A Field Guide to the 5 Most Common Boss Personality Types

Like any explorer venturing into uncharted territory, the office newbie needs a field guide to the fauna she is likely to encounter. And especially useful is an explanation of the big dogs of Cubicleville -- bosses.

Thankfully, the folks at Monster.com are old hands at navigating office politics and have come out with a handy guide for beginners. Monster lays out the five most common types of boss (along with a famous fictional manager to illustrate each one), offering tips on how to handle them.

  • The Authoritative Boss (Don Draper, Mad Men) -- The authoritative boss is the ultimate risk-taker and has a flair for drama. On the downside, he can be a poor communicator. He's creative and perceptive, but he's also suspicious of others. Sylvia Lafair, the author of Don't Bring It to Work, says, of this boss type, "Most important is to acknowledge how clever they are, how they seek justice, and how they find really good shortcuts to get the work done." Lynn Taylor, the author of Tame Your Terrible Office Tyrant, suggests you should "get specific" and allow little room for misinterpretation. She also suggests putting communication in an e-mail--this can help prevent miscommunication.
  • The Narcissistic Boss (Miranda Priestly, The Devil Wears Prada) -- The narcissistic boss is hugely self-entitled--often justifiably so. She puts herself on a pedestal far above subordinates, of whom she is ruthlessly critical. She does not welcome feedback and has little empathy. Taylor recommends using something she calls the "C.A.L.M." method with these bosses: "Communicate frequently, honestly, and regularly, so you understand what's behind all the blustering. Anticipate problems before they occur or become more stressful (don't encourage a tantrum with bad timing, either). Laugh: A little levity goes a long way when tensions are running high. Manage up by being a role model of good behavior."
  • The Everyman Boss (Michael Scott, The Office) -- This boss is likable enough, but he's sometimes inappropriate. He manages "from the gut," and he's just too wish-washy to lead effectively. Vicky Oliver, the author of 301 Smart Answers to Tough Business Etiquette Questions, says, "try to view his lack of leadership as an opportunity for yourself. ... Take the lead in the discussion, but stay detached from any particular outcome. Use logic, rather than unbridled passion."
  • The Autocratic Boss (Vito Corleone, The Godfather) -- Regardless of his physicality, this boss is large and in charge. He is cruel (even a bit of a bully) and sometimes very frightening. Lafair advises, "The best way to handle these bosses is to let them know you appreciate how they have situations under control. [Demonstrate that] you're willing to be another pair of eyes, so that when chaos and anxiety are stirring, you can be available to help find ways to calm situations down."
  • The Pace-Setting Boss (Donald Trump, The Apprentice) [OK, he's not fictional, but he is larger than life] -- This is the boss who creates a competitive environment at work. He sets very high goals and standards--and is very demanding of employees. Kanefield advises that, with a boss who sets very hard-to-achieve goals, you ask for as many details as possible: "Ask for details about what it means, what the steps look like, who they've seen that have done it well--try to get a picture of what success looks like."

Do any of these types sound familiar? For more info on handling your particular type of challenging manager, check out BNET's feature package on taming your boss.

(Photo courtesy of Flickr user gerlos, CC 2.0)