Issues With Your Manager? Not Anymore! Decode Your Manager✓

Welcome to this week’s video. We are going to talk about a critical factor in your career if you want to be successful, or in some cases just purely survive.

This critical skill you need to develop is called managing your manager or managing your boss.

First, we are going to quickly go over the textbook Organizational Behaviour, the type of leaders and how you can manage them.

Then, I will talk about particular tips to maximize your success and finally, we are going to talk about the outliers. The types that don’t necessarily fit in typical organizational behavior context but are extremely common to see.

And as always, I am going to keep things very grounded, practical for you. I will share with you many examples from my own work history and show you how I dealt with various different managers I worked with in my 15-year career.  I am very confident it’ll be another eye-opening video for you.

Let’s start with textbook stuff.

 

So, there are 4 major types of leadership styles;

First is Dictatorial or Authoritarian Managers.

Second is Laissez Faire Manager this means, the manager leaves his team to do their own thing. These kind of managers are very hands-off.

The third is the opposite of Laissez Faire. This 3rd group is called Control Freaks; these are the ones that seek an unconditional commitment from their teams. They micromanage every action and decision.

And lastly Fourth is Consultative Managers or as some call them democratic managers. Consultative managers typically ask for their team’s input for every single thing.

This is from a typical organizational behavior textbook on leadership types.

What I don’t agree with this is that in my 15-year career, 8 years in management consulting with 100s of clients, I have never seen a manager or a leader who fits in any of these categories 100% of the time. No manager or a leader is going to be 100% Dictatorial or 100% Consultative.

In practice, managers are more like a mix of these 4 leadership styles; right? We are not homogenous beings nor our characters.

So,  they’ll be like 50% Dictatorial, 20% Consultative, 10% Control Freak, and 10% Laissez Faire.

And then, these ratios will completely change depending on various factors;

  • Whom they are dealing with
  • How much they trust that person
  • How lenient the manager is
  • How experienced the manager is
  • How experienced the team is

I can come up with at least 100 criteria here. But to simply things;

So, let’s say a Type A Leader would be on the Authoritarian, Micromanaging, control freak side of the spectrum and a Type Z leader would be on the right hand of the spectrum who is democractic, collaborative, consultative and laissez faire. Neither of these extremes are good leadership traits. And if you are working for a manager on either end of this spectrum, it’s not a very good situation. You want to have a manager who is balanced.

You want a leader a manager that you can learn from, that you can follow willingly towards success, greater achievements not only for your employer but also for your own career success. But at the same time you don’t want to work for a dictator either. You want to be heard, understood, and valued.

Remember this, people act differently based on different inputs.

Do you know what this means? This means you have the power to influence the inputs that will make your manager more pleasant to work with and more effective for the team.

So, what are the inputs then? How do I turn my dictator of a manager into a more consultative democratic one?

First you need to understand whether you are actually correct with your hypothesis. Your hypothesis is that your manager is a Type A manager with mostly dictatorial character traits.

So, test it.

Is that so?

Did you speak with your teammates?

Is he like that to others, even towards the more experienced team members?

Let’s say yes he is. Ok, move on;

Was he like this before?

Is there anyway you can find out how his leadership style was in the past? Maybe he wasn’t such an authoritarian manager and he’s only this way now managing your particular team.

Let’s say you asked all these right questions, and then ended up verifying your hypothesis that your manager is a dictator is correct.

Good. So, now we need look at the root causes. In simple terms, why is he like that?

The question “why” is incredibly underrated in our society. Most people just prefer to get used to things and accept the reality as a fact. But in the process, they forget to ask the question “why”. Why do I do this? Why is he like that?

Because if you can ask this question, then you command your brain to start looking for answers. And it will get to work and give you answers. The answers won’t come up right there immediately. It will work in the background. You know like the computer software right, working in the background.  It will start analyzing your history, your every interaction with him and once enough neurons are fired it’ll start making assumptions. That’s what you want.

So, why is he like that;

  • Is that a character issue? Is he like that with his wife or kids?
  • Is he rough even with his own managers?
  • Did he have a rough upbringing? Bad childhood? Without a father. Who knows.
  • Did he have bad experiences with his previous teams in the past?
  • Was his previous managers authoritarian and he learned this way to be a best practice?
  • Or another one; is this a new team that he is managing. You know every team goes through 4 stages of development, right? Forming, Storming, Norming, and Performing. So, during the stages of Storming and Norming, things are quite extreme. Characters are pushed to their limits I mean it happens all the time. So, maybe your team is going through that storming stage and you just need to give your manager a bit more time.

So, ask yourself these questions.

See, once you start asking these questions, then you start painting a brighter picture. Things will fall into place and you will find the root causes.

