Skip to main content

4 Types of Bosses — Which Type Are YOU?

Last week I opened the Fast Company app to read an article about baby bison being flown to Siberia in an effort to reinvigorate the native grassland. An interesting article and worth the read.

Below this post was an article entitled, These are 4 Types of Bosses You’ll Have and How to Deal With Them.

Like many, I enjoy easily digestible, list-y articles so I read on.

Based on findings compiled by Ximena Vengoechea, a Fast Company contributor and frequent writer on work culture and management, most supervisors fall into one of four categories:

  1. Hands On, In It For Yourself
  2. Hands On, In It For Staff
  3. Hands Off, In It For Yourself
  4. Hands Off, In It For Staff

The author offers advice to help employees ‘deal’ with each type of boss.

Let’s consider the flipside – how each type of manager can be effective when ‘dealing’ with staff.

Whether managing a team of one or one hundred, most managers can associate their management style with one of the categories above. For some, their management style may be easy to identify. For others, the choice may not be so clear. If you are unsure about what type of manager you are, here are some exercises to help you Define Your Management Personality.

The exercises will help you 1) define the characteristics of your current leadership style, and 2) determine how you aspire to lead. Once you understand your tendencies you can begin to create goals and action steps to achieve them.

If these exercises were helpful but you would like more insight into your strengths, consider the Clifton StrengthsFinders Assessment. The assessment offers a detailed analysis of your strengths and has many applications from goal setting to relationship building. Learning the characteristics that make up your strengths offers insight into how you approach challenges and how others perceive you as a manager.

When you have determined your leadership style, continue reading for tips on interacting with and motivating your staff.

How the 4 Types of Bosses ‘Deal’ With Staff

1. Hands On, In It For Yourself

This may be hard to admit, but if you are in this category you have a tendency to micromanage. Chances are you spend a large part of your day feeling frustrated that YOUR goals aren’t being accomplished quickly or efficiently enough. Constant frustration and stress are unhealthy.

Time to step back and evaluate how you communicate with your staff to understand if you are helping or hurting your team’s productivity. Here are some questions to consider:

  • When assigning work, are you giving your staff clear direction? How have you tested this?
  • Are you actively asking for feedback about the roles and the timeline, and incorporating that feedback into decision-making?
  • Do you build in time for questions when tasks are assigned or are you assuming that staff just ‘gets it’?
  • Do you allow your staff to self-organize according to their strengths and interests or do you assign roles and responsibilities? (Having staff complete the Clifton StrengthsFinders Assessment may be a useful tool for your staff as they begin the process of self-organization)
  • And finally, who on your staff (not you) can serve as the ‘go-to’ person for answering questions and keeping other team members on track to complete the project?

This will all be hard for those whose nature is to want to control every step of the process, so start small and move incrementally. Choose one small task as a pilot, write out your expectations and goals so you are consistent and clear, ask for feedback and questions, and for a volunteer to supervise the implementation. If the small project is a success continue to build to larger projects.

If the small project is not successful, don’t abandon hope. Think about what can be changed or improved to make the next attempt successful.

Building trust takes time but will result in less frustration for you, happier staff members, and higher productivity.

2. Hands On, In It For Staff

You want to be involved because you have the best interests of your staff in mind. That’s admirable but be aware that how you approach your spontaneous check-ins may be causing staff members to think that you don’t trust them to accomplish the work.

When dropping by to check in on a project, consider the language you are using. Here are some questions that can unintentionally create a defensive atmosphere.

  • How’s it going on Project X?
    (Employee is put in a position to justify and defend)
  • Where are you on X?
    (Assigns 100% responsibility for implementation on an employee without room for conversation)
  • Why are we running behind on X?
    (Implicit accusation that the employee is not managing time/project effectively)

As an alternative, consider different language for creating a more inclusive, trusting environment

  • How can I help with Project X?
  • How can we think about X differently?
  • I see that the timeline changed on X. What are the factors that contributed to the change?

Recasting check-in questions in a more inclusive manner reassures staff that they are trusted, supported, and that their work is valued.

When these cultural traits are present, employees feel motivated and productivity is likely to increase.

3. Hands Off, In It For Yourself

If this is you, it may be time to think about moving on to other employment. Ultimately if you are not overseeing and supporting your staff, productivity will wane. By extension, this will not reflect well on you and may hamper your efforts in finding a new job.

If you’ve decided to move on, then give yourself the best possible exit by empowering your staff to step up and assume more responsibility. This may be a good time to have a staff retreat to clarify or change departmental organization and roles.

Creating more autonomy for your staff will give you the air cover you require to move on without sacrificing your reputation and your current staff’s productivity.

4. Hands Off, In It For Staff

You’ve figured out how to motivate your staff, keep productivity high, and move your and your staff’s interests ahead. But don’t take high productivity and happy staff for granted.

Continuing to operate at this level requires attention. Actively communicate with your staff. Augment your department’s skills with professional development opportunities and introduce staff directed recognition programs to reinforce employee value.

Something as simple as providing each employee with a pack of Post-It Notes for writing short notes of thanks or recognition to colleagues is a powerful motivator for keeping staff engaged and productivity high.

Carol Dweck, the creator of the Growth Mindset theory, offers more advice in this HBR article

Whether you are serving the objectives of the company or your own personal goals, what motivates employees is an environment in which their opinions and ideas are heard and their work is valued.

Creating an environment where trust is present reinforces the strengths of your leadership style and moves you toward the leader you aspire to become.

Article written by Marti Fischer.

Subscribe today to get the latest industry news, resources, and career opportunities.