– Guest post by Ron Marks –
Unfortunately this is a situation that has become all too common. Whether the person you report to lacks the appropriate people skills or if it is just a situation where there is a personality clash, many people today are in uncomfortable situations with their superiors. The bad news is that most adults that reach the age where they have been promoted to upper management of a firm are probably old enough where they are not going to change their behavior a great deal. In other words, they are very unlikely to make a change. This is multiplied by the fact that they are in a position of seniority and nothing short of a full on mutiny would cause them to change.
The good news is that by taking a few steps you can dramatically improve the relationship you have with your boss and increase your ability to accomplish your work in spite of this challenge. The first step is to become aware of the situation. Realize and admit you have a conflict with your boss and you need to take action. Unfortunately many people have a coping mechanism in this type of situation. In fact, they may use the following tactics. It would be important for you to become aware of which, if any of these “Passive Aggressive” tactics you use to respond to your bosses negative behavior.
- Obsession and avoidance.
- Self doubt and sulking.
- Wishing for he bosses demise or gloating over failures.
- Making negative comments or gossiping about the boss.
- Direct negative confrontation or Retaliation.
- Shutting out the boss or a total shutdown.
Once you detect that a negative situation exists, and the coping mechanisms you use, you can separate yourself from the situation. Bottom line is you are not the reason for this behavior; it existed long before you came around and chances are you will not be able to change him or her. Make every attempt to avoid the coping mechanisms that were listed earlier. You also want to make sure that you don’t let this negativity roll down hill and dump on the people you may be responsible for in the organization. Finally, don’t “medicate” with the bad C.A.T.S. (Caffeine, Alcohol, Tobacco and Sugar) Make sure you exercise, stay active and eat right. These practices will not only help you manage the negative relationship with your boss, however it is guaranteed to have other benefits as well.
The third step is to negotiate a plan for dealing with this situation. It may begin with taking personal inventory of what your expectations are from authority. Ask yourself, what do you specifically expect and need from your boss. Then ask how those unmet needs can be met outside the relationship with the boss. In my early days in business I had a boss that never gave out recognition. No matter what I seemed to do, I cold never get a “pat on the back” or a compliment. After some time, I realized that was his style and I was not going to change it. He believed that giving recognition for good performance led to “settling” and felt that the only way to continually drive performance to higher levels was to make people think there was always room for improvement and that the job was never completed satisfactorily. I perform best when I feel appreciated, I was not getting it from the boss so I worked on receiving recognition from clients. In the end, I got what I needed, understood my managers strategy and improved my performance through other sources of recognition.
I believe it helps to have three strategies for dealing with the boss’s behavior. First, the over all approach. This is a quality or attitude that you embody when dealing with the boss. They are in a position of leadership and while you may not be able to get along with them, they deserve certain respects and you should make every effort to be tolerant and avoid falling into the coping mechanisms we discussed earlier. Secondly, you need to have tactics that you can use for dealing with the challenges in the specific moment. Consider what responses or behaviors you can demonstrate when you are confronted with the negative behaviors. Choose healthy responses that involve direct and open communication. Don’t be afraid to express how you are feeling or communicate what areas you believe could be improved in the way your boss communicates with you. As we discussed earlier, this does not mean they will change, however you need to be certain you are doing everything possible to contribute to the solution. Finally, you probably need to be considering the long term strategy be planning the appropriate “moves” to allow you to be transferred or promoted out of this boss’s direct responsibility.
I am confident that if you are struggling with your supervisor, following these simple, though not always easy, steps will greatly improve your ability to work through this tough relationship. Stay focused and positive and you will get through it.