What to do when your manager’s management style does not fit you?
Published on June 07, 2021 Last modified on September 28, 2022
Estimated reading time: 7 minutes
Once in your life, you’ll be in a situation where you truly like your work and your teammates, but you don’t particularly like your boss’ management style—and the job is just too good to walk away from.
For instance, laid-back Larry works best at his own pace and looks at the bigger picture, but meticulous manager Melissa wants things ironed to the very last detail and done as scheduled; or feedback-oriented Felix struggles with a hands-off boss who likes independent team members.
You may come across several management styles in your career—from the least favored, the autocratic style; to the employee-favorites, the democratic and laissez-faire approach. (Learn more about different management styles here.)
Having a manager whose style doesn’t suit yours is a reality in every workplace. That doesn’t make your manager a bad person, but it will definitely make for a challenging working relationship if not addressed. In this blog, we’ll explore the downside of such incompatibility, understand why there are varying management styles, and give tips on how you can thrive with such a challenge.
Challenges to working under a management style that doesn’t suit you
When you see or do things differently than your manager, or if you have different strategies in carrying out a task, misunderstandings can arise. False assumptions can be made if neither party is aware of this, which can result in costly mistakes.
Loss in motivation and productivity
If your dislike for your manager’s management style isn’t addressed, you may feel estranged from him and the team. Worse, dissatisfaction with the management style might lead to resentment towards the manager and may hamper your motivation and productivity.
Different leaders, varying management styles
To succeed in a job that you love but with a supervisor whose style doesn’t seem to fit you, it's critical to understand the other side of the coin. In this list, we’ve highlighted what shapes and influences an individual’s management approach.
Culture and upbringing
People's perceptions are heavily influenced by their upbringing and culture. And how people view things has an impact on how they manage. Western leaders will likely have a more open and direct management style. Leaders from the East, on the other hand, may be generally less confrontational but can be authoritative and hierarchical. Learn about cultural differences and how they can affect collaboration here.
A person who was brought up by parents to be methodical and diligent will most likely exhibit such traits and set the same expectations when managing people. A manager who has an uptight background will most likely prefer a leadership approach that he can resonate with, and therefore, may not be as openly communicative as the other leaders in the organization.
Management style is also strongly influenced by past professional experiences.
Your manager may have had a successful career over the years when she was mentored by traditional and discipline-oriented leaders whose methods were deeply ingrained in her and which she now heavily practices. She may find this style effective in managing a team and getting the job done over other approaches.
Or it can be the exact opposite. A manager who’s had autocratic leaders in his earlier work years may have negatively experienced its stringent downside as a worker himself. Now that he’s leading a group, he may take the opposite approach of being a collaborative manager, having experienced that the former methodology may not work for most teams, as it did not for him.
Corporate culture and business model of the current company
More important than a manager’s past career, the corporate culture and business model of the current company they’re affiliated with exert a strong influence in a manager’s leadership style.
Supervisors will strictly keep an eye on their team members’ time management if the company's business model is hinged on hourly output. Managers in a progressive public relations firm will most likely be dynamic in their communication not only with their clients but with their team members, as the success of their projects depends on this.
Leaders under a results-oriented company culture will emphasize goal setting and measure employee success by their ability to meet key performance indicators. Meanwhile, companies with adhocracy culture, or one where there is no formal structure and a strict set of rules, will have more energetic and creative managers who will encourage their employees to strive for innovation and flexibility.
How do you succeed in this situation?
Unless your boss is monstrous, you don’t have to leave a job you like just because your manager’s style doesn’t suit you. You’re also not guaranteed to find the perfect fit in the next company. There are smart ways to approach this concern.
We’re not saying that all adjustments should be made by the employee. Managers should be flexible, too, but we’ll save that for another blog. Meanwhile, if you’re an employee dealing with this situation, here are tips to help you thrive.
Communication, communication, communication
So many issues and incompatibilities in the workplace can be sorted out through communication. Talking to your manager about what can be improved in her management style is not that simple and easy, but it is necessary. Go and talk to her about the issue.
First, you don’t have to come with guns blazing. Be calm and say your piece in a constructive way. Begin by saying, “I’ll ask for your help so I can be more productive.” Talk with your boss open-mindedly.
If you remain silent about your concerns, your manager will never know what you’re going through and your frustrations can fester until you’re at your wits end. Meanwhile, an hour or two of sincere discussion about your working styles and finding a middle ground will help save you from stress in the long run.
Manage your expectations beforehand
If you’re in the midst of applying for a job or just getting started with your career, your manager’s working style or your company’s culture is one of the key things you have to ask about. Get a clear idea of how they work so you know what to expect.
At the same time, you can also share your working style with the interviewer or manager so they can gauge how to best work with and lead you.
Put on your objective goggles: see things from each other’s perspective
Truth is, managers and employees have different pressures. And in times of stress, we are prone to responses that limit our perspectives. Putting ourselves in the other’s shoes allows us to be more empathetic and understanding.
Unlike most employees, managers often answer to higher stakeholders and carry bigger accountability. So when your boss decides on something that may not make that much sense to you, consider their outlook when you work on a task or project. There may be circumstances unknown to you that are behind their actions.
Go back to what you have in common: getting the job done
Relationships are born because the people involved have something in common that they want to achieve. As issues arise, it’s important to take a step back and revisit this commonality.
When you work together and focus on a clear goal you’re trying to achieve, differences in your working style will diminish in importance. And in this case, managers and employees want one thing at the end of the day: to get the job done.
Good working chemistry
Just because your manager has a management style that doesn’t suit you doesn’t mean you will never get along with them. Good working chemistry doesn’t always mean people having the same personalities chasing after a goal.
Good working chemistry is a combination of some differences, a sprinkle of honesty, and a large chunk of communication efforts to establish common ground and achieve a goal.
The workplace will always throw incompatibilities or disagreements at you, but you can approach them intelligently. If you manage to leverage these differences as opportunities in the workplace, then you boost your overall productivity and satisfaction.