Tips on how to tackle a tiring ‘Type A’ boss

My boss is tough to work with, he is demanding and domineering – how best to handle this type of manager?

This sounds like a ‘Type A’ boss. Many of us have worked under them. These leaders, while driven, successful, creative, and passionate, can be tough to work with. By being domineering and demanding, they have the tendency to frustrate and demotivate team members.

While they should work to restrain these tendencies, there are things you can do to improve your relationship with your boss and ultimately make your job more enjoyable.

Having worked with many Type A CEOs, I’ve discovered a few tips that can help improve your relationship with your boss – and make your job more enjoyable.

Do your homework

Type As value efficiency. They’re always thinking one step ahead. It can be hard to keep up with them, but you should try to anticipate their questions, so you can organise your thoughts in advance. Ask for their expectations. If you understand what the priorities are, you’ll be appropriately prepared and be able to organise your tasks accordingly. It’s also important to ask for feedback to get a sense of what you can improve. I am sure your boss will appreciate the proactiveness.

Don’t be afraid to speak up

If you disagree about something or have concerns, be direct.

State the topic on which you disagree and explain your position in an articulate and reserved manner. Even if the matter you can’t agree on is one that you’re passionate about, avoid showing emotions. Refrain from using inflammatory or accusatory language.

Whenever possible/appropriate, provide solutions. For example, if you disagree with your boss about a work process, explain what you think is wrong with the process they’ve developed. Then offer suggestions for improving the process, and provide concrete and rational reasons why you think your method may be better.

Build an out-of-work relationship

Type As would love to relax and slow down, but it doesn’t come naturally to them. Get to know your boss. Share some of your passions and goals, even those outside of work. Do you practice yoga? Have children? Love a football team? Sharing these things and looking for similarities can help you and your boss build trust. Plus, these personal conversations can provide necessary respite from work, and help your boss be more present and slow down. Bringing a little bit of humour can help too.

Realise that it’s not you

Type A bosses often won’t take time to ask how you are or whether you have the capacity to take on new assignments. Try to remember that they probably don’t mean to be dismissive – it’s just their wiring.

Type As often feel alone and overwhelmed, and as if they have an enormous sense of responsibility. Having run CEO peer groups with more than 200 various CEOs over 15 years, I’ve noticed that their feedback to me is strikingly similar. CEOs – the classic type A bosses – join peer groups and networks like the Young Presidents Organisation (YPO) because they recognise the “it’s lonely at the top” cliche. There is also a good chance that they are lacking sleep, family time, or have a heavy decision weighing on them. So if you’re feeling frustrated or unacknowledged, try pushing that aside and asking how your boss is doing.

Stay the course

Working with a Type-A boss can be discouraging. Nothing is perfect and there is always something missing. The key is to recognise that any negative feedback doesn’t mean “stop” or “bad”; it usually means “go and continue to refine”. Press for more specific information, and ask for advice. “Am I on the right track? What do you like and what do you want me to change?”

While often discouraging and frustrating, often times we learn the most by working with high performers. So, the next time you find yourself working with one, try your best to prepare ahead of time, be bold, establish trust, and turn any frustrating comments into opportunities to improve.


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