Scary Bosses: Handling the Manager From Hell

"A lot of people who became bosses became bosses because they were very good salespeople but they weren't necessarily the strongest administrators or planners," said Spencer. In other words, every mad scientist needs an assistant. So, it's time to get in touch with your inner Igor.

If you know your manager has a nasty habit of expecting you to read his mind, suggest a Monday morning briefing, in which you probe him for the entire week's to-do list and concrete deadlines for each deliverable. Let him know how long each piece of the puzzle will take to complete so there are no surprises later. Also point out any key meetings or travel dates you know are on his calendar so you can "help" him plan for all the necessary deliverables he'll expect from you.

Liz Ryan, a former Fortune 500 HR executive who runs Ask Liz Ryan, a popular online community for workplace issues, suggests confirming such details right away with a "pleasant, rather than defensive" e-mail.

"This way, your boss won't be able to retroactively saddle you with instructions that he never gave you," she said via e-mail interview.

Our Boss Is an Utter Buffoon

According to a study of 2,337 U.S. adults released this month by Randstad, only half of employees think their boss is competent.

Shane, a communications professional from Raleigh, N.C., knows this all too well. His "terribly disorganized" boss required "daily management from the bottom up," which was both exhausting and maddening.

"I had to regularly re-forward e-mails of great importance to him four or five times," Shane explained, "mostly because he just couldn't keep track of what was going on around him."

For Judy, a former magazine editor from Brooklyn, an ex-boss's terrifying incompetence would often rear its ugly head in the conference room.

"I was at a story meeting once and I pitched an idea," Judy said. "[My boss] ignored me, even though a bunch of other editors liked it. Then, five minutes later -- at the same meeting -- he told them he wanted to do this really great story. And re-pitched my story as his! And he was completely serious. The other editors didn't know whether to laugh or be afraid."

So, what should you do when you suspect the big cheese doesn't know how to do her job (or just wants you to do it for her)?

"You get paid to help your boss meet the company's objective," Spencer said. "So, if that means you need to share knowledge with your boss or help keep your boss from making a major mistake, you have to remember that's what you're there for and that's why you get paid."

At least, "That's the official business answer," Spencer added. The personal answer, however, is to schedule a meeting with the manager who hired or promoted your boss to their current position and say, "I would like to understand your view of my skills and competencies and what skills and competencies I'd need to develop to have been considered for that role."

This isn't about criticizing or unseating your boss. It's about finding out what qualifications you need to assume a similar managerial position at your company in the future, or one at another firm.

Whatever you do, refrain from badmouthing your boss on the job, said Ryan, the workplace expert.

"When management finally gets rid of this turkey, you want to be viewed as above the fray, not locked in combat with him," she said.

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