Research shows that people don’t leave jobs they leave managers. However, fixed your boss may be in his/her ways, you can always learn ways to manage him/her better.
The secret is to “manage up” without letting them know you are doing so.
New research has found that being overworked is not the reason people leave their jobs. A Danish study of 4,500 public service workers has shown that “people don’t leave jobs, they leave managers.” According to psychologist Matias BrØdsgaard Grynderup, one of the researchers behind the study: “We may have a tendency to associate depression and stress with work pressure and workload, however, our study shows that the workload actually has no effect on workplace depression.”
However, fixed your boss may be in his ways, you can always learn ways to manage him/her better. The secret is to “manage up”. Think of your boss as a difficult client, focus on being constructive and on keeping your cool. Remaining professional will help you to separate what your manager is actually saying from how it is being said. This can be very important in trying to improve your relationship. It’s also a good idea to try and find out what triggers his behaviour, this will help you to develop your own strategies for coping.
Responding to an angry boss angrily will only aggravate the situation.
There are five good ways you can improve your relationship with your boss.
1. Align his/her priorities with your own
Find out what your boss expects from you. A two-way conversation focused on his priorities and yours and how you can help him achieve his goals will be a signal to him that you understand his agenda and are willing to help achieve it.
2. Work with your boss rather than against him/her
Help your boss achieve his/her goals by being helpful, present, supportive and by volunteering useful information. Your life will be easier if you flow downstream rather than trying to row upstream. If you really want to improve your relationship with your boss and never make your boss look stupid in a meeting or send aggressive emails to him/her. In the long run this will only make it harder for you to get your work done and nothing is more counterproductive. Try to empathise with the pressure he is under and try to solve problems or anticipate them before they come up rather than creating new ones.
3. Maintain the right mindset
Everyone has something worth respecting. Change your mindset to seek out the good in your boss and focus on those positive things rather than dwelling on his annoying habits. Refrain from becoming emotional during any discussions with your boss. Even if he/she becomes emotional, maintain your professional manner at all times. If you hear yourself starting to raise your voice, stop, slow down, and take a few deep breaths. If you can’t keep the conversation at a normal level then you should resume it later. Try to see any feedback he gives you as constructive, don’t interrupt him and wait for him to finish giving his feedback. You don’t want to create the impression that you are above listening to him and you may learn some valuable information from what he says. Listen to his concerns and then tell him that you appreciate the feedback and will work on the issues. Above all don’t get defensive.
4. Try to connect with your boss as you cannot change him
The likelihood of your boss changing is minimal. Although you can’t change your boss or his personality, hopefully talking to him about your concerns will help you to operate together better. Sometimes you have to accept your differences first before you can move on. Show him that you have the maturity to discuss criticism in a reasonable, non-emotional, non-defensive manner. Try to put yourself in your boss’s shoes, once you can imagine what your boss might be going through, it may be easier for you to be empathetic to their situation. Understanding what motivates him may help you understand why he does the things he does. Knowing how to communicate with your boss may even alleviate some of the problems you may be having. Try to adapt to his style of communication.
If you can communicate with your boss on a personal level, engaging with them on topics beyond work and looking for overlapping interests, this can do much to bring you closer to him.
5. Be prepared
Keep track of all your conversations. This will help you be on top of the situation with your boss. Firstly, having a record of everything your boss said will help you in the event he gives you confusing instructions or claims he/she didn’t say something that was in fact said. Written evidence can be used as evidence. While you should not focus on this, documenting everything that you feel is relevant to your concerns will help you have all your concerns backed up with facts.
Rethinking how you can better manage your boss, for all his flaws and shortcomings, can provide you with invaluable opportunities for developing executive leadership skills and learning what “not to do” when managing people who work for you. You just have to be proactive in looking for them and ready to practice some real self-leadership.
Susi Astengo is the Managing Director of CoachMatching.