Is your boss someone who:

  1. Micromanages

  2. Does not provide feedback or only negative feedback

  3. Does not ask for your input or ideas

  4. Changes priorities and projects without reason

  5. Is not supportive

  6. Takes all the credit and is not part of “the team”

  7. Has a dictatorial style of managing

Basically—does not communicate well or treat direct reports with respect. 

            In our experience in training managers, there are a number of reasons for this unfortunate behavior. Mainly it boils down to a lack of training, being overly self-centered, fear of failure or sheer laziness.  Sometimes people simply say “S/he’ll never change.” So then do you just hope they will either get fired or pass away? When your manager is the owner of the business, that is unlikely. What can you do to change things? It all boils down to communication. Here are some ideas, do’s and don’ts…

  1. One-on-one meeting over coffee or lunch. There are a number of reasons to meet in public--  it puts people a little more at ease in a social setting and people have to be nice. In a closed office setting, it feels more formal and a really bad boss, might just cut off your ideas. Whatever you do, think about what you are going to say and how you will say it before your meeting. Keep it casual and solution oriented. For example:  I’ve noticed just how much everyone likes to share their ideas about the project. Is there a way we could have a brown bag lunch once in a while to do this—with you there too? Don’t expect miracles or immediate change. But what this does is to start “planting seeds.”

  2. Don’t gang up or make a habit of complaining about the boss to others. This could come back to bite you, and it does nothing to solve the problem—though it is human nature and makes you feel good for the moment in “group misery.”

  3. Ask for a review. It is standard practice to give employees reviews, but sometimes they seem to fall by the wayside. Doing this opens up the conversation and allows you to find out what your boss is thinking. 

  4. Have a department picnic, offsite or team building activity—with the boss. You are all people, and this type of event will put you on a more level playing field—at least for a period of time. It will also help you get to know each other better, and that will translate into easier conversation in the workplace.

  5. In trying to help your boss be a more effective leader, write down one thing s/he could do to make the team more efficient and the workplace more enjoyable. Be reasonable and realistic.  Tell your boss you have an idea that would increase everyone’s productivity—and quickly tell him or her know what it is—in a casual tone. It is better to do this in person unless you are an excellent writer and know how to couch it in very acceptable terms.  However, you are just testing the waters at this point, and anything in writing may work against you if you really have a bad boss.

  6. WHEN ALL ELSE FAILS—but before you seek relief from HR, try an anonymous letter and/or book. Be positive in the letter (i.e. you are a friend who is trying to help). You might consider sending a short book that is fun and easy to read: “Zapp! –the Lightening of Empowerment” is a very good one for managers.


It all comes down to your ability to communicate well. Think about the “desired outcome” before you act or speak. Consider the personality of your boss and what motivates him or her. This means getting to know them better; what is that person's professional experience and history; where did s/he come from; and what prompted that person to take this job? Don't just react, consider your boss's point of view, approaches that could work —and then proceed accordingly. It's more time consuming, but it can be worth it in the long run.