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Your Demon Boss: do you really have the worst manager ever?

Worst boss Ever?

Great managers are an asset to any organisation. They engage, inspire and motivate their staff to achieve results. Their staff feel like valued team members. A ‘bad’ boss, on the other hand, can leave people feeling demoralised. They reduce trust, inhibit creativity and innovation and can set staff up to fail.

So just how badly have you ever been managed?

Rosabeth Moss Kantor, management guru and former editor of Harvard Business Review, has shared in conferences a simple list of thirteen ways managers can undermine people. We’ve listed them below and set up a Cosmo-style quiz for you to find out just how lucky – or unlucky – you are with your boss… And if you’re still in the situation, we give some pointers about how to manage the apparently unmanageable.

Think about the worst manager you have ever had, and tick a, b, c or d for each behaviour.

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Mostly As: Oh dear! A demon boss – and insufferable. But don’t take it personally. They will no doubt be treating everyone like this. Get support from your HR department and ACAS. And use it to learn what not to do when you become a manager.

Mostly Bs: Your boss makes your life incredibly difficult. Be clear what you need from them and get it in writing, as otherwise their inconsistency will waste time. Make sure other people know what you are working on, and get support from others when it’s possible.

Mostly Cs: This manager is difficult to read. They support you well in some areas, but undermine you in others. Try to notice any patterns – is anything triggering their bad behaviour? They may be disorganised, overwhelmed or unconfident. You might even be able to help them, but only if they are open to it!

Mostly Ds: You are lucky! Your worst boss is not that bad. They might even respond to feedback, if you were to gently highlight areas for improvement. As long as you balance it with feedback on all the areas they are doing well.

Can you really learn from a demon boss?

Over your career you will encounter good and bad managers. Great managers are a joy to work for, and can help you on the road to becoming the type of manager you want to be.

Demon bosses will make your life difficult – sometimes very difficult indeed. Diagnose and identify exactly what they are doing. And don’t let their bad behaviour become your ‘issues’. If they are really bad, speak to HR before it affects you personally.

But while you are with them, use them as a learning experience. Look at your manager’s behaviour and identify what you will never do when managing others. And the lessons you get from a demon boss will stick with you forever.

Next steps

To avoid the many pitfalls that new managers fall into, sign up for our Emerging Managers Programme. And of course, if you’d like to speak to a consultant about a particular challenge you can contact us online or call the office on 020 7978 1516

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Charlotte Scott

About Charlie Scott

Charlie specialises in leadership development, team facilitation and strategy development. Charlie worked for over 20 years in the not-for-profit sector. Before joining =mc ten years ago, she created and...