The next stage is to figure out if there is actually something you can do about it. Because some of those root causes can be fixed. Not all, but some of them can be.

So, ask yourself the question; can you do anything to eliminate those root causes? There is a pretty high likelihood that you can.

Let’s say that you have identified that your manager has trust issues with every new team he joins. Initially, his first reaction is to be really authoritarian until a long time passes. Well, if you know about this, then you can expedite trust-building stage. You can take more initiative, help him with his own tasks, offload his workload. There is a large variety of things you can do to expedite that trust-building phase.

And if you can, problem solved. You’ll enjoy a lot better team environment and a more successful career.

But does this work? I mean can you really change certain things about your manager? Of course. Without a single shred of a doubt.  See, I have been doing this very frequently for the past 8 years in my management consulting career. See, whenever we get a new client, we form new teams composed of a partner, engagement manager like myself, subject matter experts, junior consultants. Basically, I worked with a new team almost every 2 to 3 months. So, while on paper we all worked for the same company. But we all come from different regions. For a project in telecommunications, we get a few members from Germany, Italy, Japan, China. For another project, we get local resources plus Canadians and Americans. Basically, each project is a new team. So, for an engagement manager like me, this is no easy task, managing such a team. I mean these guys are very sharp fellas, the moment they feel I lack leadership or expertise, they’ll tear me to my bits. It’s no easy task. At the same time, I work with different directors and partners all the time. Meaning a new boss every 2 months. What I shared with you is precisely what I do whenever a new engagement starts. And it works.

Decode your manager, understand his leadership style, validate your assumption, look for root causes, then look for solutions, and implement it.

As I said earlier, this was the textbook stuff.

There are however instances where you cannot influence the inputs, you can’t solve the root causes, it is what it is.

Now, let’s talk about what you can do if you are dealing with extremes and that there is nothing you can do to create a more pleasant work environment.

 

GIVE A BREAK!

 

It’s time for a story.

So, this manager I am going to talk about was quite something. This was my first job in Dubai.

The following instances you will hear are not from a fictitious character. It’s a real person who lives and breathes.

He exists!

He was the CEO of the organization that I worked for. It was my first job in Dubai almost 10 years ago. This was after Standard & Poor’s and way before PwC and before I had my MBA.

So, This man was rude, very rude. He was completely obnoxious and had major attitude problems.

He was very paranoid. So much so that he installed bugs as in hidden microphones around our desks, meeting rooms, so he could just spy on our team conversations.

And wait for it; not just bugs, but he also installed hidden software in our laptops so he could see what we are doing with our computers all the time. We didn’t have any knowledge of the bugs nor the software at the time. I discovered later on from the IT guy. I tricked him into admitting it.

He would literally spend his entire day in his office, watching our screens from his computer and listening to our conversations through hidden microphones.

He was the CEO and he was also the head of our project management office.

You see, all of these are just pure horrible and illegal instances and already great reasons to resign. But his treatment of his employees, his team members are the worst part.

His attitude towards others, not even just his employees, but also our joint venture partners, our potential future investors, everyone was just so out of reason.

Like my first day at work, Imagine; I am happy to have had a very productive day, he calls me into his office and asks me; in a very condescending tone.

“So, why did you choose this project. Like there was no other projects to start?”.

And then I am trying to explain; Well, I didn’t carry out my prioritization study yet. But I was approached by Ibrahim and he mentioned that he needed my help urgently. So, I decided to spare a few hours to help a team member.

Then he goes; no… No no… It’s very bad. Go now…

Then I leave that meeting room, imagine my first day huh. So, I leave and I am like what the fuck just happened… I mean you are supposed to be happy, you know, it’s your first day, new team, new opportunities, you are excited. He just right there shatters the morale.

Then he calls me at 11.00 pm almost midnight. He says;

“Deniz, what are you doing!”

I’m at home, just ready to get to sleep. Is there anything I can help you with?

“come come come now.”

Then he tells me to go to this Shisha café which is like really really far from my house. It’s like an hour drive almost. And it’s already 11 pm. First day huh…

But I was thinking what could I do right, I mean I got this great paying job, and I was not ready to give up on that yet. So, I say, sure I am on my way.

But I am also thinking. I mean if he is really calling to that place this late, it’s gotta be something huge. Something very important. Right, I mean it’s midnight for god’s sakes.

So, I arrive in this weird, dodgy cafe and I see him in this dark, smokey corner, with full of a man smoking their shisha, with loud oriental Arabic songs in the background. I was like, man… So, I find him and approach him;

Hi Mr xxxxxx; he likes to be called Mr. or Sir. And I am like; is everything ok, what’s going on.

He doesn’t even stand up to greet me.

He’s like [showing with hands] sit down. Then he mumbles;

“I am not happy with your performance. What do you do yani. What’s your value-add…”

And one thing about him. He loved using jargon, and terms that sounded cool to him, but he had no idea what they meant.

