If You Are Having Problems With Your Boss Read This!

(Bosses too are invited to get a better perspective on their relationship with their reports)

Every employed person goes through this rough patch one time or another in his or her lifetime. The problem becomes serious and frustrating when no matter what you do your boss seems to be estranged with you.

In my 35 years in corporate life I’ve had many bosses, some easy and good to work with and others who were outright slave drivers or even abusive! On hindsight I can now fairly grasp the malady millions face at work. I’ve seen situations where there was a complete breakdown of communications between the boss and the subordinate that resulted in the employee resigning from the job or relocating to another department as opposed to great harmony between the two where both the staff and the boss greatly benefited from the synergy.

Many delegates to my soft skills training classes often raise this issue and most are of the opinion that in spite of them working very hard their bosses are not satisfied with their work. Some lament that their colleagues who are less qualified or under productive have been promoted or given juicy projects all the time.

Delving deeper into their affliction often reveals among other things their ‘reactive modus operandi’ in addressing this problem. Their reactive state of mind keeps them in a vicious & depressive vortex of feeling betrayed, frustrated & helpless.

In this state of mind most of them operate from the erroneous position of:

Blame - blaming the boss, others who are favored by the boss or blaming it on their own destiny

Helplessness - as if they cannot do anything to improve or change the situation and feel completely doomed to suffer

Vindictiveness – resulting in open or passive resistance, resentment, & revenge seeking that keeps driving the rift between the boss and the subordinate from bad to worse

My suggestions to people who operate from the position of ‘reactive modus operandi’ would be to first get out of their reactive mode and shift over to an ‘objective mode’ – to move over from being ‘sentimental’ to becoming highly objective, fully aware of their feelings towards the situation plus exercise extreme deliberation in their response.

But before they can make the shift they need to make a paradigm shift and see things from a different perspective. They need to start operating from the following 11 key premises.

11 Key Premises:

Your boss is not:

  • A perfect human being & liable to make mistakes just like anyone else
  • They have more or less the same needs or aspirations you have
  • They have their own set of problems & bosses to report to as well.
  • Your boss is charged with running the show and the way she or he runs the show may not be the best way or the way you would have it run
  • Your boss don’t take decisions arbitrarily; their decisions are often made in line with the company directives or requirements – you may not have privy to much of that information
  • This situation is not permanent and you have the power to change it for the better - besides you also have a lot of other options some of which could actually be better for you in the long-term
  • To a large extent you have taught your boss how to treat you – remember nowadays we have to manage our relationships both downwards as well as upwards
  • It is as much your responsibility as a report as that of your boss to create & maintain a working relationship between the two of you
  • Understand your boss first than expecting to be understood
  • Focus on your job, how you can do better and keep your boss informed
  • Realize that your relationship with your boss at work is one of the most important work relationships that you have and that a good relationship in this area can have profound & positive effect not only on your professional life but also on your personal life
  • Also your ability to communicate effectively with your boss is one of the important keys to having a healthy working relationship with your boss
  • Trust, integrity, & honesty imbibe respect and any relationship whether personal or professional without respect breaks down quickly.

Why work doesn’t always work?

Simplistically speaking if you do your job your boss should appreciate it and the relationship between the two of you should be hunky dory. However in real life that is far from the truth – contrary to such simplification your boss needs to have confidence in you in context to:

I.Your loyalty

II.Your ability to express yourself & communicate effectively

III.Your expertise

IV.Your quality of work

V.Your productivity

VI.Your ability to lead as well as work in a team

VII.Your ability to work under pressure

VIII.Your ability to take responsibility

IX.Your ability to delegate

X.Your ability to take initiative

XI.Your ability to be innovative when needed.

One word of caution here is that for a person who has been reactive for a long time, all above may sound like ‘apple polishing’. And that is understandable because of the pain & suffering such a person had to go through all this time. Now however a leap of faith is needed to operate from a ‘responsive paradigm’ than being reactive.

Evaluate Yourself Ruthlessly:

Such a paradigm shift can only happen when you open your hearts to look deep into your psyche and question your assumptions, beliefs, and values on the subject. An effective way of doing this would be to reminiscence about past difficulties with your boss or bosses and try to see things from the second & third position.

First position is when you see things from your own eyes, second is when you see things from your bosses perspective and the third position is when you see yourself from your colleagues perspective who were not directly involved.

This will help you to evaluate yourself and see yourself through the eyes of your the than boss and colleagues and let it be a ruthlessly & unbiased self-evaluation ~ the more objective you’ll be in your self-evaluation the more you’ll discover the ‘real you’.

Understand Your Boss:
  • Traits (strengths & weaknesses): Every person on this planet has prominent traits and so does your boss. Recognizing your boss’s traits (positive or negative) & engaging with her accordingly will make your interaction more fruitful. Examples of positive traits would be – the boss delegates, gives credit for good work, motivates & inspires, mentors & is fair. Examples of negative traits would be – does not communicate well and expects reports to read his/her mind, arrogant, manipulative, whimsical, undisciplined…
  • Priorities: Know your boss’s priorities and what he is passionate about. For example your boss’s priority could be to find new customers to increase sales than squeeze more business from existing customers. Or maintain a level of transparency within the department that encourages the units therein to integrate & work closely towards the department’s goals. Another example could be that your boss is very passionate about coaching as a way to developing staff; if so you better learn more about coaching and implement coaching as a way of developing your reports.
  • Working Style: Is your boss a micro or macro manager? Is he a taskmaster or people pleaser? Is your boss bureaucratic, consultative, autocratic, more into detail, big picture guy, creative, logical, paper tiger, organized or not, proactive or reactive…

In short the more you know about your boss’s disposition, priorities and work style the better equipped you’ll be to collaborate or engage him. One caveat here would be not to assume things about your boss but be observant and factual in your understanding about your boss.

Put & Keep Your House in Order: When you put your house (work) in order & keep it that way you literally become your own boss. If you in addition to that maintain the protocol of reporting and keeping your boss informed there is less likelihood that the boss would pick on you.

We need to understand that the boss is usually under greater time pressure than us and she would not waste her precious time in micro managing you or your department unnecessarily as long as you do the following:

  • You’re clear of what the boss expects from you
  • You have a game plan & deadline that is agreeable to your boss
  • You keep your boss informed & abreast on work progress
  • When you’ve a problem you flag them in time and also come up with solutions/alternatives to those problems.

To conclude, your relationship with your boss is probably the most important relationship that you’ll ever have in your work life and like any other relationship this type of relationship too is governed by some rules – embrace and cultivate them and your relationship with your boss can significantly improve. Ignore them and you’ll relationship with your boss can go for a toss!

In this discourse i.e., part one I’ve described this type of relationship in general and how it should be handled. In the second part I’ll focus on strategies for managing difficult & ineffective bosses.

Mohammad Abdul Khaleque (Mak)

Consultant, Trainer & Author - Customer Service, Sales, Leadership, Public Speaking & other Soft Skills plus NLP Coach.