We wish we could mandate that all bosses go to boss school. Or that the ones who did get management training absorbed everything they were taught.
But the good news is if you're stuck under the thumb of a less-than-stellar superior, there are strategies for survival.
These tips, from Nicole Williams, author of "Girl on Top: Your Guide to Turning Dating Rules Into Career Success," and Leigh Steere, cofounder of Managing People Better, LLC, will help you figure out what to do.
1. She's Insulting
Feedback is necessary in the office. But then there are the managers who put down your work without supplying constructive criticism. Or worse. We've all been subjected to "yellers."
How to Manage: If she's not forthcoming about why she's not happy with you, you can take steps to prevent being berated. When you get an assignment, ask: "So what I'm hearing you want me to do is ...?" and be clear on the instructions before you start. If she still lights into you and you don't know why, take a deep breath and ask. A well-timed, "I'd like to understand where I fell short, so it doesn't happen again. Can you explain what you'd like me to do differently next time?" can work wonders.
2. She Fails to Make You Feel Appreciated
Behind most good bosses is a support team. Bad superiors starve their subordinates of praise.
How to Manage: It's never fun to fish for compliments, but asking for feedback is necessary. Try: "I'd really like to help make your job easier. Can you tell me how I'm doing that well — and how I could do it better?" And compliment her. Propping her up may help her feel more confident.
3. She Takes Credit for Others' Accomplishments
Sadly, petty thieves do rise through the ranks. A bad boss fails to give you recognition for what you've accomplished — or worse, claims your accomplishments as her own.
How to Manage: This is sticky. Confronting her directly likely won't get you the results you want. If you think she'd be receptive, try framing the conversation in a non-accusatory way: "I'm really aiming to get promoted this year, so I would love if you could help me make others aware of my accomplishments — like that account I just landed." Also, put your feats in writing. If there's a way to claim credit for a work coup you orchestrated, let the rest of the team know before she can steal your thunder.
4. She's Disorganized
Employees who have to nag managers don’t want to point out a superior's oversight, but they also don’t want to get blamed if anything falls through the cracks. A good manager is organized enough to help you prioritize. A bad one, of course, is the type who asks you if you could please print that email for her ... for the third time.
How to Manage: Part of the trick is figuring out what makes her tick. Is she an email person — or is her inbox a bottomless abyss? Would she respond better to Post-its? Don't underestimate all the demands on her time. Request a weekly one-on-one meeting, when you can rattle off the items on your punch list, get answers — and look proactive.
5. She Makes Everything a Fire Drill
When a manager loves assigning stuff due "yesterday," the staff can't tell what's truly urgent.
How to Manage: Understand her triggers. Maybe she always freaks at the end of the month when earnings are posted, or before a meeting with her demanding manager. Ask her to help you rank the priorities of what she needs from you each week, and get it in email. Then you'll at least have an explanation of why you did what you did next time.
6. She's a Micromanager
If you can't send a single email without your manager proofreading it, you may be under the thumb of an insecure superior.
How to Manage: It's tempting to shut down out of sheer frustration, but continue communicating until you earn her trust. Tell her exactly what you're doing and why you're doing it. Share updates. Make her feel like a trusted advisor by asking for input and advice. Then, eventually, say: "I hope I've proven to you that I'm capable of handling this. I'd love to take on more responsibility. Is there anything else you need to see from me for that to happen?"
7. She's Unapproachable
The most effective workplaces thrive on openness, but that doesn't mean some managers don't choose tyranny instead. The problem is, when communication shuts down, more problems are likely to arise — and underlings will be scared to ask for help in solving them.
How to Manage: Unless you've done something to deserve her derision, the problem may be hers. But you shouldn't have to deal with a boss who is mean, distant or even abusive. Try to understand where the behavior is coming from, and always be polite, clear, honest and direct. If the situation doesn't improve, consult another manager, or HR, on how best to proceed.
8. She's Too Polite
On the other end of the spectrum, it's also possible for a boss to be too nice. But your bonus and review depend on what she thinks, so any superior who holds back her true thoughts isn't doing you any favors.
How to Manage: You may have to actually beg for bad feedback. If she's always saying you do a great job, tell her that you think you would do even better if she could pinpoint areas where you could improve. Explain that you love having her as a manager, but you also want your career to advance, and she could help you by showing you the areas in which you can grow.
9. She Plays Favorites
In a perfect world, all managers would love all of their direct reports equally. Sadly, it's human nature to click with some people more than others, and it can become a problem when a superior favors one employee with more responsibility (or raises) based on preference, not performance.
How to Manage: No, it's not fair, but this is one time when it might be best to ignore the problem. And that's because complaining will be unlikely to change your superior's mind. Resist the temptation to whine to co-workers. Instead, keep a close eye on your own progress. Schedule time with your boss to map out your career goals, figure out what behavior she admires in that other person (if it's job-related), and be sure to exceed your goals. In the end, that's your best shot at coming out ahead.