We've all had them. Some of us have been them. But if there's anything that seasoned engineers have in common, it's lots of experience working with different kinds of managers.
Whether you're working for a small startup or a huge corporation, the quality of your daily life can be ruled (or ruined) by the style and personality of the person who signs your time card.
We spoke with several professionals who've had a wide variety of experiences with different types of managers. Here, categorized for your reference and convenience, are profiles of some of the most common types of managers and some advice on how to deal with them.
Described by one engineer as "the worst manager I've ever worked with," this manager lives in fear that a team member will claim or steal credit for every task the group accomplishes. He or she will always try to blame somebody on the team for any mishap that occurs.
The common motivator that drives these managers is fear - fear of higher management and fear of their own staffs. The worst thing about this type of manager is that they never accept the basic responsibility of a leader.
How to deal with a Blame-Thrower: It's not easy! Think of this person as someone who was put on this Earth to test your professionalism - and your patience. Try your best to establish a good rapport with this manager (and others in the group). Take the high road in all your dealings with this person and don't badmouth him or her to other team members (it can come back to bite you). Good luck!
This type of manager is familiar to people in all industries: the boss who at some level is convinced that the staff is basically incompetent and therefore requires constant double-checking and supervision.
The discouraging message that the Micro-Manager conveys is a lack of respect for the basic talent and ability of those under his or her supervision.
How to deal with a Micro-Manager: (See above.) Don't take the bait and take micromanaging personally; chances are this manager treats everyone this way. When frustrated, do your best to remind yourself it's only a job.
The Do-It-All Manager
On the opposite end of the spectrum from the Micro-Manager is the manager who may have been promoted to a position of authority because he or she was so strong as an individual contributor.
The problem with the Do-It-All Manager is an inability to delegate authority, which also implies a lack of trust and respect for his or her staff. This manager is typically overworked, believing that no one else can do the work as well, while the team members are underused and become bored by the basic, unchallenging tasks on their plate.
How to deal with a Do-It-All Manager: Prove your professionalism and your abilities on a regular basis. And politely offer to take on more challenging and additional work.
This type of manager is secure enough in his or her own abilities to take on the responsibility of training and supporting the team.
A truly secure Mentor will share past mistakes as well as successes with team members. Others will share only their successes.
How to deal with a Mentor: Thank your lucky stars. Be grateful to be working for someone who cares about your professional development.
The 10-Steps-to-Success Motivator
This type of manager is eager to motivate the team with words of wisdom that often sound like they were lifted from a book, seminar, or series of motivational tapes.
What this Motivator doesn't realize is that advice earned from experience has more meaning for the staff than canned advice.
How to deal with a 10-Steps-to-Success Motivator: Give some of the techniques a shot. Even if they seem canned, some of them might be helpful.
This manager is respected by the team because he or she has a thorough understanding of the technical aspects of the project. The Leader challenges the staff with aggressive goals, clear deadlines, and a fundamental belief in the team's abilities.
The Leader has enough confidence in his or her own abilities to give company-wide credit and visibility to team members for their individual accomplishments.
How to deal with a Leader: If you're lucky enough to work for a true Leader, make it known how much you appreciate his or her management style. Those who give credit where it's due also appreciate it themselves.
Who Did We Miss?
Have we left anyone out? Have you developed any successful strategies for working with these types of managers? If so, let us know.
Bill Baloglu is a principal at ObjectFocus
www.ObjectFocus.com), a Java staffing firm
in Silicon Valley. Previously he was a software
engineer for 16 years. Bill has extensive OO
experience and has held software
development and senior technical management
positions at several Silicon Valley firms.
Billy Palmieri is a
seasoned staffing industry executive and a principal
at ObjectFocus. His prior position was at Renaissance
Worldwide, a multimillion-dollar global IT consulting
firm, where he held several senior management positions
in the firm's Silicon Valley operations.