The four different types of bosses you'll encounter in your career

The four different types of bosses you’ll meet throughout your career and how to handle them

  • Careers expert Michelle Gibbings shared the four different types of bosses
  • The bosses include the ‘mercenary’, the ‘believer’ and the ‘illusionist’
  • She revealed each type’s mantra and how you can best work with each of them
  • The careers expert also shared her seven-step guide to dealing with a bad boss 

A careers expert has revealed the four different types of boss you’ll come across in your field of work, from the ‘mercenary’ to the ‘believer’ and the ‘illusionist’.

Michelle Gibbings, from Sydney, said understanding your boss and ‘what drives them and their behaviour’ can go a long way towards improving your life at work – and it could even help you bag a promotion.

‘Over my working life, I’ve come across four different types of bosses,’ Michelle told FEMAIL. 

‘How they operate depends on their awareness of their impact, and the degree to which they care about that impact.’

A careers expert has revealed the four different types of boss you’ll come across in your field of work, from the ‘mercenary’ to the ‘believer’ and the ‘illusionist’ (Michelle Gibbings pictured)

THE MERCENARY 

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The first type of boss you might encounter is the ‘mercenary’, who Michelle said you will struggle with.

‘With little to no awareness of their impact on others and caring primarily only about themselves, this boss operates in a bubble,’ she said.

They often see themselves as ‘all powerful’ and the ‘smartest person in the room’, and for this reason they have ‘little interest in other people or improving’ because they already think they have things nailed.

Michelle highlighted that this type of boss is ‘exceptionally challenging’ to work for because while you need to keep your head down, do the work and stay out of the firing line, you also need to not ‘come across as weak’.

‘The mercenary sees weakness as a character flaw and they will use it against you,’ Michelle said. 

‘They won’t welcome feedback, so be careful of any comments that appear to undermine their superiority, but make sure you’re strong and confident in the way you interact with them.

The ‘mercenary’s’ mantra: ‘Don’t get in the way of my success. 

The second type of boss you are likely to come across is the ‘believer’, which Michelle (pictured) said isn’t necessarily bad, but just an ‘ineffective leader’

THE BELIEVER

The second type of boss you are likely to come across is the ‘believer’.

Michelle said this type isn’t a bad person, but just an ‘ineffective leader’.

‘With low self-awareness, they are largely oblivious of the negative impact they can have. In fact, they’ll often think they are doing a great job in leading, because they genuinely care about their team and put their team first,’ she said.

Working for this type of boss can mean an opportunity for you to thrive as soon as you ‘find a way to work around their limitations’.

‘Seek to understand them and leverage ways to manage them,’ Michelle advised.

‘They are usually open to feedback, so you can talk to them about how you might better work together.’

The ‘believer’s’ mantra: ‘Like me and be happy’.

THE ILLUSIONIST

The ‘illusionist’ has a high awareness of their impact on others, and cares primarily about themselves.

But Michelle explained that in some ways they are worse than the ‘mercenary’, because they know the impact they are having, but either don’t care or can’t find a way to change how they lead.

‘They are good at managing up and can charm the pants off you, but when things go wrong, you could find yourself thrown under the bus,’ the expert said.

The best way to handle this type of boss is make them look good, as this can lead to more opportunities for you.

‘Like the mercenary, they won’t welcome feedback, so be careful of any comments that might appear to undermine their superiority,’ she said.

Michelle Gibbings is the author of the book ‘Bad Boss (pictured)

A better way to handle them is to ask questions about how you might support them, and take care of your own needs at the same time.

The ‘illusionist’s’ mantra: ‘Make me look good’. 

THE LIBERATOR

Finally, the ‘liberator’ has a deep awareness of their impact on others, as well as a ‘very caring attitude’.

‘The liberator always puts the team first,’ Michelle said. 

The ultimate ‘good boss’, they care, have good self-awareness and will want to support you and your career aspirations.

‘Working for someone like this is your opportunity to be your best,’ Michelle said.

‘They are open to feedback or conversations, so you will learn much from them.’

The ‘liberator’s’ mantra: ‘Let’s work together productively’. 

The seven-step guide to dealing with a bad boss 

1. Think long-term: Before you throw in the towel, consider the long-term benefits and what you gain from your role.

2. Mind your health: Michelle highlighted that working for a bad boss can take its toll on both your physical and mental health, so make sure you take care of yourself and your health too.

3. Build a support base: Focus on your network and create a diverse range of people you can reach out to for advice and support.

4. Assume good intent: You can approach issues and work through them by always assuming people are doing their best. Setting boundaries in this context is about making clear what’s okay and what’s not okay, and talk with them about how you can better work together.

5. Protect yourself: Behaviours are infectious and if your boss acts unethically or poorly, be wary and ensure that their behaviour doesn’t rub off on you.

6. Search for learning: Michelle believes we learn something from everyone we work with, whether good, bad or somewhere in between. Your search for learning helps to expand your understanding of self and of others. 

7. Vote yourself off: If your work is making you so unhappy that it is impacting on your well-being, it’s time to consider making the decision to go somewhere else or doing something different. 

Source: Michelle Gibbings 

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