Unfortunately, not everyone who steps into a managerial role possesses the skills and insights needed to lead an effective team. Rather, many bosses end up in their role as a result of their technical skill and expertise in a certain domain. When individual contributors step into leadership roles without the required foundational skills, members of their team can often find themselves dealing with an ill-equipped manager. If you find yourself dealing with a problematic manager, consider creating boundaries in the following ways:
When they micromanage...
Dealing with a micromanager is never a good feeling, especially for those seeking autonomy in their work. If you’re dealing with a manager who refuses to loosen their grip, create boundaries between by reducing the opportunities for them to intervene.
If you have a project you’re working on, rather than asking them how and when to execute a task, do the work, and update them on it later. If you know that they tend to overpower you in meetings, consider setting the meeting yourself, and always come prepared with an agenda that will allow you to lead the conversation. Consider only providing updates to them when absolutely needed. It is also important to let your boss know exactly how you enjoy being managed, as they may be totally unaware of your own working style.
When they don’t respect working hours...
Unfortunately there are many industries that don’t allow you to ever “turn off”. With the ease of technology, we are expected to fire off emails at all hours of the day. However, if you’re not in the business of billing your hours, then it is up to you to create firm boundaries between what you are willing to accept when it comes to your time commitments outside of working hours.
If a boss constantly calls you outside of your working hours, simply don’t respond. You’re not obliged to answer their calls, nor are you obliged to answer their emails. While this may seem scary, you will set the tone for how your boss treats you. If you have a client that’s calling you late at night, simply follow up with a text or email letting them know when it’s appropriate to call.
If you find yourself in a situation where your working hours are constantly being abused, it is up to you to set your own boundaries and say no.
When they are unreasonable with their asks...
Your manager might assign you something larger than you can chew as an act of good faith in your abilities, or even as a stretch assignment. Self-awareness, in this case, is important as you don’t want to turn down work that could help you grow, but also don’t want to set yourself up for failure. If you’re constantly being asked to do work that is out of scope, let your manager know you’re feeling ill-prepared, and would appreciate some help or further training.
When they are unprofessional...
Some people prefer to have a close personal relationship with their teams, which is perfectly okay! However, if you prefer to keep the relationship professional and your boss insists on getting personal, you may have to create some boundaries between you both. Do your best not to share personal information while at work. Steer clear of conversations about friends, family, and relationships. Don’t socialize more than you need and simply keep your focus on task-related conversations!
When they are rude or abrasive...
Unfortunately you may find yourself in a situation where your manager is just not nice. Don’t try and be rude back, rather keep your distance, and detach from the relationship as much as possible. Keep your conversations short and minimal and focus on the work. Remind yourself that you won’t have this boss forever, and if need be, explore the potential of switching teams completely if things get bad.
Knowing what is most important to you at work, and being clear on your own personal values is the first step in developing boundaries with you and your boss. Be honest, and specific with the people around you about how you’re feeling, and what your expectations look like (Tartakovsky, M).
As you work with different characters and personality styles across your career, you’ll face the reality that you just won’t click with every boss. In fact, it's almost guaranteed that you’ll work with some people who make you cringe, and you’ll have to complete work that is 100% below you. However, when boundaries are crossed, it’s up to you to set the tone between you, your leaders, and your team!
Stacy Pollack is a Learning Specialist with an MA in Educational Technology. She is passionate about building leadership programs that engage and contribute to the success of her organization. She loves to share her perspective on workplace development, career building, and networking for success. Connect with her on LinkedIn, Twitter, or at www.stacypollack.com.