Managing your Boss

Aug 29th, 2010 | By | Category: abundance, application, aptitude, Career advice, career challenges, career choices, challenges, difficult boss, fear, grades, negativity, negotiations, office problems, peers, persuasion, problem, skills, success, training

Most of us spend more time working than at any other activity, but we manage our working relationships less than in any other situation.  In our personal relationships we usually seek and obtain a level of interaction that permits us to enjoy ourselves and grow our skills.  Even in our casual relationships, like recreational activities we seek to make ourselves comfortable.  However when it comes to our jobs we allow ourselves to be in a subjugated state that is neither healthy nor productive.  Why not manage our work relationships like our personal relationships?

Perhaps there are several reasons why we do not manage our work relationships the same as out personal relationships.  There is a lot that suggests our primary and secondary school systems were designed by industrialist to prepare students to be productive mill workers.  The assembly line mentality demands that workers do their assigned task exactly as dictated by management.  There is no room for creativity or experimentation while working on the line. The assembly line boss, like a military sergeant, has the role of keeping the workers focused on their assigned tasks and to produce as much as possible. Teachers and other authority figures were placed in an infallible status, which was reinforced by their power to grade and fail students.  Pleasing the teacher became the primary focus, as there was a double jeopardy for misbehaving or poor performance at school.  The teacher had several mechanisms to punish poor behavior, and then parents would add a punishment of their own, and above all there was peer pressure.  This model seems to be carried into and reinforced in the workplace.

The established model for our school system is changing.  There is more emphasis on teacher performance and less on the student’s behavior.  In major cities there are programs to weed out ineffective teachers and to reward those who can motivate students to achieve better academic performance.  Perhaps in time there will be a following shift in the workplace, as students who are educated in the newer system become the industrial leaders of tomorrow.  In the meantime we have to learn to deal more effectively with the current model to improve our working relationships. Most of the same tactics that worked in primary and secondary school are just as effective in the work place.  However our goals and career strategies may have changed.  In school there were the high achievers, average students, and bad actors.  The workplace does a pretty good job of not hiring or eliminating those who blatantly buck the system.  Although there are some real disciplinary problems that exist in the workplace, there are mechanisms to isolate and eliminate truly disruptive behavior.  What has changed is that for the majority, us average students, we now desire to rewarded and recognized for our achievements in the workplace.  So where we were once content just to escape the focus of the teacher, we now understand that our careers depend on our relationship with our boss.  Unfortunately we are stuck with the medieval load–serf relationship model we had with our teachers. Those who were the high achievers in school and learned to interact with teachers on a more personal level have a distinct advantage in the workplace.  The rest of us have to readjust our attitudes and strategies to improve our working relationships.   This is a truly an individual adjustment, and we tend to go overboard in trying to adjust our working relationships to mesh with our learned behavior and personalities.  There is also a tendency to copy those who have mastered the art of pandering the boss, which is alien to most of us, and results in unnecessary stress, and reinforces the boss’s superior attitude.

Like school there are ways to achieve success without compromising your values and self-worth.  In school, if you did A level work you received and A on your report card.  The same is true of the workplace.  Doing your best work and striving to continually improve your knowledge and work product earns recognition of competency and respect.  This is an important status, for just like school an earned A does not depend on your relationship with the teacher, but stands on its own merit.   This is only half the battle for as we all remember from school the teacher’s pets got most of the perks and rewards.  The same is true in the workplace.  However, there is a difference between a working relationship and pandering.  A working relationship is built on respect for your abilities and trust in delivering work products.  This requires professional interactions with your boss.  One thing that worked for me was to consider my boss like a consulting client.  It required me to be courteous, friendly, and professional and to negotiate work assignments. This helped ease the medieval load –serf relationship, and put us on a more interactive footing.  In addition, like a consultant, I was always on the look out for a better business situation.  It took me a while to learn, but when I encountered a personality conflict with my boss, I would ensure that my work product exceeded all requirements, while searching for a different job.  I do not recommend jumping ship at the first rough seas, but the most successful captains, while skilled at weathering storms, avoid placing their ships in harms way.

Take time to reflect on your relationship with your boss, and put some effort into developing an effective strategy to develop a working relationship.  It may take some creative thinking for most of us are product of our experience.

The PracticaL Mentor.

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