Resource Centre Life At Work 5 Tell Tale Signs of A Manipulative Boss

5 Tell Tale Signs of A Manipulative Boss

Identifying manipulative behaviour and dealing with it

Imagine always taking the blame for your boss. Worse still, imagine your boss denying you what you deserve under the pretence that you have not been doing things right. A manipulative boss is basically the kind of boss who uses emotional and political influence to control your actions and keep you dependent on them.

Such boss can either teach you how to fight for yourself or can kill your morale. The boss may even pretend to be mentoring you or coaching you to be a better version of yourself but the truth is, you do not need them and you can never be good enough to them. So here, is how to tell when your boss is trying to take control of your career and your life.

  1. Focussing on your weaknesses

highlights your shortcomings


A good boss is one who pays attention to your strengths while still encouraging you to work on your weaknesses. They may use bonuses, verbal praise, encouragement, or even empowering activities to help you grow your skills.

However, a manipulative boss will focus on what you are not good at or not doing up to their unattainable standards while completely ignoring your strengths. Often, this will happen when for example, you ask for a raise or other people around you seem to be noticing your strengths. They might even throw veiled threats your way and constantly remind you of things like how many job seekers are itching to replace you. Some will even go to the extent of shooting you down in front of your colleagues or shouting at you so as to weaken your confidence.

By playing up your weaknesses, this kind of boss doesn’t want you to grow or simply wants to deny you something. Basically, this kind of boss doesn’t want you to ask questions.

How to handle this boss

Such a boss will rarely pick on a person who is confident so start by building your self-confidence. Then, be confident in your work and always have a reason for your actions, which can be backed up by a sensible argument. Ensure that you do your job right and be firm in how you deal with this kind of a boss. This introduces a habit of firmness and your boss will not easily pick on you.

  1.  Micromanages your work


Do you know that boss who has to comb through everything you do and every decision you make? Simply put, you are there to do their bidding and they do not trust your decisions. Everything you do is questioned for no reason because they did not come up with the idea or approve it before you implemented it. Every detail has to go through them and if you make a minor change along the way, they have to approve it. In some cases, they will ask you to present a mountain of evidence and justifications for simple actions just so that they can frustrate you.

The micro manager wants to kill your confidence which then means that you will not have the confidence to rise above your current position. They will shoot down all your ideas and in some cases, come up with the idea later on and front it as their own. Some micromanagers even pretend to ask you for your opinion and then go right ahead and ignore it.

How to handle this boss

Just like the one who highlights your weaknesses, deal with the micromanager by having very good reasons to back up your actions. Do not simply accept their ideas and opinions about your work without communicating your rationale. Soon, they will learn how to trust your actions and actually pay attention to your ideas.

  1. Your boss always passes on the blame

Shifts blame

Good leaders are known to take charge of their actions and decisions. But, a manipulative boss will never take blame for their actions but will be quick to take credit for your work. Simply put, this boss will either have you do something they are scared of doing and then blame you for the outcome or will have you admit to a mistake they made. Although it is a sign of weakness, such a boss will even throw you under the bus in order to shine or come out blameless.

How to handle this boss

For such a boss, evidence of their actions in relation to your actions is what will save you. Insist on having any formal communication in writing. This way, you can demonstrate that their actions led to the problem. Do not simply take the blame without justifying your actions, especially if you acted on their instructions. You will set a precedent of accountability.

  1.  Drops names of senior managers to make you do their bidding


Imagine having a conversation with your boss and in every third sentence, they drop the name of a person in senior management, usually, a person you have no access to. The message here is that they are simply putting you out of harm’s way, or that their actions and ideas have been sanctioned from above and there is nothing you can do. Some will even do this to justify wrong actions and most of the time, they have not actually been directed by anyone in senior management but simply want to control you. Name-dropping is a show of poor leadership skills and shows that your boss cannot stand by their decisions and actions and will most likely let you take the blame when things go wrong.

How to handle this boss

Usually, there is nothing much you can do since you most likely have no access to senior management. Just like with the boss who passess on blame, have every important communication done in writing. This way, you can always backup your actions. Additionally, such a boss will not drop names in writing because they are usually lying and would not want to be caught in the act.

  1. Plays the frenemy card


We all know them. They are extremely friendly when they need help or when they are trying to get you to trust them but will quickly turn into a person you cannot recognise when it suits them. You can never really tell what mood they are in. One minute, you are laughing together and the next minute, they are throwing you under the bus or shouting at you. In the worst case scenario, they try to get close to you so that they can gather information from you and use it against you.

How to handle this boss

With this boss, the best thing is to keep your distance and keep your relationship strictly professional. Do not be too comfortable with them and divulge personal details about your life to them. Let your relationship be based on your work so as to avoid situations where unnecessary information is passed on and can be used against you.

A manipulative boss can make your life at the company impossible. All you have to remember is that you are not the problem. The best you can do is ensure that you do your job well and be firm in your actions and decisions.


Njeri Karanja
Njeri is a reading and creative writing enthusiast who is neck-deep in research writing. She is well versed in researching and writing on various topics.
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