stars, since The Miracle doesn’t come along very often. Use this great opportunity to really see how far you can go, and at the end of The Miracle’s tenure, make sure you get a letter of reference!
8. The Monster
Distinguishing characteristics: Thrown coffee cups, restraining orders.
What they do: The question is more “What don’t they do?” The Monster lives to make your own life hell, and he’s good at it. From screaming at you in front of the customers to lying about your results to engaging in borderline criminal harassment, The Monster repeatedly demonstrates that has no pity, human decency, or shame. He’s the worst boss around, hands down, and we’re sorry for anyone who has to deal with him.
How to make him love you: Unfortunately, with this one you just have to run. Get out. There’s no hope for improvement when you work for someone who has no scruples at all.
9. The Number Cruncher
Distinguishing characteristics: Incredible Excel skills, a calculator watch.
What they do: The Number Cruncher’s best quality is her ability to break things down into measurable statistics—and sometimes, that means the actual employees, too. The Number Cruncher can only read math, and if your performance appears to be declining on paper rest assured you will get a lecture, even if you’ve been working as hard as you can. Ever feel like you are “just a number?” We’re here to confirm that you definitely are.
How to make her love you: Give her something she can understand: Numbers. Track your successes (and your failures) with painstaking detail and fanatical devotion. Even if it’s a chore in the immediate future, your data mining will pay off and you will have something on paper that proves you’ve been working hard, even if your efforts haven’t been working. Who knows, her approach might teach you something!
10. The Innovator
Distinguishing characteristics: Brainstorming sessions, expensive toys, subscription to Entrepreneur magazine.
What they do: The Innovator’s head is full of big ideas, and he wastes no time dreaming them up and then making sure they actually come true. Great for business, but it usually means you get no life outside the office because you’re the one actually making his dream come to life. The pros? This boss can be incredibly charismatic and inspiring, and truly cares about the work. The cons? Sometimes it seems like the only thing this boss cares about is work. Hope that’s all you care about, too!
How to make him love you: Work hard and show commitment, but keep your sense of self outside of work. Remind the boss that the outside world does exist: Ask The Innovator about his weekend, his children (if he has any, which is a total mystery) about any hobby he has outside work. After you’re done chitchatting, give your all and The Innovator will respect your work and hopefully, your own need for work-life balance.
11. The Tuft Hunter
Distinguishing characteristics: The CEO’s wardrobe, car, and haircut.
What they do: In the old days, a tuft hunter was a nobleman’s parasite, one who tried to curry favor with the rich and powerful in order to gain favor or influence. The Tuft Hunter as a boss, however, is always looking for her own next promotion. Does that mean she’ll create an opening for you once she makes it up that ladder—or are you merely a rung on her own to be stepped on? That’s something only The Tuft Hunter knows. You’ll probably find out too late.
How to make her love you: Do everything in your power to make The Tuft Hunter look good, and you’ll be one step closer to a promotion of your very own. Watch her back and tell her every bit of news that you come across from upper management and you’ll earn her respect and maybe even her loyalty—if she has any.
12. The Patronizer
Distinguishing characteristics: Terrible computer skills, degree in law or medicine.
What they do: If you’ve worked for someone who explained how to turn your computer on or how to change the toner on the printer, you’ve experienced The Patronizer. The Patronizer makes sure you know exactly how much time and effort it takes for him just to grace you with his presence every morning. He leaves you to your own devices mostly, but is sure to micromanage the simplest and most mundane tasks whenever he gets the opportunity.
How to make him love you: Keep your eye on the ball, whether it’s getting better at your job or getting a foot out the door. If you feel you are being made to look stupid, you can interrupt The Patronizer mid-sentence during one of his boring lectures by saying, “I already know how to do that, but I am interested what you think about …” If the condescending behavior just doesn’t stop, or if he’s being outright rude, it’s important to tell The Patronizer to knock it off. The Patronizer believes you’re beneath him, and when you show him you’re not, you’ll gain his respect.
Note: For some reason, admins, and secretaries experience The Patronizer more often than any other profession. Some people assume that you’re there in a support position because you are stupid or can’t get any other job (like it takes a rocket scientist to be in sales!). In some cases, it’s best to kill The Patronizer with kindness, especially since that bubbly, outgoing response comes so naturally to those in the administrative trade. Use your natural ability to be nice to anyone (no matter how rude they are) to good use, and keep your eyes peeled for an employer who treats you right!
13. The Nitpicker
Distinguishing characteristics: Fierce attention to detail, red pens, and lots of spare time.
What they do: The Nitpicker is a micro-manager who likes to control all of your work, all the time. Did you save the company money on office supplies? It’s not nearly enough. Work hard on a killer presentation? There’s a punctuation error on the tenth slide. Nothing you do is ever good enough for The Nitpicker, and that can cause your own faith in your abilities to slip. You’ll spend all your time second-guessing yourself instead of innovating.
How to make her love you: Instead of letting the Nitpicker drain you of all motivation, learn to work by your own standards. Try finding someone else in the company to be your mentor, because you surely won’t get coaching out of her, unless it’s to point out all your faults. You might also try working one step ahead of The Nitpicker, detailing every single thing you do, so you’ll be ready for the inevitable barrage of questions.
By Alice Handley and Kayla Baxter of WomenCo.