Unlike a friend, a boss is not someone you can
choose. You normally have to accept the person whom you are supposed
to report to. Whether you like it or not! It is therefore, important
that you get off to a good start in your relationship with your
boss. A good boss-subordinate relationship could help you progress
in your career as your boss would recommend raises and promotions.
On the other hand, a strained relationship could make life miserable
for you at work and limit any opportunities for career advancement.
How does one go about managing a boss? To some people it may
come naturally, while for others they may have to rack their brains
to figure out what to do and yet feel they end up saying and doing
the wrong thing at the wrong time!
In this article, we will attempt to offer some guidelines that
could help you build a positive relationship with your boss and
be beneficial to your career.
Do your job well with a non-threatening work style
The starting point is obvious and basic- do your job well. Boss
management can help only if you are making a good effort at your
work. Otherwise it will become a case of covering up your inefficiencies
and weaknesses at work behind behavioural niceties which will
not have a chance to succeed as they will only be superficial.
And in addition to this, an extremely important point- adopt
a non threatening work style. Your great initiative at work will
get a tremendous setback if your boss finds you too aggressive
or abrasive and begins to feel insecure. Your work style should
not communicate to your boss in any way that you believe that
you know more than him/her, or that you do not respect his/her
superiority and authority.
Accept responsibilities, take initiative, and prepare for meetings.
Make yourself indispensable to your boss without threatening him/her.
Let him/her rely on you for assistance in gathering information
or any other area where you appear to be relatively more competent,
but with the feeling that you are a great help and not a threat.
A boss has power that is derived from two sources- the first
being the power/authority that comes along with the position or
designation. The second is to do with the individual's personality
traits and interaction with others in the organisation. You have
to ensure that you give your boss due respect on both counts.
Remember then, be a smart and diligent worker and keep your
boss feeling secure!
Understand your boss' working style and work within it
To manage your boss, it would be very useful to find out different
aspects of your boss' working style. What makes your boss tick?
You could use the following checklist to help you get to know
your boss better.
Getting answers to these questions will help you adapt to your
boss' working style and reduce conflict.
You could try and brand your boss into a specific personality
type depending on his/her style of working. This could give you
clues on how to work smarter with that type of a boss.
A few boss types you could consider are:
The Feudal Lord
This type of a boss likes to have a large group of supporters,
sycophants and yes men. He/she invariably dislikes any opposition
to his/her thoughts, ideas and way of doing things. If you agree,
you are part of the coterie, otherwise you are an irritant.
What you could do:
Be careful not to let the quality of your work suffer in your
desire to be "accepted".
Here, the boss has too much of an eye for detail and ends up nit-picking
on and on. Use this format, left align that, reduce this by 5mm,
stroke your t's horizontally etc.
What you could do:
Try and toe the line as much as you can without losing sight of
the overall picture of the job at hand.
This boss type is as the name suggests- not clean and straightforward,
but a great manipulator who could stab you in the back. This boss
will not hesitate to pass the blame on to you if anything goes
wrong. Neither will you get the credit for a good job done. This
boss will spend more time in achieving personal gains.
What you could do:
Watch out, be cautious. Don't be naive. You may learn this after
a couple of set-backs. Nevertheless, you need to get along with
this boss type as well. Just organise yourself better and learn
to "cover up" with well documented facts in case of
Here, it's work, work and more work. This boss type is a confirmed
workaholic. He may not pay attention to details but expects a
lot of work to be done.
What you could do:
Work hard too. Meet deadlines. It's a lot better than dealing
with the Slime!
Adopt the problem solving approach at work
The next point in boss management relates to handling problems
at work. Do not panic when confronted with a crisis. Do not just
oppose and disagree with your boss' ideas. Come up with a solution.
And justify it with a well thought out plan. This approach could
also help in reducing unpleasant scenes and conflicts with your
boss. Work could also proceed more smoothly.
Communicate and keep your boss informed
This is essential in ensuring that work gets done on time and
your boss is on top of it all in terms of information. The last
thing you need is a situation where your boss' boss enquires about
the status of a project and your boss was not updated by you,
on the current position. Your boss would get caught on the wrong
foot and could then pile on to you for not having provided all
the information. To avoid these situations, keep your boss updated
regularly on the status of work in the pipeline. This will make
him/her look good and will let you breathe easy!
Also clarify priorities and deadlines regularly to ensure that
you are working on the right item at a particular time. This will
be very helpful in situations where priorities shift over time.
Be honest and do not compromise on ethics
It always pays to speak the truth. Ask for help where you need
it. Admit your mistakes. Give credit where it is due. This will
make your boss trust you. He/she will know that you can be relied
on to tell the truth in the case of mud-slinging conflicts across
departments. Your strength will be that you tell the truth whatever
the situation and not just to take the credit or avoid the flak.
Do not compromise on ethics. Never sabotage work to spite your
Do not condemn your boss to others
This is something you really have to watch out for as it is very
common to crib about your boss to your colleagues. It often makes
you feel better to have someone to complain to, who could agree
with you and confirm your negative emotions about your boss. Avoid
using this as a way of getting friendly with your colleagues or
a way of joining one of the power camps in the organisation.
Resist the temptation to bad mouth your boss. Try to grin and
bear it if you are stuck with a difficult boss till you find a
workable solution. Going to the Human Resources department and
complaining will not help. It is a misconception that the Human
resources department will sort out such problems at work. They
are concerned primarily with the needs of the organisation as
a whole and not such issues related to specific individual problems.
A move such as complaining to HR could probably get back to your
boss and will only make matters worse.
Be flexible and not rigid in your style
Let your work style be compromising and flexible. Do not be too
rigid as this could put off your boss and communicate that you
are too adamant and aggressive instead of being supportive and
co-operative. Also, a rigid style could give your boss the impression
that you are too competitive and this may make your boss feel
insecure which is when problems start!
Record dates and important instructions
To ensure that you stay on top of your job and avoid getting into
trouble when it's time to pass the blame, keep a record of dates
and key instructions relating to your work. It may sound like
a repository of unnecessary information, but it could help you
a great extent in the event of a crisis. Not to say that you should
use this to malign your boss, but keep yourself out of such a
mess as much as possible.
If you try and follow some of these guidelines, you could end
up with a positive relationship with your boss. Remember, the
situation is not that bad. You as a subordinate, are also very
important to the boss!
And if you find yourself in a terribly hopeless and frustrating
relationship with your boss, despite your repeated attempts to
improve things- do not lose heart. It's not the end of the world!
Just pack up and move on!