You’re talented. You work hard. And you do your job. But all said and done, to climb up the proverbial ladder, one person better be on your side: your boss.
We could swear by meritocracy and everything being fair and square, and yet it is tough to survive, let alone grow, if you get off on the wrong foot with the boss.
S/he might be cool, cranky or crummy, you’d be doing yourself a favour by learning to manage her or him well. So here are seven sure-shot tricks to make a comrade out of your boss.
Yes, many of our readers are entrepreneurs, who head their own start-ups. For them, the boss could be the one who has the money or resources they need to nourish their idea and make it grow.
(N.B. It’s rather irksome to repeat ‘he or she’ all through the article. So let’s stay politically correct, and address the boss as a woman, although the gender ratio in offices is still skewed towards the male of the species when it comes to leadership roles.)
- Profile the boss: The first step to managing anyone, be it your child, dog or boss, is to get to know her. Observe well. Listen hard. Figure out what makes her tick. What are her values and interests? What gets her goat? According to Dr Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, Professor of business psychology at University College, London, this is the most critical step for improving your relationship with your boss. Just like other humans, bosses too are “unique but predictable; complex, until you realize what makes them tick,” he writes.
- Accept you’re not boss’s universe: The most common mistake talented employees tend to make is that they assume they deserve more from the boss. Well, you might be right in a way. But you have to accept that you aren’t the only employee the boss has to manage. While you might be the most gifted one of her team, she needs the others as well and cannot devote all her attention to you. Your problem might be the biggest for you, but she has other fires to douse too. The earlier you accept this, the better your time at work will be.
- Fall in line with her style: After you’ve figured out your boss, match your style with hers. Mind you, we are not talking clothes or shoes here. If your boss likes chaos at the workplace, learn to work despite it. If she hates to hand-hold, learn to do without it. If she loves to talk, don’t interrupt, let her talk. Unless her values absolutely offend you – in which case, you should look for another job – you should respect them, and manage your emotions and reactions accordingly.
- Communicate: If there are issues that are eating you, you have to communicate those with your boss. Stone-walling or confronting the boss will not work. Once you understand the boss better and have learnt to manage your own reactions, you should voice your concerns in a positive manner. “You need to carry out the discussion of your concerns in a non-adversarial way. Like a marriage, you should try to handle your complaints in a manner that does not do further damage to your relationship,” Psychology Help Centre, American Psychological Association, recommends.
- Give her credit: You might believe you’re much smarter than the boss. You might be the one who seems to be working your soles off. But if she is the boss and you are the employee, surely, she would’ve done something right, isn’t it? So at least give her credit for that. If you really want to play it smart, give her more than that. Respect all that’s good about her, ignore the rest. Give her credit even for your achievements. Well, that might be a tough one. But we bet, that will work like magic. We’re not telling you to be dishonest here. After all, if the boss really hated you, you wouldn’t have achieved what you did. So there.
- Be predictable: Did that shock you? True, we grow up hearing cliches exhorting us to be different, reinvent ourselves constantly, and so on. Predictable isn’t exactly boring though. What we mean is to let the boss figure you out as well. She will then know what to expect from you. She will only trust you more that way. Even if you spend a lot of time near the water-cooler, but consistently meet your deadline, then she won’t mind your dalliances. Don’t say we didn’t warn you – Be erratic at your own peril.
- Give her a hand: Help her move up, achieve her goals and climb higher. That will help you. Divorce your ego from your work persona. Instead of playing the squeezed – or worse, exploited – employee, look at yourself as a partner with your boss on your work-related goals. Help her move up, and you could actually be lending a hand to yourself. There’s another plus to this, according to Dr Chamorro-Premuzic. If you dislike your boss and help her move up in the organization, you will solve two problems: first, you will make your boss like you; second, you will no longer have her as a boss, but her support will be even more instrumental than ever, he says.
We hardly ever get to pick our boss, but yes, we can learn to deal with them as long as you love your job.