How to get on with your boss!

One of the most common complaints we get in working with business leaders at any level in organisations is the old chestnut, “my boss doesn’t understand me”. Do these sound familiar in any way:

  • ‘They’ are not telling me anything.
  • He/she isn’t interested in me/my problems.
  • I’m inundated with requests for information and reports that stop me doing my job.
  • Nobody up there is fighting my corner.

Interesting, when you consider that most of our clients are bosses themselves and believe that they:

  • Try their hardest to be open and transparent.
  • Care sincerely about people’s problems.
  • Do everything they can to request only a minimum of information and reports.
  • Spend every day fighting the corner of the people reporting to them.

So what’s gone wrong?

It’s called a ‘mindset’, and if enough people hold it and talk about it among themselves, it becomes ‘groupthink’. In some organisations, it can be so strong, that you can be as open and transparent, caring and protective as you like, and people will still say the same familiar negative things about you!

When a mindset becomes groupthink, and is strong enough, its presence can blind you to what’s actually going on. You know that your motivation as a boss is squeaky clean; what leads you to assume that your own boss is any different?

What can you do about it?

First of all, think about where the problem lies. Check out the facts and be honest with yourself. What assumptions are you making about your boss’s behaviour? When did you last actually check out your assumptions or challenge your perceptions? From our very extensive experience of working with business leaders, your boss is about 95% certain not to be out to get you!

When you’ve done the work on yourself, try talking to your boss and finding out how it all appears from his/her point of view. Get curious about what your boss does all day! Most people have an “all (s)he does all the time is…” perception. Or they just don’t know. Ask – and offer help to resolve any issues you feel you can help with. What does he or she have to say about you? What does it look like standing in his/her shoes?

How to make your boss love you

I’m sure you will find that your boss, as you do, has very definite opinions about how he/she personally likes to be treated. This is what he or she (or you?) might say:

Offer solutions, not problems. Don’t go to your boss with a problem if you haven’t spent some time thinking of possible solutions. It will impress your boss if you go to them with a tricky issue and a range of ways to resolve it.

Don’t get emotional. Don’t ever send an email in a moment of anger or frustration, tempting though it might be. Write your response immediately, but don’t send it. Wait at least an hour, then re-read the original email and your response. Nine times out of ten, you will have calmed down and can send a much more constructive and considered response. Your boss will appreciate your diplomacy.

Ask for and give feedback. Communication works both ways and we all respond well to positive feedback. If there’s something your boss does that you like, tell him/her. Positive feedback will make them take notice of how their actions affect you, reinforce the behaviour and improve your working relationship.

Don’t whinge. We all need to let off steam every now and then, but your boss will notice if you’re always the instigator. He/she will respect you more if you pick and choose your battles and steer clear of group whingeing.

Be proactive. It’s no use sending your boss a list of suggestions on how to improve things at work or ideas for new projects. It’s likely that none of them will actually happen unless you also take responsibility, pick one or two of the best ideas and follow through with them. Your boss will admire not only your innovative thinking, but the initiative you’ve taken to make them happen.

Strike any chords? Are you a misunderstood boss? Or are you the team member convinced you’ve got the boss from hell? Let us know how it is for you!