How to Handle Five Types of Tough Executives

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Stephanie Naznitsky’s tips for handling challenging leadership styles

An OfficeTeam survey revealed 80 percent of respondents are happy with their manager. This is good news — but what if you’re among the one in five who don’t love working for their manager? Short of leaving your job, the best way to deal with a tough executive is to have coping strategies. Here are some tips to help you navigate five of the most challenging leadership styles.

1. Authoritarian

This executive is a drill sergeant. They know exactly how they want things done and expect their team to do it their way. While they clearly communicate their expectations and don’t shy away from making bold decisions, they don’t like to be challenged or advised.

Tip: Authoritarians are tough but (usually) fair. To please them, understand what they expect and make sure your work delivers. Play by the rules, heed their feedback and show them respect. When you feel they’re wrong, speak up — but don’t question them in public. Instead, gather your arguments and approach them in a private setting, where you may get better results.

2. Micromanager

Characterized by a lack of trust, micromanagers monitor almost every detail of their employees’ work. Hard to please and even harder to tolerate, they scrutinize every little thing, from how long your break is to how quickly you complete an assignment. This constant hovering can eat away at your confidence.

Tip: Micromanagers are worriers. The trick is to anticipate their fretfulness and take proactive actions to put them at ease. You can do that with frequent progress reports and by finishing tasks ahead of schedule. When you give them fewer reasons to worry about your performance, they’ll hopefully stop breathing down your neck so often.

3. Missing in Action (MIA)

On the other end of the spectrum is the executive who’s so hands-off that it’s as if they aren’t even there. As long as the end result is achieved, they trust you to figure out the methods. Often swamped with a crazy schedule and multiple demands, they underestimate the importance of communicating with their staff.

Tip: Since you’re in charge of their calendar, schedule yourself for a 15-minute meeting each week to ask questions and get general directions. On the plus side, this type of executive obviously trusts their executive assistant, so go ahead and take charge of your work and build your leadership skills.

4. People Pleaser

Eager but indecisive, people-pleasing executives have often been promoted from within. They find it awkward pulling rank over their former peers, which is why they constantly seek validation. When it comes to making decisions, they ask for input and go with the consensus. Keen to not make waves, they avoid conflict and worry more about being liked than getting results.

Tip: Indecision comes from a fear of making mistakes, so let your executive know you have their back and are happy to carry out their requests. At the same time, don’t be afraid to diplomatically speak up if you think their eager-to-please tendencies have led them to make a crowd-pleasing but unwise decision.

5. Workaholic

They work around the clock and expect you to do the same. If something urgent crops up, they don’t hesitate to contact you by any means possible, even at night, on the weekend or during your vacation. They live to work, have high standards for themselves and others, and push you to the limits of your potential.

Tip: As an administrative professional, your job is to support your executive and make their life simpler. At the same time, it’s not fair for them to expect you to be at their beck and call. While you may not be able to make this executive put in fewer hours, you can — and must — set your own boundaries for work-life balance. So, take your well-deserved breaks and vacations, and don’t get in the habit of responding to after-hour requests that can wait until the next business day.

Use your emotional intelligence to come up with strategies to make the relationship more tolerable. If that fails, you can always look elsewhere for your next professional challenge.

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About Author

Stephanie Naznitsky

Stephanie Naznitsky is executive director of OfficeTeam, the nation’s leading staffing service specializing in the temporary placement of highly skilled administrative and office support professionals. OfficeTeam has 300 locations worldwide and offers online job search services at roberthalf.com/officeteam. Connect with us on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and our blog.

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