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How to Tame the Toxic Boss

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Today is National Boss Day, but there's a whole cohort of bosses who won't be feeling the love from their employees or former workers today. Nearly half of employees surveyed by Office Team, an administrative staffing agency, said they currently work for or have worked for an unreasonable boss . The experience left employees with a residue of ill will.

That's because there was no happy ending for a substantial number of workers; 27 percent quit their job while almost as many (24 percent) stuck it out, but suffered through the torment.

Executive leadership coaches Kaley Klemp and Jim Warner know chapter and verse about these toxic bosses and have seen them in action. They've distilled their experience in keeping bad bosses at bay into a new workplace survival manual, "Drama-Free Office: A Guide to Healthy Collaboration with Your Team, Co-Workers and Boss" (Greenleaf Book Group Press, 2011).

The controller boss is one of the most toxic boss types, they said. Usually perfectionists who always know the right answer, they tend to take charge of everything while setting impossible goals for themselves and the members of their team. But there are ways to tame these toxic bosses by following four simple guidelines, the authors said.

First, you need to develop rapport, Klemp said. Overtly confronting a controller boss is risky and can result in a career setback. Instead, build a relationship with the boss before initiating a difficult conversation. Study the boss's behaviors, attitudes and willingness to receive feedback.

"Accept your role as a reliable soldier and demonstrate your support and trustworthiness, especially during challenging times," she said. "Controller bosses are known for rewarding loyalty."

Controller bosses are poor delegators, and will often give vague or incomplete instructions. You need to clarify expectations up front, Warner said, even at the risk of irritating them. It's better to risk their frustrations early in the game than to miss deadlines or fail to meet their expectations.

"Establish crystal-clear agreements about deliverables and time frames," Warner said.

Delivering results are table stakes for establishing a successful working relationship with a controller boss, Klemp said. Focus on delivering quality work on time and then let them get the kudos. Since a controller bosses expect strength and energy from themselves and others, hold your ground, speak your truth and perform assigned tasks with high integrity.

"Make them look good so they earn external recognition," she said.

Controller bosses need to feel appreciated, said Warner. Praise their efficiency, a trait they take personal pride in, but keep the appreciation short because they are sensitive to false praise and fawning.

"Praise them for delegating and for displaying trust toward you and others," he said.

If none of this works and you find yourself working for a controller boss who resists coaching or leadership development, you need to understand that the probability of authentic interactions is low and that the best coping strategy is to stay off the radar.

"If they micromanage you or override your best ideas, put on a smile and let them have the last word," Klemp said.

Reach BusinessNewsDaily senior writer Ned Smith at nsmith@techmedianetwork.com. Follow him on Twitter @nedbsmith.

Ned Smith

Ned was senior writer at Sweeney Vesty, an international consulting firm, and was Vice President of communications for iQuest Analytics. Before that, he has been a web editor and managed the Internet and intranet sites for Citizens Communications. He began his journalism career as a police reporter with the Roanoke (Va.) Times, and was managing editor of American Way magazine and senior editor of Us. He was a Captain in the U.S. Air Force and held a masters in journalism from the University of Arizona.