I Don’t Want To Hate My Boss
“You can’t change other people. You can only change yourself” – H. H. Getter
It isn’t easy to live with a tough boss. You’ve probably tried a lot of different things – and most of them haven’t worked. Have you sighed in resignation, accepting this burden as punishment for sins committed in a former life?
There are ways to make your relationship with your boss if not more successful, than at least more pleasant. Here are some strategies to think through.
- Don’t push your boss’s buttons. What are their pet peeves? What sets them off? Write them all down, and for each pressure point, put an antidote that is the opposite behavior. Now tape this list it in a private but easily accessible place and reread it every day. Be sure to consider the “little” as well as the big things. For example, you may not think it’s a big deal to arrive five minutes late to a meeting, but to your boss this frequent tardiness indicates sloppiness, poor planning and a lack of respect for him or her. They may view it as your failure to manage your time, or think that you doubt the meeting’s importance. Remember, this is all about your boss’s sensitivities, not yours.
- Know their favorite communication methods. Do they prefer to communicate via email, phone or memorandum? Do they utilize one medium for themselves but another for their staff? Find out and stick to it! Your adherence to their choice will make them more comfortable, and will make them believe that you are more like them, and that therefore you must be very, very smart.
- Know their communication style. Are they formal or informal? Don’t be exactly like them; just use it to point yourself in a general direction. For example, if someone uses vulgar language it doesn’t mean that you will endear yourself to him or her if you start swearing all the time. But acting shocked won’t help you either. Take it as a sign of informality, or perhaps a tactic to embarrass you, and don’t react. The same thing is true for their style of dress. Don’t mimic it – just use it as working knowledge of who and what they are.
- Scrutinize the Successful. I know it hurts, but do it. Turn your gaze to colleagues who are successful with this boss. Who gets promoted? What traits or behaviors do they use in front of your boss? Forget your own attitude, be it envy or disgust, and try to be objective. It doesn’t mean that you have to be that way, but it will provide clues as to what your boss really likes. You can decide later if you can emulate your colleagues or not – right now we are still collecting data.
- Keep it to Yourself. Button your lip until you are blue in the face, but do not grumble about your boss in the office. It may seem like common sense, but you would be amazed by how many people publicly bad-mouth their boss. Not only do the walls have ears, but they have tentacles and stereo speakers, too. The first nasty remark may not get back to your boss, but the third or fourth one will.
- Forget about Human Resources. If you haven’t yet learned this painful lesson, please etch these words into your soul: HR exists to serve the needs of the corporation, not the individual employee. If you bring a complaint, no matter how legitimate, to HR they will take it straight to your boss and it will hurt you. Trust me on this – no matter how friendly they seem HR is not your friend.
- Document, document, and document. Keep every memo; write down every offensive comment, every broken promise, and every out-of-control outburst. Be sure to include dates and participants, and enough detail to make yourself believable. Then keep this in a very safe place. Because you never know.
- Manage your Boss. Be it this job or the next; realize that you need a strategy on how to manage your boss. Be cognizant of when you give them information, what that information is and how you deliver it. Know your boss’s weaknesses and objectives, as well as the pressure they are under to perform their job. Be aware of your own working style, and plan how you can balance the two.
- Have an Exit Strategy. Think about it, write it down and file it away – you will feel better. This should be a living document, including a current resume, a list of headhunters in your field and the names of three or four good references. If you decide, or it’s decided for you, to leave, then the first thing you do is pull out this document. And boy, will you feel better when you do.