Sidebar: Nobody's All Bad

Regardless of the approach you take, don't just label your manager as "bad." Define for yourself exactly what "bad" means.

"All bad bosses are bad in different ways," says Paul Glen, author and president of C2 Consulting. "There's the drunk-with-power boss, the 'I want the title but not the job' boss, the 'I want to do my old job' boss, the milquetoast boss who doesn't protect his team from the forces of the outside world."

By understanding the boss's weakness, you can learn how best to conduct yourself, which in the end is all you can control.

Seven years after John Wade's "bad boss" encounter, he finally gained insight into his first boss while taking a management theory course. According to a managerial grid theory that plots "concern for people" and "concern for task" along vertical and horizontal axes, Wade's first manager fell in the

"1-1" category, meaning he had a "low task, low relationship" style, says Wade, who is now CIO at Saint Luke's Health System.

By categorizing a manager's style rather than labeling him as a bad person, you can defuse some of the emotions that get in the way of navigating a tough situation. "It allowed me to kind of let go of some of the ill will I felt toward this guy earlier," Wade says.

That approach might even enable you to see and then emphasize any positive traits the boss may have, says Scott Berkun, an independent consultant.

For instance, is he good at fighting for budget increases? Does he work better with certain types of people? If you have difficulty thinking of any strengths, you might open up the conversation to co-workers, who may have a different perspective, Berkun says.

Have your own horror story? Head to the Bad Boss Blog, where readers post their own experiences, and our experts offer advice on coping.

Also part of this story:

Editor's pick from our archives: Are You a Scary Boss?

Copyright © 2006 IDG Communications, Inc.

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