Know your boss

PUBLISHED: 13:16 09 February 2006 | UPDATED: 09:37 06 May 2010

IT is a rare – and lucky – worker who has never had even the slightest gripe with a boss of theirs at some stage. And who hasn t looked enviously at colleagues in other departments, or exchanged stories with friends outside of work, and wistfully thought

IT is a rare - and lucky - worker who has never had even the slightest gripe with a boss of theirs at some stage. And who hasn't looked enviously at colleagues in other departments, or exchanged stories with friends outside of work, and wistfully thought 'I wish my manager was more like theirs'?

You could spend a lifetime, or a good few coffee breaks at least, mulling over what makes the powers that be tick, and trying to figure out how best to make them happy.

So new research by Office Angels should certainly be of interest next time you're discussing your boss's latest hair-brained business action plan, or you are putting the world to rights over your boss slagging off your latest genius ideas.

According to the recruitment consultancy - love 'em or loathe 'em - the vast majority of UK managers (some 93 per cent) fit into one of five distinctive types.

And the experts claim that identifying which category he or she falls into could help you harness the potential of your working relationship with them - and thus help boost your own career.

According to the researchers, your boss is likely to be a seagull, a diplomat, Invisible, a hedgehog or a gatekeeper, although many will, of course, display the telltale traits of more than one.

Paul Jacobs, managing director of Office Angels, said he frequently sees different managerial styles at play.

"Employees are sure to witness many different approaches throughout their career, and accepting and working with them effectively is all part of that very steep office learning curve," he said.

So, here's a rundown of the five main types of boss. Which category does yours fall into exactly?

Seagull managers are the most predominant boss type (at 27 per cent). They have a tendency to swoop into situations without really knowing anything about the background to things, and are prone to disrupt teams by disappearing for days on end, suddenly showing up again on an unexpected flying visit.

When they do condescend to show their face at the office, they crash land, squawk out orders, and then leave as fast as they swooped, ruffling everyone's feathers in the process and putting everyone's beaks out of joint.

"The key to the successful handling of any seagull is be prepared and recognise that their time is their most precious commodity," said psychologist Gladeana McMahon.

"Update them regularly on progress via email or phone messages so they are always kept informed about what is going on, because if they are reassured that the job is getting done, they are less likely to cause untold disruption when you finally decide to turn up."

Diplomat bosses (17 per cent) are able to view working issues from every point of view, which makes them extremely popular as managers.

Combining intuitive people skills with sound commercial savvy, they tend to climb the career ladder extremely quickly, regarding team productivity and morale as a crucial part of their role.

"The diplomat will search for solutions that will keep everyone happy, without compromising the quality of the work produced. They tend to surround themselves with likeminded people," said Gladeana.

Are they in a meeting? On holiday perhaps, or out to lunch? According to statistics, 16 per cent of British managers are rarely seen, choosing instead to operate a closed door policy.

Handling most of their business by email or phone, invisible managers are effective at delegating, and will invariably send employees to meetings in their place.

"Invisible managers are great to work for if you prefer autonomy and are confident enough to go it alone, but their absence can be a concern for those who seek reassurance or insurance," said Gladeana.

As the name suggests, 13 per cent of bosses can be extremely prickly at times. Hedgehog managers can become extremely defensive when challenged by other managers, or when they find themselves on uncertain ground, making it extremely difficult for alternative points of view to be put across.

"Hedgehog managers have a tendency to feel insecure about their position, so their defences are raised when they feel threatened," explained Gladeana.

"A direct challenge to a hedgehog's authority will only serve to send those sharp prickly spines up still further."

'My way or the highway' is the philosophy of most gatekeeper managers (some 11 per cent), many of whom are likely to have made their way to the top from the shop floor. As such, they may find it difficult to relinquish ownership of projects, which can frustrate colleagues who are also keen to get involved in the decision-making process.

Wary of change, gatekeepers can also be slow to embrace fresh thinking.

"Don't push them too far or too fast," advised Gladeana.

"If you have lots of ideas to improve workplace systems, introduce them gradually, and let them get used to them.

"Once you've proved that one, small idea works, they'll be more accepting of bigger, more dramatic change."

No matter what type of boss you have, getting to know him or her can bring real benefits, not only to individuals but to companies as a whole, as Paul Jacobs said: "Communication is the key to any good working relationship and if an employee really feels unhappy or thinks a different approach would be beneficial, they should speak up.

"After all, it's in everyone's interests to work effectively together.

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