Who hasn't started a new job, excited by the challenges ahead, the desire to prove our worth running strong and to create new relationships with our boss and co-workers. Then ...
... after a few months (often it's called the 100 day honeymoon) reality starts to kick in.
The person you thought so wonderful turns into a tyrannical maniac, or an uninspiring indecisive wimp, or a good communicator with little substance or a ..... you get the picture! It is at this point that you are in danger of having your relationship with this person deteriorate beyond repair.
Even the most inspiring of leaders can, at times, lead you into circumstances that are stressful, discouraging or that leaves you feeling that not only is your boat not being floated - you are on the wrong boat! So let's take a look at when you need to be managing up (and other difficult people in the workplace) and how to do it successfully.
- You aren't looking forward to going to work and interacting with your boss
- You feel the hairs on your body stand on end when s/he comes toward you
- You are starting to feel that you hardly ever get it done right
- You have a bigger work load than you have capacity for and things are starting to slip
- You are consistently working late into the night and on weekends
- Assigning 100% of the blame on your boss - you are probably contributing something to the situation. Accept responsibility and accountability.
- Complaining to everyone else except your boss - those you are complaining to generally can't fix the problem. If you are guilty of this type of workplace gossip then you must stop it if you want others to take you and your career seriously.
- Giving your boss a piece of your mind when you are in a high state of emotion - it will only escalate the situation.
- Convincing yourself that you should get another job - unless you are absolutely 100% sure that you aren't contributing at all to the situation (most unlikely) - you go with you and so does the problem.
- Not asking for his/her opinion of you (see below for what to do)
- Saying Yes to everything they ask of you - you'll probably end up under-delivering and then they'll jump more on your case
- Ignoring or not saying anything about their poor behavior - no denying it, this one's a challenge - see below for more details - but if you don't address their poor behavior you are asking for havoc
- Not making sure you understand the key home runs you need to hit in order for him/her to see you as successful. (Your job description and what the boss wants from you can be two distinctly different things)
- Jumping the Chain of Command This will probably only increase the conflict between you and your boss and you may even suffer some retribution. Only use it as a last resort.
- Trying to hide problems - you'll end up in deeper water and definitely with your boat sinking.
- Giving up after your first attempt at getting your boss to modify his/her behavior - - Rome wasn't built in a day, the Titanic can't be turned on a dime: don't expect your boss (or anyone else, for that matter) to change from one conversation
- Take a Good Long Hard Look At Yourself. What are you doing that is contributing to the problem. Are you asking good enough questions when being assigned tasks? Are you communicating to your boss the workload you currently have? Have you avoided informing your boss when something s/he has done has had a negative impact on you.
- Change Your Behavior Try to identify what it is your manager wants more/less from you, then make some modifications. Then, and only then, ask for your boss' feedback and whether the changes you are making are in alignment with what s/he wants
- Get Clear About What You Want How much time have you spent thinking about and writing down the type of work situation you want. You attract to you that which you give focus to. So be deliberate and spend some time really thinking about how you would like to be treated at work, what you'd like to achieve, how you'd like to contribute, how you'd like to interact with others.
- Set Boundaries Decide what you are willing to accept and not accept. For example, you may decide "I'm okay with my boss making sarcastic comments, but I will not tolerate her shouting at me." Then get clear what you will do if your boss crosses that boundary. This can be challenging, but very freeing when done well. You can do anything from saying "Do you realize that you have (e.g. raised your voice?)" to "Please be advised that I will not tolerate (e.g. you raising your voice at me). I request that you stop right now". Done well this is often a show-stopper and the person may never repeat that behavior with you again.
- Set it on The Right Track When the Work is Being Assigned When your boss is assigning work to you make sure the discussion includes current workload you have, order of priorities and dates s/he wants things delivered by. In effect you are managing your boss by delegating up.
- Think Through Carefully the Conversation You need to have with your boss to rectify any situation which isn't going as well as you would like.
- Manage Your Emotional State Make sure that you mentally and emotionally prepare yourself before any interaction with your boss. Think about your Big Picture (taken from the Planning Sheet) to ensure that you stay aligned with what it is you do want, not just get caught up in the moment.
- Walk A Mile In Your Bosses Shoes Do you know the pressures your boss is facing? Have you asked him/her what stresses/problems/challenges s/he is up against. You may or may not be able to help him/her with any of it, if you can then terrific go ahead and be part of his/her solution. S/he will love you for it. If you can't help, at least you'll be more understanding of why s/he is behaving the way they are
- Know Your Boss', Your Team's and Your Organization's Goals When you do, you can link the impact of his/her behavior, on you, your issue and on the goals. It also gives you a framework and context within which you can better understand why things are being asked of you
- Understand Your Boss' Preferred Communication Style Use a tool such as DISC to identify your own style of communication and then use it to assess your boss' preferred style. This one thing may be all you need to get your relationship humming if you are prepared to flex your style so that you can communicate in a way that s/he can 'get'.
- Let Your Boss Know About Your Successes This doesn't mean running into his/her office every time you do something, but do make sure that you accurately and regularly communicate with your boss hurdles you've overcome and solutions you've implemented.
- Let Your Boss Know When S/he Gets It Right This is often the most overlooked technique when managing your boss! You love it when you get positive feedback right? ... Don't you think your boss does too? You can do it in such a way that it doesn't feel like you are fawning. If you stick to communicating to your boss the specific behavior that you appreciated, it will come across as sincere and appropriate.
- Keep Work At Work This is probably a stressful time, so don't take it home and dump on your family and friends.