I know, very emotive, and I'm very angry at the moment, but my manager is driving me mad!

Background: last year I worked in a fairly complex organisation with two managers both of whom I loved. In November we were reorganised and I got a new manager, who was also new to the company.

Today we had our first team meeting. Some of the team wern't there, because they hadn't been invited because after 3 months and numerous conversations she still isn't sure who is in her team. She asked today if certain people should be in her team. As the org chart her boss produced before christmas was so wrong we couldn't tell, we (her team) have no idea who she should be managing. But I think she should!

I made a presentation and she commented on some work included in it. I had sent it to her 2.5 months ago, but she hadn't read the email. She doesn't do email, but then she doesn't take action after conversations or meetings. And if you do have a meeting she'll keep you waiting till 3 or 4pm when the meeting's booked for 10. She's completely disorganised, and is still calling me to ask for phone numbers of her team on a daily basis.

This week I've done 50+ hours because she's given me so many projects to 'help her with' (read do, because she has so little understanding of our business model, processes or who she needs to talk to that she can't do them herself) but she sent an email to her boss, telling him how successful 'we'd' been with a customer based on my work, without giving me any credit.

During today's professional update about legislation which came in 6 months ago and has a direct bearing on our role, she made so many 'oh really' comments that I was convinced it was all new to her. And when she confessed that in the last week she had directly contravened said legislation I was convinced.

The final straw was her telling the team, during the meeting, in graphic detail about how her boyfriend had dumped her because she drove drunk to his house and crashed her car in his driveway. I can't begin to tell you how angry it makes me that anyone in her position would be so unprofessional.

I've asked what her goals are, in order that I can work more effectively with her, but she told me she didn't know. In Disc terms she's all I, and I'm lots of D, but I also have a lot of I and I can't work out why I can't at least tolerate her. But I now feel total contempt for her and I don't know how I'm going to get through the weeks until I can find a new job.



drinkcoffee's picture

It's funny; once I started reading about your manager I immediately thought "High I" -- she definitely fits the classic profile (with the addition of lots of extremely ineffective behavior).

I don't think you are going to be able to change her in any way. You shouldn't expect that it's going to be different going forward -- but it sounds like you know that.

If transfering to a different manager is not an option, my advice would be to leave as quickly as realistically possible and chalk it up as a learning experience. In the meantime, privately recognize that her behavior is grossly ineffective and rise above it.

trandell's picture

Do you have a good relationship with your manager's boss? That may be an option for you. If you think through your points and present them on the basis of being worried about her impact on the team you may get some help. If you have a really good relationship you might consider discussing your interest in moving on within or without the company. That's a gutsy move, so you better think it through and let people here help you work out the details.

Your boss is not going to change unless she wants to change. It is unlikely you will change her. Maybe a kick from her boss will help but it is still likely to be a long road to recovery for her, if she can indeed change for the better.

tokyotony's picture

Before going to your boss's boss, I would ask if you have given your own boss any feedback and, when you do, you tell her that you thought it only fair to tell her what is on your mind before you went to her boss. Maybe she will change and maybe she won't--but at least you won't be seen as "sneaking around".

And, do it all with love and you would when you give own direct reports feedback. She probably feels the "heat" you are radiating and it may turn her off even more.

Also, you can see this as a good challenge to learn from...what can you do to help your boss be effective? I am guessing your boss was made your boss for a reason--she must have some kind of skill or qualities. In the end, if you can make her look good, it will only help you.

Moving on to another company/job has risks, and what will you do if you have another boss with the same traits?


Anonymous's picture

Thank you guys, it helps so much to know I'm not alone!

Drinkcoffee - I know I'm not going to be able to change her, I'm just trying to find a way to work with her that keeps some of my sanity. But thank you for saying she's ineffective - I was struggling with the 'if that's the way she works, can you ask someone to change their personality just because it doesn't work for you' conundrum, and the answer of course, is yes, if it doesn't get the work done!

Trandell- my boss's boss has only been in a week longer than she has and I have only been introduced to him, in a corridor when he was going somewhere else. He has been told by my previous bosses and my current boss that I am doing amazingly well in my role, but obviously doesn't feel the need to talk to me about it, or come to our team meetings, so I don't think that's going to be an option. :-( But thank you for the suggestion, I need some options I can work through.

Tony - [quote]what can you do to help your boss be effective? I am guessing your boss was made your boss for a reason--she must have some kind of skill or qualities. In the end, if you can make her look good, it will only help you.[/quote]
This is the bit I'm struggling with. I'm doing huge chunks of her work for her. I've asked her what her goals are, so I can help her achieve them, but she doesn't know. She does think, and tells me regularly that I'm doing a great job, my work is amazing and she doesn't know what she'd do without me. From her perspective I am helping her be effective. But from my perspective, she isn't giving me credit outside of our conversations, I shouldn't be doing her work for her because she's incapable (and killing myself in the process - she doesn't work nights and weekends, why should I to get her work done?), and I don't want to witness her telling the team about her lovelife. Helping her be effective has too high a price for me.

Having said all that, I havn't tried to give her feedback. I need her on my side, because the only opportunity for promotion is if she creates a new role for me, and I'm scared that if I tell her what I'm thinking she'll take that away from me.

Thank you for helping me think this through guys, I really appreciate your help.


jamie_uk's picture

If you are considering the option of leaving because of the current situation alone, I think you need to explore all the options first including feedback and speaking to her boss - I don't think you have a lot to loose by trying.

I find it really helpful to write everything down, get it off my chest and allow me to take a step back.

