I have coached and mentored many people over the course of my career, but one of the most difficult issues deals with how to manage your boss. For the sake of this BLArticle™, let’s spend our time talking about managing a difficult boss because, quite frankly, it’s easy to manage an effective boss. An effective boss can communicate clearly, manage fairly, and there is a clear understanding that the more successful you become, the more successful he or she can become.
That might sound like a fairly simple statement, but the fact is, that simple concept of management is usually the litmus test for a good manager. Some “get it” and some “don’t get it.” If you are going to learn how to manage the boss, you are going to have to learn how to manage those that “don’t get it.”
It’s kind of sad when I hear the hurt in a young person’s voice when I hear, “I don’t understand what I might have done wrong. My boss just doesn’t like me.” It’s a little like seeing someone’s pained reaction to hearing that there may not be a Santa Claus. Learning that your boss is not effective can be a fairly depressing realization. So, how do you manage your ineffective boss? The easiest way to do this is to pick apart the litmus test I provided you, and take on these management principles yourself.
- “An effective manager can communicate clearly…” If your manager doesn’t do this, you’re going to have to do it for them. Speak up when you don’t understand an assignment. Cover your tracks with an email or document that confirms what’s being asked of you. Go the extra mile to make sure you and your boss do communicate clearly.
- “… manage fairly…” One of the sad repercussions of working for a manager who doesn’t manage fairly is the ripple effect it can have on a team. There can be dissention and disharmony towards the manager and towards each other. It’s awfully easy to get caught up in this negative free-for-all, but it can often result in serious issues for you. If the boss can’t manage the team fairly, this doesn’t mean you can’t work with the team fairly. Take the higher road and stay out of the fray.
- “… and there is a clear understanding that the more successful you become, the more successful he or she can become.” This is the big one. When a boss understands this, they work tirelessly to help make you successful, and you work tirelessly to do all you can for the greatest boss you’ve ever had! However, when those bosses don’t understand this, they unfortunately see any success by you as a problem for them. It’s not that your boss doesn’t like you – it’s that the boss is concerned you are going to outshine them and possibly take their job or next promotion. In order to combat this effectively, you need to be outspoken about how your success is a result of his or her support. You will be much better off in your boss’s eyes if you are very clear that you do not see your future intentions intersecting with your boss’s future intentions.
The moral of this BLArticle™ is this; having a great boss is often an exception to the rule, and a great boss takes little to no management. When you find yourself with a boss who truly cares about your wellbeing, think of this situation as a luxury – and not as some kind of moral obligation that is owed to you. Bosses don’t usually wake up, brush their teeth, and say, “I feel like being a lousy boss today!” They just don’t understand what it takes to be a good boss. If your boss doesn’t get it, it’s up to you to think like a good boss and manage your own boss accordingly. You will not only be helping your boss, but you’ll be helping yourself!