How to handle your boss

Careers From control freaks to procrastinators, take this quiz to find out what personality type your boss is – and how to handle them

From control freaks to procrastinators, take this quiz to find out what personality type your boss is – and how to handle them

Mr Burns, Alan Sugar and David Brent – nightmare bosses are often the cornerstone of comedy TV. But encountered on the other side of the screen, these characters can all too often cause a sense of humour failure.  While many employers' attitudes may have progressed since the days of Charles Dickens, there remain a few who make working life a daily struggle. So whether you love or hate your boss, take this quiz to find out what makes them tick – and how to handle their idiosyncrasies.

1. How does your boss greet you when you arrive at work?

a) "How are you?"

b) "Good to see you – I've been here for four hours already"

c) "You're one minute and 45 seconds late – you can make that time up at the end of the day"

d) "Who are you?"


2. You're coming up to your annual appraisal – how do you feel?

a) Good – you can trust your boss to give praise where it's due, as well as constructive criticism

b) Worried – your last appraisal saw you agree to five extra duties, none of which amounted to a pay rise

c)  Traumatised – you had only just recovered from the brutality of last year's

d)  Relaxed – your boss hasn't remembered appraisals since you started the company


3. A regular patient complains they haven't been able to get their medication from you, while the pharmacy next door has been able to dispense it. How does your boss react?

a) Apologises for the inconvenience and explains how stock shortages are affecting pharmacies across the UK

b) Makes a note to spend an extra two hours a day chasing stock

c) Throws you a warning look and asks to you stay after work for "a chat"

d) "There's a pharmacy next door?"


4. Your pharmacy has won an award for exceptional customer service. What does your boss do?

a) Pays for a team lunch to say thank you

b) Sets a goal of two more award wins by next year

c) Is momentarily happy before seeing that you've filed paperwork in the red file, instead of the blue file – normally a sack-able offence

d) Didn't realise your pharmacy had entered any awards

5. What TV personality/character is your boss most like?

a) Jamie Oliver – generally easy-going, but committed to getting the job done

b) Alan Sugar – 24-hour commitment is not enough, your boss wants 110 per cent

c) Anne Robinson – always ready to weed out the weakest link and see them off with a disapproving scowl

d) Homer Simpson – well-meaning but an all-round disaster zone


Mostly As – The model boss

Congratulations – you have a well-rounded boss who sees both your strengths and weaknesses. Now get back to work!

Mostly Bs – The workaholic

Your boss interprets the standard working day as starting at 9am and finishing at 5am. Anyone who needs more than four hours sleep is clearly not a team player, as is anyone who refuses to be surgically attached to their Blackberry.

How to handle them:

"People can be workaholics for a number of different reasons – one is to feel a sense of control, but sometimes it's an addiction or to avoid something. If somebody's doing it to avoid a home situation, there's not a lot you can do. If it's control, you can help to achieve that by telling them what you're going to do and when you've done it. Ask them: "Is there anything else that needs to be done today?" and also reference that you've actually done a lot already.

Our work culture is moving more towards being paid for results than time you've worked. If you can fit the work you're doing into your standard hours, make sure your boss knows about your results –  this is where you need to be quite vocal about what you've done. Also, if long hours are expected, could you open up and be the first one in instead of staying late? You could even just take a short lunch and leave earlier – but make sure people know you're taken a shorter break."

Mostly Cs – The criticiser

Forget the Terminator – if you make a mistake, this boss will hunt you down quicker than any terror-inducing sci-fi creation. May be known to utter phrases such as "Mr Burns is misunderstood" or "What's wrong with Gordon Ramsay?". Handle with extreme caution.

How to handle them:

"This boss needs a sense of control and it can come from insecurity. There are still some people that have the mindset of ‘you just can't get the staff these days' – nobody is as good as they were in that job. Establish expectations from the boss, so find out from them what they want from your work. Also push back a bit – when they say you've done something wrong, find out they would like you to have done it differently. But don't be sarcastic when you're doing it – that's the mistake people often make. Show you're interested in getting it right for them. You might have to choose your moment – if your boss is really stressed, they won't have the time to have a conversation with you. Given them time to calm down and then ask for feedback."

Mostly D – The procrastinator

Why get things done when you could not get things done? So goes the motto of the seemingly most harmless nightmare boss, the procrastinator. Unfortunately, it's all too often left to you to sort out the piles of disorganised paperwork, lost scripts and half-eaten doughnuts on the floor.

How to handle them:

"With someone who's disorganised and has poor time management, think about when is the quietest day of the week to approach them. Ask them what work is coming up that you should be aware of, and keep a notepad of what needs to be done. Explain that you would like to be able to plan your work and that it would really help you to know what's coming up. But don't, whatever you do, point your finger at them and say they're disorganised. Talk about their behaviour and what impact it has, instead of labelling the person themselves. Rather than saying, ‘You're disorganised', say: ‘Last week I had to sort out this work and that cost you two hours of overtime pay. What can I do to stop that happening again?'"

‘How to handle them' advice provided by Hannah McNamara, managing director of HRM Coaching

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