Good luck and let us know how it goes.


juliahhavener's picture
Licensee Badge

My last boss was all high I and had a few ineffective behaviors. My D balanced her some, and we worked very well together. I like the 'write it all out' suggestion. Before going to her boss or quitting, I'd definitely suggest talking to her. My boss wass not particularly technical. She didn't know how to use the sorting functions of Excel, for example, so as she was showing me how to do a particular task (that's done on a weekly basis), it was taking her a good deal of time to do it 'her' way. When she said 'do this, then this is a pain, because you have to do this', I simply asked her if she knew she could do it all at once. She sat back and said 'you're kidding me! show me!' She's much better at sorting with Excel now :)

I would go for the 'little suggestions' you can make now that will improve her effectiveness (and therefore your life) first. See how that goes, if it goes well, you may or may not even need to have a 'bigger' talk.

I do agree with Jamie that at the point of considering leaving, you have to first consider the tougher choices of working WITH her to resolve the problems. If you can, it will make both of you much stronger and she will be your biggest champion.

aza43's picture

The folks at have assembled a handy guide to boss relations. Though aimed mostly at the IT exec, the guide also includes valuable insights for non-tech staffers, including articles on how to tell your boss you're overworked, how to read his facial expressions--or anyone else's--and a piece on how to tell you're about to get fired.

jpb's picture

I work with a similar boss. He is often out of touch with projects and would rather have fun than work. I have been able to give constant feedback on his performance through daily meetings which has improved our communication and confidence in each other.

I took on a lot of his work through default. The upside has been that it is recognized by most Sr. VPs that I can handle this and could move up the ladder when the opportunity presents itself.

Maybe you can take advantage of the situation in a similar fashion.

good luck, it's not an easy situation to deal with.

US41's picture

Guys, an ineffective boss is not a curse. It is a total opportunity. I have been in this situation before, and it helped boost my career by leaps and bounds.

I had a disorganized manager who couldn't figure out how to manage our team at all. He was constantly in reacting mode, and everyone was in chaos.

I did my best to report to him what our challenges were and present solutions. He listened. He was a nice guy. He just couldn't do any of it, though, because he had himself so far down in the weeds and so convinced his people were useless he was already gone.

Eventually, management made a change and he was moved off. Here is where the opportunity presented itself. As he was moved off, and before the new management could get in there, I stepped forward. While I had been advising him, I had already put together a "How to fix this team" plan in PowerPoint - ready to present and give away to the new boss - or to use myself in the interim.

I contacted my peers, who were great folks, and some of them I was able to help out and get cooperation from. We were better organized almost immediately. When a new manager was announced, I presented my plan and turned it over. After all, I did it for our good, not just for my own use.

I ended up a manager with directs after doing that.

Having a screwy boss is a HUGE opportunity as long as no one is being harmed. Their ineffectiveness sets the bar so low that almost anyone who follows is sure to be seen as a success. And, their ineffectiveness makes it so that any schmuck can see what needs to happen to make things better.

I didn't have MT knowledge at the time. If I had, I would be a level up from where I am now, I think.

So, don't be passive. Seize the day!

bflynn's picture

A thought that I'll throw out for you - as I read the title of the post "I can't work with my manager", I had a counter-thought: You can't work without your manager either. You will either learn to work with your manager, or one of you will leave.

Take a deep breath. Relax. Now, get out of your comfort zone and go talk to your manager about this. Be professional.


Mark's picture
Admin Role Badge

I'm sorry this has taken me so long. I regret my absence.

Please don't give your boss feedback. It RARELY works, and none of us here know enough about your situation to recommend that. While I would say your boss is LIKELY to be the most open to it (High I's are, as they crave your approval), I can't tell whether she has a temper (and you probably can't either as a High D).

I'm also not sure that talking to your boss about your problem as you state it here is a good idea. She won't find anything ACTIONABLE there.


Keep doing good work. Build more relationships elsewhere.

AND: Decide what your job is as you see it, and do THAT. Brief her on what you think about YOUR job. If she agrees, and you present it well, she'll ask you for what HER job is... and be ready to lay out what you would recommend as well.

Keep GREAT notes about your performance... BECAUSE SHE IS NOT. If you do something really well, ask her to let some other folks know... it would be good for you to be thinking whom in your network needs to know, and let HER know that.

It would help to know more about industry, your level, her level, work you're doing, etc.

Again, my apologies for my delay.


Anonymous's picture

Hi all

Mark's post prompts me to give an update.

After this post, and reading carefully all the replies I did have a discussion with her, that I couldn't do my day job (which is a fairly intensive customer service type role, with a lot of autonomy, and even more now!) and all the project work (read.. her job) without the customer perception of my service to them falling.

She agreed to give me a couple of weeks once the project was done, to get my customer relationships and my day job back on track, which to be fair she has done.

Last week, I asked if we could have a chat about my development. I told her that I'd seen an opportunity for another team member to take some of my day job, which would allow me to take on the project work, which

*allows me to do something more interesting (without killing myself doing ridiculous hours)
*makes her feel she doesn't have to do the doing (she's happier schmoozing than doing any work)
*give me access to a wider range of influential customers/higher management to impress

She thinks it's a good idea and when she gets back from her holiday (I'm covering for her - another good opportunity for me) she's going to set it up.

There are still lots of negatives: She has been badmouthing me behind my back, and is stupid enough to think that that won't get back to me. However, I also know that the feedback going to her boss about her is very negative, from customers as well as her peers which makes me feel that possibly she will be moved and as US41 says, that will be an opportunity for me.

As for performance, our yearly objectives have to be set my 1 Mar, and she let us set them ourselves, with no discussion because she didn't have time. But, as you suggest Mark, I am recording my achievements, and as I still have customer responsibilities into my previous bosses, I am able to copy to them when I have a success, which means there is evidence that is MY success and she can't steal it.

So the situation hasn't changed, but my perception of it has shifted, if only a little. It's progress.

Thanks for all your help