When you’re working under a difficult supervisor or boss, it’s easy to develop a poor attitude. A bad attitude feels good for a while but demonizing your boss won’t make things better. A far more productive approach is to think of him or her as a person rather than an ogre or monster (or drill instructor). Chances are very good that he or she is dealing with many of the same pressures you are – from family needs and expectations to the expectations (realistic and unrealistic) of higher ups in the organization. He, like you, has to produce the desired results.
As far as it depends on you, the employee, try to make your boss’ life more pleasant. And let him know that is your goal! How? Do your job according to his or her specifications – not yours. I’ve told my boss that I never want him to be surprised and, if it’s within my power, I make sure he never is. I’ve told him repeatedly that he can depend on me to keep him in important loops, from office gossip to industry information. I’ve also told him that he can depend on me to help him look good because I’m depending on HIM to help make ME look good as well. “I scratch your back and you scratch mine” – but I make sure I take the first step.
Sometimes a boss makes decisions you don’t understand, but like it or not, your boss is in charge, and your personal work situation will improve if you maintain a good attitude and a good relationship (hint: your good attitude about your boss comes before a good relationship with your boss).
How to have a better relationship with your boss
Observe and adapt.
Pay attention to how your boss works and adapt yourself to that style. Listen to what he or she says or doesn’t say. Don’t be a complete copycat, but if he or she wants no less than three options when you present something, give four.
Don’t go above your boss’s head.
If you have an issue, discuss it directly with him or her. If the problem persists, wait a few days and ask, “Have you had a chance to think about that issue we discussed?” If the problem still hangs on or is particularly serious, seek advice from your human resources department.
Take the phrase “team player” seriously.
Never use phrases such as, “But that’s not my job.” It makes you seem whiny and uncooperative and that’s not the best way to have a good performance review or get paid what you’re worth.
Do your homework.
Before you go to your boss with a new idea, extensively prepare background materials for support, but don’t neglect your current assignments! Going off the reservation on a personal quest doesn’t make you look like a team player either.
Respect your boss’s authority.
He or she has been placed in that position to get things done. Once a decision is made, respect it regardless of whether you agree or not.
Stay loyal in public.
If you have differences with your boss, don’t let the whole office know. Don’t just agree in public then complain in the break-room.
Compliment your boss.
When your boss has done something particularly well, offer a compliment, but do this only for significant achievements or milestones. Otherwise you seem like an apple-polishing suck-up. No one likes insincere flattery.>
If you still have a problem, maybe your boss isn’t the problem. Maybe it’s you. It never hurts to take a long hard look in the mirror and ask your self, “Am I being unreasonable?” or “Should I have this response? Is it in my personal best interest?”
What’s really important? Being right or being employed? In today’s job market, that’s not a crazy question. If you’d rather be right, I’d suggest dusting off your resume.
Photo by The U.S. Army