8 types of toxic managers

Twenty Ten Talent - 8 types of toxic managers

A positive work environment starts from the top down. When a manager is passionate, sets a good example, is connected to their employees, and encourages innovation and collaboration, everyone is able to thrive. But when a manager fails to do these things, the whole office can suffer.

Toxic managers come in all forms. Sometimes they’re friendly, but extremely disorganized and ill-qualified. Sometimes they’re demanding, but fail to make productive contributions themselves. Sometimes they’re close-minded, determined to abide by old standards instead of embracing new ideas.

Whatever the case, toxic managers are always bad news, especially if you’re not sure how to deal with them. To help you out, we identified 8 types of toxic managers and provided suggestions for how to handle them.

1. The Dictator
The dictator rules the office with an iron first. They think they always know best, and are rarely open to suggestions or collaboration. Their close-minded, opinionated nature stifles innovation and drives away valuable employees.

Worst traits of The Dictator

  • Condescending
  • Poor listener
  • Overly vocal
  • Argumentative
  • Close-minded

How to defeat a Dictator

  • Ask directed questions that guide the conversation.
  • Know your facts, and present them in a nonthreatening way.
  • Discuss issues in private rather than in front of a group.
  • Remain patient and level-headed when conversing.
  • Stick to a schedule so they have limited time to talk.

2. The Drama Queen
The Drama Queen is moody and flighty. Their emotional inconsistency makes them hard to gauge, as they either blow everything out of proportion or are overly enthusiastic, leaving employees stressed and confused.

Worst traits of The Drama Queen

  • Unpredictable
  • Exaggerative
  • Stubborn
  • Self-destructive
  • Impulsive

How to defeat a Drama Queen

  • Keep conversations strictly business.
  • Ignore their attention-grabbing antics.
  • Highlight the positive rather than the negative.
  • Ask for directions and clarify in writing.
  • Build good rapport by delivering quality work.

3. The Micromanager
The Micromanager is usually a hard worker, but has control issues. They are constantly making employees perform unnecessary tasks and intervening in their day-to-day activities, reducing productivity and disrupting workflow.

Worst traits of The Micromanager

  • Controlling
  • Short-sighted
  • Distrusting
  • Fails to delegate
  • Overly critical

How to defeat a Micromanager

  • Be proactive and give project updates before they ask.
  • Gain their trust by displaying advanced understanding and achieving project goals.
  • Show your knowledge by offering suggestions on how to improve processes.
  • Outline each team member’s responsibilities before the project starts.
  • Ask questions that make them think about the big picture.

4. The Two-Face
This Two-Face seems nice at first until you realize how passive-aggressive they are. Their fear of confrontation often leads to miscommunication and an unfriendly work environment.

Worst traits of The Two-Face

  • Poor communicator
  • Devious
  • Resentful
  • Hostile
  • Sarcastic

How to defeat a Two-Face

  • Ask for specific feedback on your work.
  • Set up group meetings where multiple people can voice their opinions.
  • Communicate confidently and constructively with them.
  • Address the root of the problem rather than each passive-aggressive action.
  • Use humor to diffuse a situation and acknowledge the passive-aggressive act.

5. The Loud Mouth
The Loud Mouth is all talk. Their motto is “Do as I say, not as I do.” They set a terrible example, but hold employees to ridiculously high standards and are quick to criticize, creating a lack of trust, respect, and motivation.

Worst traits of The Loud Mouth

  • Disingenuous
  • Arrogant
  • Deceptive
  • Hypocritical
  • Makes excuses

How to defeat a Loud Mouth

  • Research and ask others about standard company policies and procedures.
  • Set up a workflow where each team member is held accountable for their duties.
  • Create detailed agendas with timeslots for each task so meetings don’t run long.
  • Guide the conversation towards other employees areas of expertise.
  • Give physical cues about how busy you are, and shift your focus to other things.

6. The Airhead
The Airhead is forgetful and always unprepared. They rely on team members to get the job done, and make little effort to improve their skills or take the lead, leaving employees frustrated, overworked, and resentful.

Worst traits of The Airhead

  • Disorganized
  • Incompetent
  • Lazy
  • Forgetful
  • Apathetic

How to defeat an Airhead

  • Set up calendar events for important deadlines and meetings.
  • Identify their strengths and find ways to better play to them.
  • Set aside time in your schedule for last minute emergencies.
  • Simplify reports and meetings to make them concise and direct.
  • Learn to say no when you don’t have time to take on extra responsibilities.

7. The Lone Wolf
The Lone Wolf is great at improving the bottom line, but doesn’t like to work with others, and encourages an “every man for himself” environment. Instead of seeing success as a team effort, they measure individual productivity, creating an overly competitive work environment.

Worst traits of The Lone Wolf

  • Uninvolved
  • Gives poor directions
  • Overly high expectations
  • Aloof
  • Refuses help

How to defeat a Lone Wolf

  • Encourage collaboration amongst fellow co-workers.
  • Initiate group conversations in-person and via email.
  • Propose team goals in addition to individual goals.
  • Discuss your detailed quarterly plan and receive written approval.
  • Confirm project expectations and directions in writing.

8. The Scatterbrain
The Scatterbrain is extremely passionate, so much so that they are constantly coming up with new ideas, but never following through on any of them. Their constant “innovations” create distractions and make it hard for anyone to focus.

Worst traits of The Scatterbrain

  • Unfocused
  • Easily distracted
  • Makes hasty decisions
  • Disruptive
  • Inefficient

How to defeat a Scatterbrain

  • Ask them to prioritize each project and then suggest realistic deadlines.
  • Ask questions about how new ideas will impact team goals and the bottom line.
  • Be honest about your bandwidth and time needed to produce quality work.
  • Offer your own suggestions on how to improve processes and increase productivity.
  • Stay organized and send a weekly plan to your boss to confirm you’re on the same page.

Though it can be intimidating to stand up to your manager, you can often do so in strategic ways that benefit not just you, but also your coworkers and the company as a whole. The first step to determining the best way to interact with your manager is to understand their motives. Are they intimidated by you? Are they introverted? Do they desire attention?

Each of the toxic managers above has specific antidotes, but there are also general strategies for dealing with difficult managers and taking ownership of your work.

  1. Clarify project goals and expectations in writing.
  2. Ask questions when directions are unclear.
  3. Document what you have contributed to each project.
  4. Anticipate your manager’s requests — be proactive.
  5. Deliver quality work.
  6. Communicate regularly, even if you get few responses.
  7. Take initiative and act as a leader.

Toxic managers make work environments more difficult, but they can also provide opportunities for you to take initiative and “manage up”. Instead of being discouraged by your boss, think about what you can do to improve your skills and take charge of your career.


Post by Reuben Yonatan

Reuben Yonatan is the founder of GetVoIP, a leading VoIP provider comparison resource. As an entrepreneur and tech enthusiast, Reuben’s expertise is in helping small to mid-size business owners build, maintain, and scale their communication infrastructure. More information on VoIP solutions, applications, and GetVoIP’s blog can be found at getvoip.com.

Photography Credit: #WOCinTech Chat

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