How do you deal with a boss that undermines their managers, manipulates situations to pit them against eachother, blatantly lies and provides false information, meddles with staff, creates conflict, does not give promotions and bonuses based on performance and contribution, but on how well they smooze up to them and goes to just about every "Leadership/management" seminar there is except for manager tools yet refuses to follow anything that is presented in those seminars?

mikehansen's picture

Find another job.

You can entertain the "go over their head", but it is highly unlikely to work. You cannot change your boss’s behavior, so use the tools on this site to find a better gig.

Perhaps too short of a reply for such an important decision, but if it is as bad as you paint it, I think it is your only play.

Hope that helps,

bdwyer's picture

quit, transfer, go over their head, or deal with it

I am relatively new to management but depending on your situation with the company you really only have four options as I see them.

You can quit, find another job with a better boss, or better yet a better job with a better boss. While I would concider it, it's just running from the problem. I was never much of a runner. Where you?

If the company is big, request a transer to a different department and hope they dont follow you, or that you won't run into them, or that he won't transfer. Where you ever skilled at hide and seek as a child?

Go over their head, it's ugly but it's a option. Probably won't work. At best he'll get some constructive critism from his boss and if they finds out it was you it'll make your relationship even worse. Plus a nickname around the school, I mean office, using the term "narc" or "taddler" always stings. But you have tough skin right? Who cares if your co-workers feel they can't trust you not to go running the higher ups.

Play the game. You will always have to deal with people who are idiots or jerks, are immature, have a pungent smell about them, there is a whole spectrum of undesirable traits among us humans. If my job meant enough to me I would play the game - be a manager. Don't breach your ethics but find ways to relate to your boss (DISC?) Read a good book on how to manipulate people. Do some subtle upward management and consider it training. (feedback, one-on-ones). Your job isn't to make him better with all people, just you - find a way to that while keeping your ethics. We all have to sleep at night, or the occasional night, afternoon nap?...the point is you have to live with yourself. But this option is hard work, you have to think it worth while.

HMac's picture


Don't rule out transfer or advancement within your company unless this boss is typical (if so, you're better off getting out).

Just out of curiosity: how long have you worked for this boss? How much turn over is there among his/her directs? And does s/he have any positive characteristics?

mikehansen's picture

I did not think about transfers. Good option if you can work it.

jmsloan's picture

Thanks for the advice everyone. I am already looking at the internal possibilities and with the size of the company am not too concerned with any backlash this boss may present. Of course outside is always an opportunity as well but would prefer internal first. This is more of a how to cope with/deal with in the meantime. Of course there is more to this than what was briefly described above. Has anyone out there been in a similar situation, how did you deal with it short term? Document conversations? Keep a journal? Yes I can learn from this situation, excatly what not to do, but the main issue is that I am pinched between my boss and my directs who are at odds with eachother for several reasons. Two weeks in this dept a majority of the staff went to complain to HR about the conditions and environment. None of the issues were related to me. My boss was specifically named on a majority of the grievances. And after being here for 6 months I find there to be validity in a number of the issues that were brought up. My role has become that of a peacekeeper where my boss likes to aggravate, irritate the situation, and I have to do everything I can to work with the staff to meet our commitments. Like playing a game where the rules are ever changing in the houses favor.

tcomeau's picture
Training Badge

[quote="mikehansen (and others)"]Find another job.

I believe there has to be some answer other than "find another job." I will admit up front that I don't have a terribly good answer.

Recognize that you can't manage your boss. Even when my boss basically asked us (his management team) to manage him, we failed. Miserably. In both senses: We did no real good, and we were miserable.

Yet the work we are doing is important enough [u]to us[/u] that only one of us (out of 9) was willing to walk away. In the end, we had a reorganization, and many of us ended up in new roles. I have a new boss, and a somewhat different role, though not the one I wanted. Things are far from ideal, but we are making progress. I'm still here, because the work I do here is work I can't do anywhere else.

Here is what I found worked for me during a very difficult couple of years.
- Focus on the work your directs need to accomplish and the resources they need to do that work. Be maniacal about one-on-ones, with good notes about weekly goals, making and meeting commitments (both you and your directs) and looking for opportunities for success.

- Pay attention to what directs say in their ten minutes. If they talk about their kid making the team, make a point of asking for details. If they talk about management chaos, ask for specifics about how it affects the work. Some of my guys were very upset about the management issues, but most just wanted to do the work.

-Don't let staff meetings devolve into bitch sessions about management. Most of all, don't start it. Don't complain about your boss. Don't complain that "management" can't make up its mind. Don't bend the truth, but do give the most consistent message you can about organizational process and goals.

- Try to insulate your directs from management chaos as much as possible. If your boss makes a speech that seems to muddy the goals, find the One True Thing in that speech that is consistent with the goals as you know them, and repeat that to your directs to help them keep focused. You [u]will not[/u] always be successful, but you owe it to your directs to try.

- Write things down, but don't expect it to help. Documenting decisions and objectives will help you remember what they are, but they will not help you when the objectives change. They changed. Toward the end of the worst part of our management problems we had a weekly meeting that we openly referred to as the "goalpost meeting": When it seemed like we were making progress, we could be sure the goalposts were about to be moved.

- Make an extra effort to build strong relationships with your peers, [u]especially[/u] when it seems the boss is trying to create tension between you. The best help I got during this period was from a fellow manager who would come around after goalpost meetings and just talk to us about what changed. We weren't negotiating, we were trying to jointly figure out how we could make progress together. She and another of my peers spent time building us into a real management [u]team[/u], accountable to each other, regardless of what the boss did.

