We’ve all been there. We’ve all had moments where we would rather gauge our eyes out a’la Oedipus than listen to our boss any longer – even if we actually get a long with them. We’ve all had a bad boss, a difficult boss, have dealt with some micro managing here and there and ultimately have not at all been in the right state of mind to put up with it. For those of us with major entrepreneurial spirits this can be a real drag.
It happens. We’re human. And so are our bosses. Which is a really important key to remember when you’re dealing with anything in life – we’re all human.
Now, for those times that we forget that, I fervently believe that if you want to get far in a traditional career path you need to add one important skill to your repertoire. It’s not a skill on your resume or one you learn at school. In fact, I’m pretty sure no degree can prepare you for what I’m about to say. The number one skill you need to acquire if you’re going to make it in a traditional career is this:
You need to know how to manage your boss.
Kate White mentions this in her latest book, I Shouldn’t Be Telling You This, and I soon realized that knowing how to manage your boss can make or break you. It can make all the difference between having a miserable time and a good professional relationship.
So how do you do this? How do you learn to manage your boss?
Read on Fireballs…
Know how they function as a human being.
Bosses are human. They deal with life stuff – and some of them don’t know how to handle life stuff very well. As a result they may tend to project outward at employees or cause some trouble. Once you become aware of this a) you learn not to take it personally so you move on and b) you don’t get sucked into their drama.
Knowing your boss’ patterns as a human being will really help you professionally. You’ll know when to avoid them altogether or learn when you should be paying a little more attention to your job.
Is this manipulative? Absolutely not. You just learn how to make your work life easier. In fact, this makes your relationships in general easier.
Notice your boss’ managing style.
Pay attention to what your boss likes. Do they like an occasional email with your progress? Don’t wait until they ask for it before writing it. Do they like to use you as a sounding board? Use the opportunity to help them talk through solutions.
Every boss has a different style of managing and handling employees, so it’s essential that you start paying attention to how your boss manages those underneath them.
Notice your boss’ communication style.
Okay, this is something I have definitely had to learn the hard way in the past. Is your boss quick and short when looking for answers, or do they drag out stories before they finally get to the point? Noticing these habits will help you communicate with your boss when you guys are working together. You’ll notice if you need to keep answers short and sweet, if they want background info or if they just like to talk. Communicating to your boss in the way they communicate to you will lead to a better understanding of each other and help the day flow more smoothly.
If your boss is incompetent, make their lives (and yours) easier.
I stumbled upon a great article from Forbes that talks about this very thing. You can actually assess your boss’ personality to come up with a strategy to a)calm them down and b)get off your back. Take a look at this awesome example from the Forbes article:
What if your manager is downright incompetent? Zofi has a solution for that, too. One of her clients worked at a medical device manufacturing company and reported to the daughter of the owner. The company made sophisticated medical resonance imaging machines that were constructed from parts produced in various countries including India, China and Israel. Overwhelmed by the challenges of coordinating so many disparate sources, the boss became extremely anxious, constantly pestering the employee for information and even interrupting her when she was in meetings or on the phone with long-distance suppliers.
“My client was getting sick over it,” Zofi recalls. “It was affecting her personal life. She even thought about going on Prozac.” Zofi counseled the employee to assess her boss’s erratic personality and come up with a strategy to calm her down. Instead of confronting the boss directly, Zofi’s client reached out to the foreign suppliers and gathered information. She wound up creating spreadsheets that laid out the status of each part and when it would come into the manufacturing facility. “She gave her boss a comfort zone,” Zofi notes. The strategy worked. In addition, the employee formed good relationships with the suppliers, which helped everything run more smoothly. “She doesn’t love her boss,” Zofi notes, “but she’s still got a job, and she’s dealing with it.”
Don’t ever fuel the fire.
If your boss is having a bad day, pissed at your coworker or just not in the right frame of mind it’s definitely not the time to ask for a favor. Also stay away from conversations involving other coworkers or their personal lives. You don’t want to fuel any fires and you definitely don’t want to end up being a punching bag.
(If you work in a very small office this can be really hard. Just try to your best to notice when your boss goes from business to personal and then steer as far away from it as possible.)
Knowing how your boss functions, paying attention to their managing style, communicating to them in their language, make their lives easier and staying away from drama will help you tremendously as you start moving in your career. Sure, we’d all love to have great bosses, but sometimes even the great ones get on our last nerve. Knowing how effectively manage it, however, is where your power lies.
What are some effective ways you have found for managing your boss? Got any crazy boss stories? Share them in the comments!