Surviving an Authoritarian Boss

Chances are that you’ve had one before or you have one right now: The Authoritarian Boss. But how do you distinguish an authoritarian boss from a regular one? And, if you are stuck with an authoritarian boss, how do you survive?


Authoritarians are the bosses who lay down orders like laws, refuse to be contradicted, require constant admiration, and will do anything to snag credit. If they’re ever challenged, they respond with rage. And, somehow, they tend to be managers, are difficult to work around, and are even more difficult to get rid of.

However, managerial misfortunes can cost firms major money. The reason? The smartest, most skilled employees tend to become frustrated with their managers and eventually leave. This can cost a company a lot as they go through a search process and train a replacement.

Some businesses will mitigate the impact of an authoritarian boss by placing a secondary manager close to them to play the role of “the nice guy.” However, while this person can sometimes lessen the blows of an authoritarian and be a resource to employees, they shouldn’t be completely trusted. Anything you tell them will be delivered back to the other manager; after all, they are a team.

While surviving an authoritarian manager can be challenging, it is possible. To avoid having credit for your work stolen, keep excellent records of your ideas and accomplishments at home (not in the office) and have them ready at performance reviews. But records alone aren’t enough—you also need a solid network of advocates within the office who know what you contribute. Develop as many relationships as possible with other senior managers.

You might think that since authoritarians demand hard work, giving your all to the job will save you. However, in doing this, you may actually paint a target on your back. Authoritarians don’t respond well to perceived threats, and most of the time they are also narcissists who demand constant praise and hate to have the spotlight stolen. Work hard, but again, invest in a network of allies within management.

The best way to live with a difficult boss is to mentally unplug. Look at the situation as if you were studying it. Do what you can to learn as much as possible about what makes authoritarians successful without becoming one. You can always learn something important, and that has value.

For more information about XSell Resources call 215-706-4500 or Contact Us.


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