Intimidate with threats, appeal to your willingness to help or inspire as a real role model: Managers have many ways to motivate their employees, both positive and negative. Coach and author Attila Albert reveals seven secret boss strategies.

With what feelings do you go to work in the morning or do you sit down at the computer in the home office? Do you fear that the boss will criticize something again, do you constantly expect difficult discussions – or do you look forward to him because he motivates you or you even want to emulate him? All of this is not just about moods – but about his secret strategies to guide you.

Managers always have to motivate so that pending tasks in the company are completed. But there are negative and positive ways to do this. Today, every boss will explain that he leads “in a spirit of partnership”, communicates “appreciatively”, and allows himself to work “self-determined”. But it is not uncommon for this to only be superficial: everyone is on first-name terms, casual wear and homely furnishings in the office, joint team activities after work.

What is really going on takes place at the motivational level. The clearer you see how your manager is leading you, the better you can decide: Do I want that? Here are seven chief strategies to use in practice. Use the descriptions to check what you are experiencing and what can help you.

Attila Albert, born in 1972, is a communication expert, coach and author. He began working as a reporter at the age of 17, has since written for national and international media and is still a columnist today. He studied business administration, web development and completed coaching training in the USA. He was in charge of global marketing communication for a Swiss industrial group. He is the author of several guidebooks.

The boss manipulates you most easily with fear. Anyone who constantly fears personal difficulties (e.g. criticism, warnings) or even a general catastrophe (e.g. economic crisis) can hardly make self-determined decisions. He is driven by his boss and the circumstances, feels dependent and helpless (“But I have no alternative!”).

This is how the boss grabs you: Your fear makes it easy for him to intimidate you even further or even to make you compliant with open threats in his interests.

This will help you: Create more distance to escape the strong influence. Less overtime, free weekends, switching off the cell phone after work and no more reading e-mails. Use the time to recover: sleep a lot, go for a walk, read. With more energy you can start improving your situation.

It’s only slightly better if you let your boss stir you up into anger at others. As his supposed partner, you feel at his side for a short time and perceive yourself as determined and assertive (“Clear attitude!”). But that actually means you misjudge the situation, and you also constantly have unnecessary conflicts in the team.

This is how the boss grabs you: Your fighting spirit enables him to turn you against others in his interest, if necessary with one-sided or even false information.

This will help you: Channel your fighting energy into constructive activities. If your job is not suitable for this, get involved in a party, trade union, NGO or initiative (e.g. collect signatures, discuss, stand as a candidate). In doing so, you also practice not only sticking to your point of view, but also winning over and convincing others.

“I just want to do my job” by Attila Albert, published by Redline in January 2022. The book has 224 pages and costs 15 euros or 12.99 euros as an e-book for Kindle.

One ambivalent boss strategy is to entice you with convenience. With a good contract, you can avoid unpleasant conversations (“so that I have my peace, that’s just part of it”). In the long run, however, it makes you uninvolved and cynical to constantly push your own beliefs aside for pragmatic reasons.

This is how the boss grabs you: your indecisiveness gives him the chance to decide for you in his interest. He assumes you’re grumbling, but stick with it.

This helps you: If you’ve been thinking about a decision (e.g. a job change) for a long time, stop weighing the pros and cons against each other. Better set a few priorities and what you would sacrifice to get them. Example: cancel your next vacation in favor of further education in order to move forward.

It is a little better to be touched and motivated by the neediness of others (“You have to help!”). Your boss takes advantage of this by requesting your help himself or by giving you appropriate tasks. This has a very meaningful and enriching effect on you at first. But if you constantly take too much from others, you overwhelm yourself.

This is how the boss grabs you: your willingness to help allows him to take you on his terms. An emotional appeal to your compassion, and you’re in.

This will help you: If your job is actually not the best place to act out your need for caring support, it is better to try a private commitment (e.g. visiting children in the hospital, shopping for neighbors, helping with housework). The more clearly defined framework there makes you less vulnerable to being taken advantage of.

A positive boss strategy is to use tricky tasks to encourage you to work out a pragmatic solution for the company. This stimulates your creativity and intelligence (“It won’t be easy, but we can do it”). You are generally respected and valued for your dedication, but sometimes expect too much from your colleagues.

This is how the boss grabs you: Your entrepreneurial spirit makes his project exciting for you too. When he presents you with a tricky problem, you feel challenged and go along with it.

This will help you: Don’t give everything just for the job. Add some part-time self-employment or volunteer work (e.g. mentor for young professionals, help with business and financial plans for founders, senior consultant after retirement). This gives you a good counterbalance to the job in case something frustrates you there.

With this very positive strategy, you support your boss because he convincingly addresses and shares your concerns and values. This perspective can be very fulfilling because you feel connected to a larger context (e.g. the fortunes of the world). Just be careful: don’t become self-righteous (“The others aren’t ready yet”)!

This is how the boss grabs you: your sense of solidarity makes every problem a little bit your own. If he talks about joint responsibility, share his view and join us.

This will help you: You want the world to become more peaceful and harmonious. A direct commitment to an NGO, church or an aid organization fits best in the long term (e.g. supporting refugees, accompanying animal rescue, organizing environmental demos). But many companies also have similar foundations or projects where you can get involved.

Here you are there if you can learn something about yourself and others, about life and people in general (“I find that really exciting”). Your boss encourages you to carry out an objective analysis of the situation and well thought-out suggestions. They are perceived as intelligent and thoughtful, but sometimes emotionally uninvolved.

This is how the boss grabs you: If at all, only by offering you an equal partnership. Actually, you alone decide according to your priorities.

This will help you: Remember that pure reflection is interesting, but on its own it doesn’t move anything. Therefore, always try to derive concrete plans from them and implement them. At the same time, this gives you the opportunity to try yourself in many roles, for example as a planner, organizer or motivator.

Of course, supervisors always master and use several strategies at the same time, depending on the employee and the situation. You can tell by how differently colleagues in the same team are treated. If necessary, make it clear what you will no longer accept – and see which communicative strategy suits you. Your boss is flexible and will (have to) adapt if you are no longer available for his speeches in the previous style.