Bosses: necessary evil or effective advocate?
OK. I love this topic. Bosses can actually be quite useful….if you know how to manage them. During my 9 years teaching at ECU, I had 7 different bosses. On top of my own experiences with Boss Management, through the many many corporate workshops and executive coaching clients over the years, I’ve heard all kinds of stories about Bosses. And now here’s some scoop to help you manage yours.
Now if you have the Boss from Hades, I can’t really speak without knowing the situation. A lot of times bosses are not as bad as they’re made out to be and a lot of times they’re even worse. What I can say here is change the way you look at people and people often change. If that doesn’t work, get a transfer or change jobs. Life is short.
Now for your garden-variety bosses, from so so to fabuloso, there are ways of making them work for you. The single most significant factor in any employee’s experience at work is her immediate supervisor. It’s totally worthwhile to invest in this factor that has more influence on your immediate career than any other.
Each time I teach supervisor or management classes, I reiterate this fact. Even for a front-line supervisor of 10 people in a company that employs 10,000 or more, the way that person manages shapes how those 10 people experience their daily lives at work.
The first thing you want to do is invest in a book on Servant Leadership. Have it visible somewhere on your desk. Refer to it often in your conversations. 🙂
Here are 5 ways you can make your boss work for you.
1. Don’t be a whiner.
It doesn’t matter that every (negative) point you say is positively true, someone who frequently talks about what’s wrong, without proposing solutions, becomes known as a whiner. The complainer label filters everything said, to the extent that legitimate concerns can be dismissed as mere whining.
That means keep your focus on the responsibilities in your purview, not the injustices of corporate life, capitalism in general or existential loneliness of the human experience.
That doesn’t mean you should ignore problems. Here’s the deal. If you have the habit of pointing out what’s going well at work, then when you do point out problems, your credibility is solid. The boss is far more likely to take your concerns seriously.
Be sure to mention your proposed solutions when you bring up whatever the problem is.
2. Be proactive in Boss Management.
Here are some things you may have forgotten about your boss:
- She has too much on her plate.
- He’s not really sure how it will all get done.
- She’s getting mixed or confusing messages from her boss.
- He’s overwhelmed but has to pretend he’s not.
So … in the middle of all the fires, your boss may be lax in communicating with you, especially if you’ve got your job under control. He’s thinking that you’re fine and one less thing to worry about.
While it is most probably true that you do have everything under control, read this carefully: you still need to be communicating often with your Boss. You need to be feeding her talking points on a consistent basis so that you are top of mind when it comes to raises, interesting projects and club memberships.
3. Disagree intelligently.
If you always agree with the boss, you’ll be considered fun to be around, but not promotable.
Any time you think another way is valid, or that the Boss is simply barking up the wrong tree, say so. Just say it with politeness, conviction and reasons to support your position. Doing so earns you amazing Boss Cred.
4. Play to the Boss’ strengths.
Is Boss a talker? Introspective?
Find out her communication preferences. Does she want you to email or call her, or text?
A quiet boss values your being concise.
A talker boss values your interesting stories (those where you saved the day for the company are especially relevant.)
Play to the boss’ strengths and be aware of their weaknesses. If your boss is poor at communicating details of what she wants, it’s your job to get clarification. It’s not okay to ignore unclear messages or practice mind reading.
5. Promote your Boss.
You might be thinking, my boss should be promoting me, not the other way around. Don’t wait for that to happen. You get yourself promoted by bragging about your boss. That means you have to take note of their strengths. (See #4.)
Brag on your boss and your boss will brag on you… eventually.
Don’t wait for your boss to recognize your contribution. Recognize it yourself. The real secret is …. when it comes down to it, you are your own boss. Shhhh…keep that to yourself.
“When your boss doesn’t praise what you do, praise yourself. When your boss doesn’t make you big, make yourself big.” Mario Teguh (Indonesian business leader)
Thanks to Dan Furlong, Techno Muckety Muck and Project Management Master at MUSC, for being Mixonian’s Boss Model.