It’s your job to manage your boss.
Bosses can actually be quite handy….if you know how to manage them. When I taught at East Carolina University, I had 7 different bosses over 9 years. Quite an interesting experience to have one boss after another come in and exit, come in and exit.
I think that’s when I realized that it was up to me to manage them, not vice versa. (Of course you don’t actually say that!)
Your real boss is the one who walks around under your hat.
— Napoleon Hill
Now if you have the Boss from Hades, I can’t really speak without knowing the situation because #context. A lot of times bosses are not quite as bad as they’re made out to be but, occasionally they’re even worse. What I can say here is: when you change the way you look at people, those people often change. If that doesn’t work, get a transfer or change jobs. Life is short.
This mantra is what got me to see my boss as someone whose job it is to help ME be successful: Make it work for you. (“It” means current boss, current blazing fire, current reorg.)
Now for your garden-variety bosses, whether so-so or 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 manager. It’s totally worthwhile to make Boss Management a priority on the level of happy hour specials.That relationship has more influence on your immediate and future career than any other.
The first thing you want to do is invest in a book on Servant Leadership. Read it, then keep it visible somewhere on your desk. Refer to it casually in your conversations. Because #subliminal : )
Here are 5 specific ways to make your boss work for you.
1. Be careful about making negative statements however truthful they are.
It doesn’t matter that every (negative) point you make is positively true, anyone who frequently talks about what’s wrong, without proposing solutions, becomes known as A Whiner. That label then filters everything else that’s said, even to the extent that legitimate concerns get dismissed as “mere” whining.
Keep your focus on the responsibilities in your purview, not the injustices of corporate life, capitalism in general, or the existential loneliness of the human experience. Keep quiet on your ideas about how OTHER people can do their jobs better – unless you are asked for that input.
NOT that you should wear a sleep mask to avoid seeing 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 a problem and recommendations, your credibility is solid. The boss is far more likely to take your concerns seriously.
Always prepare your proposed, ranked solutions.
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 that he’s not.
- She has to implement initiatives that she does NOT agree with.
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 communicate frequently with your Boss. You need to feed her talking points on a consistent basis so that you are top of her mind when it comes to raises, interesting projects, and trips to Vegas.
Ask for feedback. Don’t wait for official performance reviews, you want to prepare for those in advance. Simply ask “What would you like me to do differently?” You won’t get an answer the first 11 times you ask, but when you finally do, it’s probably GOLD.
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 courtesy and conviction, backed up with reasons to support your position. Doing so earns you Amazing Boss Cred.
That said, if you boss asks for Cheetos, give him Cheetos.
4. Play to the Boss’ strengths.
Is Boss a talker? Introspective?
Find out his communication preferences. Does he want you to email, call, 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.
Don’t hide in the dark and let someone else make your boss look like a rock star.
— John Rampton
The real secret is …. when it comes down to it, you are your own boss. Shhhh…keep that to yourself.