My value add you mean today, or overall in general because we’ve had this conversation in our interviews. right?

“No, I am not happy.”

See, at that stage, make an empathy, imagine if you were me.

What would you do? Seriously, please pause the video, and think about your options.

Imagine, you just had this great job, with 80,000 dollars per annum tax-free salary. Tax-free. You are in a city with great potential. Dubai. The city of future. And it really is by the way. It’s an amazing city. Like no other. You signed up with one of the leading organizations in the region. And your first day at work, you go through this. What would you do?

I mean if you are a man, you can beat him to a pulp. That’s an option. But then the questions is; is the satisfaction you get through beating him to a pulp greater than USD 80,000 a year and with a lot more potential in the future. Believe it or not, I know people who would say yes to that question. But luckily, I am not one of those.

So, obviously within a year, there was no team left, all the joint venture partners left us, team members either resigned or fired. And I can confidently say he was the single biggest reason for everything.

Obviously, he wasn’t aware of the fact that Great Power Comes With Great Responsibilities. I mean even Spiderman knows this. And there is no bigger power in today’s world over someone than financial power.  Some of my teammates at that time, they had just had newborns, they got into debt with mortgage and car payments and they were fearful of losing their jobs. To make it worse, We also had no option of quitting at least not very easily. At the time, there was a this labor policy, a labor ban. So, if you quit your job you’d get years of a ban which prevents you from working for most other companies. Luckily, that practice is no longer in place.

So, why am I sharing this story?

It’s very simple really. You can read all the books written about Organizational Behaviour. I did. Be my guest. You can speak to all the academicians, all the psychologists. They will tell you what I shared with you earlier, you know; dictatorial leader, laissez-faire leader, etc.

Then you can first decode them, validate your hypothesis, understand the dynamics, then work on the root causes, and develop solutions. Just like how we discussed earlier.

But, and this is a big but, At the end of the day, what happens on the ground is sometimes very different than how textbooks portrait them to be.

All of those leadership traits taught in books are excluding 1 very important fact. Fact that human beings can be bad, abusive, and malicious.  I mean we have seen how horrible things humans have done to each other right? The holocaust, genocides, wars, slavery. So, we are capable of inflicting such pain on each other even sometimes without a reason. This will not change anytime soon.

So all those textbooks don’t factor in the possibility of working for a bad human being.

So, if you are in that situation;  first just try to survive that environment and gain yourself some time until you get the next best opportunity, and when that opportunity comes, don’t even wait for a second. Don’t hope that things will transition from survival to thriving. Not with that person being there nor with that organization. The problem is as I mentioned before, life isn’t binary. And it’s not made up of absolutes. That malicious person can show you his humane side from time to time, and that is good enough for you to just continue hoping that oh maybe he is changing. Maybe he’s a good person that I should just stick around a bit more. I can adapt.

After all, homo sapiens have survived for 200,000 years by doing 1 very simple thing that most other species couldn’t.

Adapting.

And that’s what I did at that time. For over a year, I endured it. I got used to the abuse at work, I adapted and I survived.

But one day, after a year of going through that, I woke up, lit up a cigarette and a very sad thought came to me.

 

Was I experiencing “learned helplessness”.?

Hmm.. No, I couldn’t be. I am not that pathetic. I mean I make almost 100 grand a year. Right?

No, I was pathetic. And I was indeed suffering from learned helplessness.

Do you know what this is?

There is a psychological phenomenon called Learned Helplessness. In late 60s the University of Pennsylvania conducted pretty inhumane studies on dogs. What they would do is take dogs and force them to endure a punishment. For example, they would receive these horrible electric shocks and that there was nothing those puppies could do to prevent those shocks. Now later on, after some time of this abuse, they took these puppies out and tested them again. But this time, the puppies were given all the opportunities to avoid the shocks by taking action. They could just simply walk away.

What they realized was that those puppies just kind of came to accept the shocks as their reality, even when there were actions they could take which would stop those electric shocks. They didn’t. They just accepted to be shocked. So, this is what learned helplessness is.

Those puppies have learned to accept that there is nothing they can do to stop that pain.

And that morning, I just realized that I was that puppy being electrocuted every single day, and just like that puppy I was also accepting my faith.

And after that morning, after I had that realization, that very same day; I was able to walk up to him and say 2 very beautiful words; fuck you.

Those 2 words changed my life. My career and my life completely transformed for better after that day.

I left, I ventured into management consulting, had my MBA from one of the best schools in the world, joined PwC Consulting and had amazing success over the next 9 years in my career. And I owe it all, to that single morning, when after a whole year, I was finally able to say those 2 words; fuck you.

 

See you next week.