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Working effectively with your boss.

Working Effectively with Your Boss By Jay T. Knippen and Thad B. Green This article is reprinted from the forthcoming book The Other Side of Management. Everybody has trouble at one time or another working with the boss. For many it is a major and constant problem. Every working relationship can stand some improvement, but the trick is knowing how to make that happen. You need to know the subtleties of working effectively with your boss. Finding and learning the ways to do this are skills we all should know.

You probably already know that grumbling and complaining about how bad the boss is and wishing he or she would improve doesn't work. How do you know? You've tried it. We all have. But that doesn't mean your boss will never improve and that you must be relegated to a life of misery.

There's an old saying that " when life throws you a bunch of lemons, make lemonade." But somehow there's more to it than merely diluting the boss with water and adding sugar. Yet diluting and changing the boss are key elements to an effective, healthy, and happy boss-employee relationship.

Decide to make it work

No matter how bad the working relationship is with your boss and no matter what is causing the problem, you can do something about it. Doing something starts with deciding to deal with it.

You may have found yourself thinking, "There's got to be a way to have a better working relationship with my boss. I'm bound and determined to try my best to figure it out and come up with something that not only will work for me but also will be an improved relationship for my boss."

Getting started isn't always easy, but look at the possible consequences of not dealing with it: You may find it hard to perform well; feel pressure for results; have no sense of job satisfaction; receive small raises or little recognition no matter how hard you try; have few opportunities for advancement; feel miserable, depressed, angry, hostile, or stressed out; feel your relationship with your family is affected; or feel the need to take drugs or alcohol. A bad relationship with the boss can result in everything you don't want in a job.

A common feeling of regret is, "i cut my own throat by not dealing with it. Had I done something about it in the beginning, things would have been a lot better. "

Now consider the benefits of an improved relationship: * looking forward to going to work * getting your job done without being hassled * feeling a sense of accomplishment * getting the financial rewards you deserve * having career opportunities open up * working in a pleasant environment * having a supportive boss

Realize that everything you want in your job and career depends on a good working relationship with the boss. Some things are more dependent on that than others, but everything is affected to some extent by the mutual working relationship, and that can be frightening. It makes you want to take control of your life and get the relationship with your boss in order, and that's good.

You want that relationship to become a harmonious one, where both you and your boss gain. You'd like to have a natural, understanding, spontaneous relationship in which you might have feelings like, "I get more work done in a shorter period of time, and I find that I enjoy it more. I'm lucky because now I've got a good relationship. We think and act in the same way. This relationship came about when I made up my mind to make it work."

Determine what to do

Understand the problem of working with your boss. Ask yourself why you have a rotten working relationship and describe the undesirable aspects of it. It will have several elements. Which of the following fit your relationship? * poor communication * can't agree on anything * constant conflicts * too much politics * no one really listens * no respect * no trust * personality conflicts * a lot of arguing * trying to make the other look bad * opposing work styles * unclear expectations

Identify your boss's contribution to the problem. He or she probably contributes in several ways. Which of these terms describe your boss? Incompetent, insecure, inflexible, intimidating, dictator, untrustworthy, egomaniac, perfectionist, has a personality problem, lazy, unfair, narrow-minded, doesn't trust anyone, can't make decisions, won't make decisions, makes decisions too fast, critical, opposes all changes, can't communicate, doesn't communicate, won't listen, negative attitude, creates conflict, checks on you constantly, hoards information, gives unfair performance appraisals, doesn't give positive reinforcement, intimidating, won't change, overworks you, doesn't provide enough resources, assigns uninteresting work, doesn't delegate responsibility and authority, bypasses you, uses poor management style, doesn't seem to have time to listen to your reports of successes or failures, or gives you only criticism. Hopefully you didn't say, " Yes, that's my boss, to all of the above.

Having identified your boss's contributions, now identify your own contributions to the problem. You no doubt add to it in one or more ways. Do you have unrealistic expectations about the boss-employee relationship? Do you keep your boss informed? Are you unwilling to talk out problems? Do you listen? Are you being unfair? Are you being disrespectful? Are you unwilling to handle conflicts smoothly? Are you involved in too many things?

Two kinds of false impressions may apply: that your boss is self-sufficient and doesn't depend on you and that you are self-sufficient and don't depend on your boss. The truth is that both of you are dependent on one another.

Many employees realize that it wasn't until they stopped placing all the blame for the bad relationship on their boss that they started seeing things they could do to make it better.

Start identifying solutions. Identify the most troublesome problems in the relationship, such as poor communication, different work styles, or unclear expectations. Men decide which to work on first, second, and third. Decide how to deal with the problem and how to approach it, such as changing the way you do certain things, asking your boss to change in some way, jointly working it out with your boss, understanding your boss better, and understanding yourself better.

Decide how to do it

Once you've decided on an approach, decide how to carry it out. Whatever the approach, you will need certain skills to make it work-helping your boss, working with your boss, or asking your boss to change, for example, all require certain skills in terms of what you do and how you relate.

Identify the skill needed, like the skill of asking your boss to change. Identify the skill steps-in other words, what must you do when asking your boss to change? You can figure this out by reading your boss, talking with others, and thinking it through yourself. Try talking and practicing with someone else. Give yourself feedback and get it from others until you feel ready. Once you're ready, meet with your boss and ask for the change.

Here's an example of what you might say: "I'm glad we have this opportunity to chat. The reason I asked to m with you is that I would like more responsibility. Additional responsibility would motivate me, make me happier, and provide me with the growth and development I need for future advancement and promotion.

"You will benefit also. Your boss would be impressed because your department will get more done, and thus you will receive more credit. It will also relieve you of some of your work load, making your job easier and freeing your time for other pressing projects.

"Specifically, I want to serve on the XYZ Committee. Serving on the committee will broaden my decision-making ability and give you and our department a voice in important decisions.

I 11 know you might think I don't have enough time, but I'm wrapping up that big computer project and that will free up some of my present obligations. I'm ready for a new challenge.

"What do you think? Is it a go?"

Take action

Be confident. if you follow the suggestions outlined here you are more prepared than others would be and more prepared than you usually are, so you have every right to feel confident you'll be successful. With your approach in mind and the skills you've practiced, you are ready to take action.

Evaluate both the results and the process you use by assessing yourself and feedback from others, especially your boss.

A focus on skills is the most important part of improving your working relationship with your boss, and success depends on your skills. A skills emphasis is the most neglected aspect of trying to improve the boss-employee relationship because managers do not recognize the skills required in working with the boss. They see the necessity for having skills to work downward with subordinates, but they overlook the need for skills when working upward with the boss.

Learning resources that deal with these skills are limited, but it would behoove you to seek them out, develop the skills you need, and improve the working relationship you have with your boss. Jay T. Knippen is associate professor in the College of Business Administration at the University of South Florida in Tampa. Thad B. Green is president of Thad Green Enterprises inc. in Atlanta.
COPYRIGHT 1990 American Society for Industrial Security
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1990 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Knippen, Jay T.; Green, Thad B.
Publication:Security Management
Date:Dec 1, 1990
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