5 Tips to Manage Your Relationship With Your Boss


NEW YORK (MainStreet) -- National Bosses' Day is Monday, and plenty of business and workplace specialists are giving tips for handling your boss for maximum career leverage.

But defusing a difficult boss requires delicacy, diplomacy, and determination. And if you don’t, your career path can be redirected – for bad or good – quite easily. According to the catalogue firm Kleeneze, over one in 10 employees actually quit their job primarily because of a bad boss.

Jamie Stewart, managing director of Kleeneze said, “We’re seeing more and more people saying that becoming their own boss was a major factor in their decision. Obviously problem bosses play a significant role in millions of people each year changing jobs or even deciding to start their own business.”

So how do you handle a problem boss – and avoid having to change jobs and alter your career plans? Evelyn Williams, a professor and associate vice president of leadership development at Wake Forest University Schools of Business, has some answers – and some advice on how managing your boss can lead to your being happier and more successful at work.

1. Understand stress levels. Williams says that most bosses aren’t “psychopaths” (although she notes a study that says one in 25 managers could be a psychopath, so let’s hope you don’t win that lottery). Consequently, the odds are that you work for someone who is clearly stressed out, and not the second coming of the Marquis de Sade. “If your boss is under enormous stress, they may make decisions due to the circumstances. That doesn’t mean they have a personality disorder,” Williams noted in a statement. “But they might be making decisions without considering the full impact on employees.”

2. You need each other, so act like it. Even though your boss may sign your paycheck, your work helps him or her advance, too. And that needs to be recognized. “It behooves you to figure out how to make your relationship work,” Williams says. “If you give it your best effort to turn your boss into your ally, you will enjoy your relationship more.”

3. What’s your boss’s “work style”? Every boss has his or her own personal workplace identity – so find out what it is, and leverage it. “You can ask your boss some simple questions that will help you deliver the work they’re looking for in the way they like to receive it,” says Williams. For example, does your boss like details or big-picture questions? Does he or she use extroverted thinking patterns and think out loud, or take more time and introspection to arrive at decisions? Does your employer like to make a final decision and move on, or invite additional comments and feedback to make decisions by committee?

“Knowing the answers to these questions can help you develop a road map that will guide your work interactions,” Williams says.

4. Document your interactions with your boss. Williams is a big advocate of jotting down or otherwise recording any conversations with your boss – the idea is to stay ahead of your direct manager and eventually learn to give your boss what he or she wants, ideally before your manager directly asks for it. “This isn’t a punitive kind of documentation, but rather helpful reminders,” she says. “After you have a conversation with your boss or arrive at a decision, sending an email stating the decision or action steps from the conversation can help you both stay on track. It may also be helpful to have that record so you can look back at decisions that were made if any questions arise.”

5. Your boss is just as human as you are. Treating an executive like you expect to be treated is an underappreciated workplace mindset, Williams says. “As employees we want to have positive recognition for the work we do,” she offers. “Think about how your boss might need positive recognition or reinforcement and offer it. Everyone likes recognition for their work.”

Learning to “manage” your boss can be a big driver of upward growth in your career – and may even train you to become a better boss yourself, someday.

So with National Boss’s Day coming up next week, go ahead and give it a try. Don’t worry – your boss won’t bite – hopefully.

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