We have all experienced bosses who are difficult to deal with – bosses who think they know everything; bosses who are unprofessional; bosses who constantly put us down or make unreasonable demands; bosses who show favouritism.
However, whether you think your boss is marvellous, a bore or downright terrible – learning to manage your boss is often essential if you want to advance your career.
Pay rises, promotions and work-related opportunities often depend directly on the relationship you have with your manager. Furthermore, if you fail to learn how to manage your boss the likelihood is you will either be fired or you will quit. If this seems tempting, remember that the reality is that there are so many incompetent bosses out there that by running away from one, you are highly likely to just end up working for another.
So before you let a little mismanagement disrupt the career you have worked so hard to achieve, take some time to learn some “boss management techniques.”
How to Manage Your Boss
- Work out your boss’s management style: There are two primary styles of leadership: readers and listeners. Readers want facts, figures and data before you talk to them; while Listeners prefer talking to reading. Having a quick lunchtime discussion with a reader is not going to be productive, as they can’t make complex decisions without supporting evidence. Equally, giving a long complicated report to a listener will not get you anywhere. Listeners are likely to ignore the report completely and discuss it with you instead. Therefore, your time has been wasted in generating this document. Working out what sort of boss you have – and then adjusting your approach to meet their style – is one of the first steps in successfully managing your boss.
- Realise you are dependent on your boss: While we may not like it, we are usually more dependent on our bosses than they are on us. This is true even if you are much smarter than them, even if you could do their job in your sleep, and even if they are the most obnoxious loudmouth in the universe. Unfortunately you are stuck with this boss for the immediate future and not only can your boss fire you at any time, but they can delegate all the desirable jobs to others while giving you all the unwanted ones. Recognising this power imbalance and accepting it will usually produce much better results in the long run, than becoming rebellious and making a bad situation worse.
- Have empathy for your boss: We are often highly critical of our bosses and declare them useless without having all the facts. Remember that your boss may have stressors that you don’t see or are not fully aware of. Take a step back and try and see things from their point of view. Even if you conclude that your boss is indeed incapable, remember they are human and don’t demonise them.
- Manage negative emotions: If the sight of your boss heading your way irritates you immediately or causes you to melt in a puddle of anxiety, learn how to manage your negative emotions. Take control of your anger, frustration or anxiety and don’t let them impact on your work. These negative emotions are likely to make you more rude and aggressive, or to let your boss walk all over you. The trick is to let go of these feelings and try to be calm and assertive when dealing with your boss.
- Build your relationship with your boss: Remember that your boss is a person too. While you might not necessarily have much in common, try to take an interest in their hobbies outside of work, enquire about their career path, discuss the latest football game. Quick hallway conversations are a great way to develop a friendly rapport with your boss and gain insight into their personality.
- Communication with your boss: Good communication is key to a happy work environment. While there will inevitably be disagreements, an open channel of communication with your boss is essential. Bottling up problems and avoidance of situations usually backfires in the long run. While it can be scary to approach your boss with a concern, muster up the courage and talk to them as soon as you can. Take some deep breaths, think about what you need to say and what you would like to achieve. Be assertive, avoid emotion, and remain calm and collected. Whatever your boss’s response, thank them for listening to you.
- Make it about you, not your boss: Regardless of your boss’s level of competence, you probably need to collaborate in order to get jobs done. If you think your boss is an atrocious manager, telling them that is not likely to be helpful. Instead, managing your boss works best if you turn the focus on yourself and ask for help directly around your needs, whether it’s input on your work, help communicating with a difficult client, or advice on the best way to approach a project. Using “I” statements instead of “You” statements can be helpful here. For instance “I need help” rather than “You don’t help me enough.” If your boss is unable to help, then try suggesting an alternative solution, for instance maybe there is someone else in the office who can shed light on the problem, or maybe the company needs to invest in more training. Helping your boss solve the problem will do wonders for your relationship.
- Try to make your boss look good: Meet deadlines, respond to concerns quickly, produce great reports, find problems and solve them, contribute in team meetings and make suggestions. Making your boss look good will cause their respect for you to grow, and soon they will be telling everyone how wonderful you are. Furthermore, if you dislike your boss making them look good is likely to help them get promoted, which will ultimately mean you no longer have to deal with them!
Unfortunately we don’t get to pick our bosses, but learning to work with a difficult boss is a valuable skill that will benefit you for the rest of your working life.
Author: Ashley Cooper, B Psych (Hons), M Psych (Clinical), MAPS.
Ashley Cooper is a registered psychologist with clinical psychology training, working with children, adolescents and adults. She is passionate about helping individuals to overcome their mental health issues and improve their quality of life.
To make an appointment with Ashley Cooper try Online Booking – Mt Gravatt or call (07) 3088 5422.