Saturday, March 13, 2010

Managing Your Boss

As a management coach I am asked this very question on a daily basis. It is my experience you cannot 'manage' your boss. You can manage how you do your work and how you interact with people. Those are the only things you have control over. You do not have control over how another person behaves.

There are two reasons for bad bosses, these are (1) inability to form working relationships with people and (2) inadequate professional development in management strategies and competencies. The only person with control over these is the boss. I recently coached a senior hospital executive who had been 'profiled' by his staff as a bad boss. He was open to change and subsequently resigned when he identified himself as being unwilling to make necessary changes to his behaviour. He is a good person, lacking skills who became a bad boss due to his inadequacies.

Advice to people to 'approach' their bad boss with detailed info on his/her behaviour are pointless. If the boss was open to that approach he or she would be naturally reflective and adaptive - and likely already be a good boss. In doing so one can also set themselves up for an unpleasant experience. Feedback is best left to formal processes.

Should you continue to work with a bad boss? In the long term no you should not. Why subject yourself to workplace bullying? On the other hand, I recently coached a lady to develop a range of coping strategies that enabled her to continue her work long enough to outlast her bad boss. For my client, this was her preferred option. She now has a new boss in a new department and is a happy person. In some situations it is just not practical to move to another role or organisation.

It is unusual for a boss to universally bad - that is disliked by everyone - in many instances 'bad boss' is really a personal relationship issue between a manager and an individual. Universally bad bosses become obvious to everyone, including their boss and their tenure is limited.

Confusing 'bad boss' with 'personal relationship' clouds the issue and prevents resolution. A personal relationship conflict requires either, two mature people to meet and discuss how to go forward or an external meditator to engage with both parties. Each of us needs to clarify our real situation.

If you are in that rare situation where you have a universally bad boss there are a number of things you and your colleagues can do, these include:

Developing individual coping strategies. (each person is different)
Reflecting on your own workplace practices
Being clear on what your boss expects from you
Meet those expectations
Rely more upon informal leadership/management structures
Commence preparing to work someplace else

These are positive strategies where the focus is on you as these are the only things you have control over.

Avoid negative strategies or reactions such as withholding information, withdrawing support, public derision, backstabbing etc as at the end of the day the only person that pays for that is you, with your self esteem and reputation.

If on the other hand you do not have a universally bad boss and the real issue is the relationship between you and your boss then you need to obtain external assistance - if you want to help yourself.

John Coxon
Taking You From Frontline Manager To CEO
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1 comment:

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