The 3 Most Common Types of Bad Bosses – And How to Handle Them

February 22, 2017

How to deal with a micromanager, a boss who criticizes you and an incompetent boss.

As this article shows, there’s no shortage of bad boss stories. And as this article shows, bad bosses really affect the people they manage, with an astonishing 65 percent of employees saying they’d take a new boss over a pay raise.

But the truth is, you can’t choose your boss, and quitting is often unrealistic. That leaves you left to figure out a way to deal with them in a way that doesn’t hurt your career, while also keeping your sanity intact.

To help, LinkedIn Learning Instructor Todd Dewett released an entire course on the matter entitled Dealing with a Difficult Boss. Within that course, Dewett identified the three most common types of bad bosses, and gave quick playbooks on how to handle each one.

1. The micromanaging boss

Their qualities: These bosses can be summed up in two words: control freaks. That causes them to check in on every aspect of your work, to the point it feels like they don’t trust you at all and everything you do is wrong.

Dewett’s recommendations on dealing with them: Whenever a micromanager gives you a task, repeat their ask back to them. That’ll give them the confidence that you fully understand what they want and ultimately gives you more freedom to complete it.

On longer tasks, live in a world of proactive updates. If you send them email updates without them even having to ask on projects you are working on, you’ll drastically reduce the amount of times they'll come to your desk to “help”, aka tell you what to do.

2. The overly critical boss

Their qualities: These can be difficult to deal with. Regardless of your performance, these bosses are constantly criticizing you.

Dewett’s recommendations on dealing with them: If the criticism gets to the point where it’s done in front of others and it’s personal, there’s really nothing you can do but bite your tongue and look for a path forward that doesn’t include them.

These bosses can cause stress and you should seek help if the criticism gets out of hand. Just remember, it’s not you but them who has the problem, so don’t take their words personally.

3. The incompetent boss

Their qualities: These are the people who just don’t have the skills to do the job, and yet somehow are your boss. Obviously, this can be very frustrating.

Dewett’s recommendations on dealing with them: First off, avoid badmouthing an incompetent boss or acting condescending toward them. That’s not going to help.

Instead, make the decision to be helpful and positive. Little phrases can make all the difference here, such as saying “Hey, did we consider” to them instead of “Hey, I think you forgot to.” While frustrating at times, if you can help in a way that’s not condescending, you’ll only improve your whole team. 

A final point

There are times, particularly if a boss is being abusive, where you need to seek help. And these techniques certainly won’t fix the fact that if you have a bad boss, they just will help you deal with them a little better.

Just remember that you can’t control your boss and you shouldn’t try to. Instead, you can only control how you react, and by focusing on that you ensure they don’t do lasting damage to your career. 

Have a bad boss? Watch Todd Dewett's full course, Dealing with a Difficult Boss.