It’s a relationship that can bring success and disappointment, joy and frustration. It affects our lives enormously, both on and off the pitch.
It’s the relationship with the Boss.
According to Gallup, at least 50% of us make some change to our working life as a direct result of how we get on with our boss. That’s hardly a huge statistic when we think of the demands our bosses place on us, the influence they have on our pay and prospects, the intense work schedules they give us, the difficult targets they set for us. Their presence in our lives is pretty powerful and, as such, it’s worth spending time trying to ensure that, from our side at least, our relationship with our boss is as good as it can be.
In the majority of cases, our manager has a positive impact on our working life. They act as colleague, mentor and guide and help us navigate our way along our career course with aplomb and ease. With regular exposure to our work habits, our manager can be the only person equipped to provide the necessary feedback and direction we need to facilitate positive change. A good boss affects our workplace happiness, making it exciting and fun, and that, in turn, affects our mental and physical well-being. The stakes don’t get much higher than that.
They’re the good guys. But, there’s no shortage of managers out there who can make life difficult. They can micromanage us in a way that makes us feel worthless or put exorbitant demands on us without any consideration for what we might have going on at home. They may dictate rather than coach, lack the skills or the vision to help or to inspire. Their expectations of us may be impossible to fathom. A difficult manager can make us dread the working day.
And if that’s not bad enough, there is ‘personality’ to think about too. Working relationships are easier when people get along with each other but not everyone does and this can be particularly hard when that person happens to be the boss. It’s uncomfortable trying to influence someone you don’t really like, and it’s harder still to try to convince someone who doesn’t share the same values in life as you.
The good news, however, is that with a bit of careful thought, you can improve a difficult relationship with lasting results, while staying true to yourself.
Here are some suggestions:
- Do your research on your boss. What’s her style, personal characteristics and habits? What’s going on in his life? How does this affect the job she is doing? Knowing more about what makes them tick might help you to see where they are coming from a little more clearly. It might also provide an opportunity for you to see yourself in their light and, if needs be, to adjust accordingly.
- Communicate your expectations of your role with him or her, get aligned and share ideas about the value you can bring to the organisation.
- Be open and honest when things don’t go right. Invite post mortems after important meetings.
- Share your observations about the team with her. Think about the reporting line upwards in the same way as you do the reporting line downwards: if you can make your boss look good to his superiors, he may well do the same for you.
- Ask for feedback and act on it. With constructive observations from your boss, it’s easier for you to understand his expectations of you.
- Keep a running document with actions, progress and key metrics.
An example. Siobhan was frustrated. She had been in the bank for many years, her performance ratings were always strong yet her peers were often promoted ahead of her. She suspected her old boss was standing in the way but she never approached him on the subject. ‘’What am I doing wrong?’’ she finally asked her new manager after he’d left the company. After shadowing her in a couple of meetings it was clear to the new manager that Siobhan was not cutting through. She knew her stuff operationally but her reserve in groups, particularly when senior people were present, was preventing her from contributing and getting noticed. Her manager gave her the feedback and accompanied it with some suggestions and soon afterwards, Siobhan got the promotion she wanted – her only regret being that she hadn’t approached her old boss on the matter years before.
Of course, if none of the above strategies work, it might be time to get real and to recognise that no matter how hard you try, it’s not going to work out. Sometimes you just have to move on so it’s better to try and spot that moment before you get stale.