A very quick guide to profiling your boss

Smart but emotionally dim? Towering intellect but easily derailed? Which box does your boss fall into?

by Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic
Last Updated: 03 Mar 2017

Although there's no universal recipe (or formal training) for dealing with your boss, no formula will work unless you first understand their personality. That entails working out what they are like, and what their habits signify. These goals are best achieved with scientific assessments, but since it is hard to force your boss to take a psychometric test, here are some pointers for deciphering their character.


Imagine a scale ranging from David Brent to Jeff Bezos; that is the range of managerial IQ. If your boss is able to identify and solve complex problems better than their team, translating data into knowledge, and ideas into innovative solutions, you are in luck. However, most people don't work for Jeff Bezos. At the other extreme are managers who overestimate their intelligence, make stupid decisions with remarkable consistency, and show bad judgment and the inability (or unwillingness) to learn from experience.


Imagine a scale ranging from Charlie Sheen or Woody Allen to the Dalai Lama or the Queen of England. If your boss is cool-headed, phlegmatic and predictable, you are fortunate. Note, however, that high EQ people can be devoid of passion. Yet the alternative is generally worse: managers who are explosive, irritable and confrontational. At best, they are too busy trying to manage themselves to be able to manage others.


Every manager has a dark side, which is best observed when they are under a great deal of stress or so relaxed that they don't care about managing impressions. These derailers inhibit their ability to build and maintain relationships. Some managers derail by shutting down (they stop communicating or avoid dealing with problems), others by becoming overly dominant and abrasive (like a dictator who feels threatened), and others by conforming to rules or authority. If you are unlucky, your boss will experience all of these forms of derailment.


These concern the 'inside' of your managers' personality - their inner compass. Some managers are focused on getting ahead (they value power, money and fame), others are focused on getting along (they have altruistic, social and hedonistic motives). Some managers find meaning in facts and data; others follow their intuition and feelings.

Whatever your manager's personality, they will most likely behave in consistent ways. Pay attention to their habits (and triggers) and you will deal with them more effectively.

Dr Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic is an international authority in psychological profiling, people analytics, and talent management. He is the CEO of Hogan Assessments and professor of business psychology at University College London and Columbia University. Follow him on Twitter: @drtcp

Image credit: Dave Crosby/Flickr

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