Those who speak up will get what they need
So, you’ve landed your dream job. You love your work and you have colleagues who make you laugh.
Everything seems to be perfect except for one thing – you hate your boss.
The boss micromanages you as he (or she) checks your time-in and time-out. Your superior takes things personally when you don’t use the font size he (or she) prescribes for presentations. Sound familiar?
The success of your career should never be hindered by a boss you never asked for. But you need to put up with your superior while you work under him (or her). It is easier said than done: how can you get along with someone you’d rather push away?
In the spirit of love last month (and with Chinese Valentine’s Day, or Chap Goh Mei a few days ago), here are some tips on how to love the boss you dislike.
1. Know your boss well
Your company has a good reason for investing in team-building sessions: personal bonds promote professional trust.
Have you personally bonded with your boss lately? Don’t be one of those who doesn’t know the boss because they put him (or her) on a pedestal.
Maybe your boss’s temper is mistaken for passion for work? Maybe your superior is an introvert and prefers people to approach him (or her) instead?
Spend more time with your boss and take cues if he (or she) is open to eating lunch with you or going out for drinks after work.
Forming those personal bonds will enable the both of you to be compassionate (or should I say, forgiving) with each other at work.
The more you know your boss, the more predictable and manageable he (or she) will be.
2. Find one genuine reason to like your boss, and focus on it
I once had a colleague whom I disliked because she believed in using shortcuts that compromised output quality.
That relationship changed one day when I found that we are both big fans of House of Cards and we have this fascination of traveling to North Korea one day.
This stirred my interest and I began to see her in a different light.
I focused on the good things and months later, I discovered more. I found out that she also had a talent in spreadsheets (vlookup function, anyone?) which she happily shared with me.
I would have regretted had I dismissed this colleague too easily.
This experience should be no different with your boss. Some bosses may be bad managers (maybe they lack leadership experience), but that doesn’t mean that they’re bad people.
In most cases, there is always one redeeming factor that can inch your way towards liking a person. Focus on that one small thing, cultivate it, and leverage on it until you finally get to accept your boss despite the things you dislike him/her for.
3. Look at yourself in the mirror
Have you ever considered that the problem may be you, and not your boss?
It’s easier to change yourself than someone else, so altering your mindset might just do the trick.
Try asking yourself these questions:
- Am I irritated by my boss because he (or she) reminds me of someone I don’t like (a university professor or an ex-girlfriend/boyfriend?)
- Am I associating my boss with a group of people I frown upon? (is he or she representing a religion, philosophy, or lifestyle that I feel uncomfortable with?)
- Am I concerned that I might end up like my boss?
When you have identified your bias against your boss, you may soon realise that not everyone in your team responds in the same way that you do.
Perhaps you think your boss’ ideas are wrong because you have judged his (or her) lifestyle, which has nothing to do with your superior’s job competency. This is the fallacy of “ad hominem”.
Be fair and remind yourself to be more open-minded and go easy on your boss. That person is only doing his (or her) job, and you should too.
4. Believe that a bad boss can change you for good
When I can’t find any reason to respect my boss, I always fall back to the most practical reminder: a bad boss can always get the best out of you.
Your boss will test your patience. He (or she) will drive you nuts with the most impossible deadlines.
But remember – what doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger.
A year with a bad boss will sharpen you with improved social skills in dealing with hard-headed people and self-awareness that will propel your emotional intelligence.
These soft skills are indispensable especially when you decide to move to a new organisation. Learn to love a bad boss for he (or she) has demonstrated to you what bad leadership is.
Indeed, people only realise the things that they like after experiencing the things they dislike.
List down the lessons you can gather from your bad boss. Love your boss for these if you can’t love that person for who he (or she) is.
5. Be brave and speak up
The riskiest solution is to share your thoughts and feelings with your boss. Opening up and telling your superior that your relationship is affecting your performance may reveal the true causes of your problem.
In your discussion, settle these questions:
- Have you clearly stated expectations about each other at the start of the year?
- Are your key deliverables doable, concrete and measurable?
- What style of working do the both of you have, and where can you come in between?
Defining these lines will help the both of you understand when not to push each other’s buttons, and help minimise friction.
A good boss will constantly solicit feedback from you if he (or she) has been a coach or mentor. Your superior will clear the path for you, not dictate it.
A bad one will probably not care about what you think, and may even perceive you as challenging his or her authority for speaking up.
When all things fail
If the tips shared here still fail (which can likely happen), be prepared with a back-up plan.
The passive solution is to outlast a boss who is expected to leave, or be moved to a different team, or be fired.
If you are happy with your company but not with your boss, waiting may be a good option.
You can also escalate the matter to a higher authority if the issue cannot be held back anymore. Talk to your human resources business partner or to the boss of your boss.
If your colleagues share the same concerns about your boss, invite them to back you up.
The worst case is to ignore the problem and stay silent.
Only those who speak up or seek help will get what they need or want.
After all, it always takes two to tango, and dealing with your boss should never be a one-way street. May you soon spread the love!
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Published in English daily The Star, Malaysia, 7 March 2015