The 4 Types of Bosses…and How to Manage Up to Them
As professional development consultant Mary Abbajay notes in her delightful new business tome, Managing Up, there are no shortage of books designed to help managers manage. What there aren’t? Books for employees about how to deal with their bosses. After all, you may be an extroverted over-communicator who loves meetings. But if your boss is an introverted lone wolf who would rather send an email than meet to face-to-face, you’re going to have to learn some coping mechanisms. The good news? While Abbajay of course acknowledges the atypical and “difficult” bosses out there (the “narcissist” and the “incompetent” come to mind), she maintains that most managers fall into one of four categories. Here’s what they are…and how to learn to love them.
“Advancers are highly focused on tasks, achieving results and taking action. They are usually less concerned with building warm and fuzzy relationships…They are direct in their communication, sometimes even brusque. They are goal oriented and can be impatient with others who cannot keep up or take too long to make decisions or take action…For the Advancer, everything is about advancing tasks and getting results as efficiently and quickly as possible.”
How to manage up to one: Abbajay maintains that Advancers are actually fairly easy bosses to please, because their expectations are so predictable. The keys, she says, are to speed up (“Prioritize what you want to say, and get to the point”), bring solutions—not problems, do your homework (“Advancers like to use their time wisely and really don’t like walking through your thought process with you”), don’t get mushy or compete for authority, and—first and foremost—get sh*t done.
“Energizers are full of energy, personality and optimism. They are the ultimate 'people' people…They are known for their enthusiasm, humor and risk-taking. They are adept at selling their ideas to others…and have little tolerance for routine. They are happiest when focused on future ideas and plans. They are quick (sometimes too quick) to react and they are quite comfortable expressing both their ideas and their feelings…They love to start new projects but may lose interest in the details or in completing projects.”
How to manage up to one: Working in harmony with an Energizer is all about matching their vibe, says Abbajay. What to do: Build the relationship and know them on a personal level. Get excited about their ideas and don’t be a Debbie Downer (“There will be time to disagree, but wait until after the initial discussion”). Plan and execute (“The Energizer boss loves nothing more than people who can take ideas off his plate and bring them to fruition”). Double-check ideas (since not everything they say is truly an action item). Be creative. Praise them publicly.
“Evaluators prize quality, precision and accuracy. They tend to be organized and want all the facts (and history) before taking action or making a decision…They value correctness, precision, prudence and objectivity. They are methodical and process-oriented…They typically have slower reaction times and work more carefully than other types. They are perceived as serious, industrious, persistent and exacting. They respect data and may come across as critical or picky. They are prone to perfectionism.”
How to manage up to one: The key here, says Abbajay, is to understand what drives them (objectivity, a known and charted plan), and provide them with solutions that fit that mold. Some strategies: Avoid surprises. Be prepared (“Without details and facts, your boss is going to be suspicious of anything new and dismiss it”). Respect the process. Slow down (“Your boss may appear to be stalling, but keep in mind that she can become stressed by making ‘rash’ decisions.”). Manage your emotions. Learn from criticism (“Anticipate their hole-poking and come prepared with solutions and answers.”)
“Harmonizers value people, relationships, stability and harmony…They want to help people be successful and happy…Their favored approach is to get consensus and to mediate between disparate opinions because they believe that the best solution is one where everyone is ‘on board’…Others tend to perceive them as kind, good with people and somewhat self-effacing…They care about quality of work and don’t respond well to constant pressure or ‘fire drills.’ Their preference for stability and harmony can cause them to appear to be hesitant to change.”
How to manage up to one: Good news! The Harmonizer boss is probably already trying to make your life easier. Here’s how to do the same for her: Focus on the team (“Even if you don’t care much about how others feel, fake it! Your boss will appreciate your concern…and the team will benefit from it”). Don’t be a drama queen. Reframe your wish list in terms of how it could enhance safety and stability for the company. Help them make decisions (“Your boss loves to work on teams, and having support and buy-in from others will help her reach a conclusion faster.”). Be a people person. Look elsewhere for a mentor (since your boss is unlikely to prove herself to be a natural one).