- Build your internal network. There's a 'cast on networking, and one of the key points is to figure out what you can do to help other people. Go help the people in your organization who are hurt by management chaos. There is also a 'cast on internal customer relationships that I think might be helpful. Build your external network, too, in case it doesn't work out.

- If people are going to HR, go to HR. Not to complain, but to understand what they are hearing. I'm lucky to have a great HR manager, and she has several really good people who have been helpful. That hasn't always been true: Previous HR managers have not been helpful, but if you have a good one, work with him or her.

- Do what you can, as well as you can, and then go home. Get more exercise. Take your daughter riding, or take your wife to the gym for a workout and a soak in the spa. I confess I didn't do this all that well, but when I did, I felt better for it.

If you can get out, great. That's the simplest, though perhaps not easiest, thing to do. Get the Interview Series and do the exercises. Several people have reported great success with that series, and I've found it interesting to go through the preparation to clarify in my own head how I work, what I've accomplished, and how I can be more successful.

Until you do get out, you owe it to your directs, and to yourself, to be the best manager you can be. Whatever else happens, do good works.

KS180's picture

[quote]Until you do get out, you owe it to your directs, and to yourself, to be the best manager you can be. Whatever else happens, do good works. [/quote]

I think Tom has good advice. I have been in your situation and there is little you can do to change your boss. If everybody feels the same way about him causing conflicts you can try forming alliances.

I did this when I was told by my boss to pick on (name) this week about (project). I would go to my Dr and tell them it was their turn in the barrel and why. We worked together to take the hammer out of my bosses' hand and got the project done. This instill trust in my reports and when it came to my turn they helped me out. Eventually, the game stoppped because there was no entertainment for my boss amd he moved onto other games.

I eventually got another job because of health reasons.

Good luck,

jmsloan's picture

First of all I wanted to say thanks to those who have provided feedback and guidance. I really appreciate it. Now I have some more to add which has pushed me to the point where I don't feel that I can tolerate the behavior and am ready to take this to a higher authority. I have consistently held one to ones with my directs. My boss has now decided that she should also do this with my directs. I have no issue with this taking place and fully support and agree that they should take place if they are done properly. Well my staff has informed me that these "one to ones" are not one to ones as we would understand them. The person is asked to give feedback on the entire team. My boss provides their own input on everyone to this associate and repeats this process with everyone they meet with. There are comments that are made to undermine my position and she is also discussing staffing decisions which have not been carried out. In other words it becomes a gossip session and the information she is getting from everyone is used to pit people against eachother. I know that I need to get out, but until that becomes a reality I do not feel that this can continue without it being addressed. Here are some additonal examples of the menace that I am dealing with on a daily basis. One of my direct reports has become unhappy since they recently received their performance appraisal. They were rated as consistently successful, but felt they were highly successful. I have discussed this with the associate with clear and concrete examples of why I rated them as I did and what would be needed to be rated as Highly successful, well this tunred out to be more than what they are willing to put in, especially since they were told by my boss when they were promoted just before I came to the dept that there was no change in expectations or what they should contribute. So this person went and complained to my boss about how unhappy they were. She promised to move them to another dept in the organization. So I met with my boss and my counterpart for the other dept. I stated to them that I felt the best manner to handle the situation would be to follow protocol and post the position. Let them apply and then move them. I said that if you move one person for the reason of being unhappy you would have to allow that for anyone else, otherwise you are creating an environment where there are clear favorites. Well this week my boss told me in our one to one that the manager for the other dept has a lead on their ideal candidate and that the position was going to be pulled from this other person. So I was given the task of having to inform this person of the situation. Well this person was obviously upset and when they had their one to one with my boss they were told a completely different story. I was set up. So they told this person I was lying. Fighting words in my book. Another example that I have is that we have the option to give immediate cash bonuses to reward associates. We have a new associate that I have reservations about and expressed them, most importantly they have been caught sleeping at their desk. Despite my objections she went ahead and requested the award. I told her that I know that if she wants to reward the associate I can't stop her from doing so. Well she put me in a position where I had to present the associate with the recogniton. What was best about this situation was that when her and I approached the associates desk, we both could clearly see the associate was surfing the internet. These are just the behaviors. I am also directed to circumvent company policy. Fortunately I have examples of this direction in email form.I know it is a bad situation all around and the pathetic thing is that I have so many more examples than I have given above and it just seems to get worse. I am documenting all of my observations just in case. At what point is enough enough and action taken. Any further advice is greatly appreciated

TomW's picture
Training Badge

[quote="bdwyer"]quit, transfer, go over their head, or deal with it.[/quote]

I agree with all of these except "go over their head." Win or lose, you come out looking really bad to your boss and everyone else in the company (unless you are talking about serious ethical or legal violations, which do not seem to be the case here).

HMac's picture

Let's stipulate that you're going to move on, rather than stay and fight (that's a whole different post!). You mentioned in one of your earlier posts that moving on in your organization was a possibility because of it's size.

As you consider moving inside the organization ask yourself this: is your current boss a reflection of management in your organization, or an aberration? Because if she's typical, then you want OUT.


tlhausmann's picture
Licensee BadgeTraining Badge

> Boss is meeting with your directs.
> Boss is discussing staffing changes without your input.
> Boss is directing you to circumvent company policy.

Ouch. Build your network [url][/url]. Stay positive. Your directs pick up on negative stay positive.

Baseball season has started in the US so "Don't swing at a pitch in the dirt."