You and Your Boss

by Joanne Leitschuh

I remember an interview I had with my supervisor 20 years ago. She told me that I was doing a good job, but I needed to learn to relax. She said I had the knowledge to do my job but the fear of making a mistake was putting a shadow on my personality. I needed to be myself. She assured me that if I ever did make a mistake, no one was going to die. Most problems could be solved without letting my nerves ruin my attitude toward my responsibilities. I thanked her for releasing this big emotional weight from my conscience. From then on, I refused to be a people-pleaser. I would just do the best that I could with the skills that I had. I knew I needed to allow myself the time and space to grow as a professional.

In the past, I had other bosses who were really just bossy! They were not interested in developing a personal relationship with me, and I was afraid to approach them with even the smallest comment. Thankfully, today I still have supervisors but I appreciate their influence on my job.

We all have at least one person who is our boss and our relationship with them affects our attitude towards work in a big way. So what type of relationship should we expect to have with these important people?

Octavius Black, MD of The Mind Gym, put together nine key tips in developing a two-way relationship with your boss. These suggestions can be helpful if not performed in a manipulative way. Human relationships are complex and need all of the attention and care that we can give them.

1. Meet regularly and bring your own agenda. You will probably end up deciding what is discussed, which puts you on the front foot.

2. Tell your boss what he/she does that helps you. This will encourage them to respect their constructive behaviour _ positive feedback has a much stronger correlation with changes in behaviour than criticism.

3. Share credit for your achievements with your boss. It shows a confidence and generosity normally associated with the person in the more senior role.

4. Keep close to the rest of the team. It enables you to keep your boss informed, as well as showing an interest in your colleagues.

5. Offer solutions, not problems. If asked to do more than is reasonable, explain the consequences and suggest alternatives rather then just agreeing or refusing.

6. Ask for their advice. You don't need to incorporate everything, but play up the importance of their input.

7. Be sympathetic and supportive when things go wrong. It's lonely being the boss, and support will be appreciated long after the low moments have passed.

8. Ask for feedback on your performance. It helps them appreciate what you do. Embracing suggestions they make to help you improve shows you're keen to learn.

9. Give it time. This is a long game, so don't give up.

(Management Today, April 2002.)

The Oxford Dictionary defines a "boss" as a master, manager or overseer. Do you want to have a master? Aren't you happier to just be a free individual doing what you want to do the way you want to do it and when you want to do it? Probably not. Don't you feel more secure when you know someone is concerned for your welfare? Aren't you more confident in approaching your job knowing that someone above you has taken an interest in seeing your performance improve for your own benefit and satisfaction? A good "master" has his servants' best interests in mind.

So, the next time you have an interview with your boss, no matter how many flaws you see in their character, ask yourself, "How can I make this relationship work -- not only for my own benefit, but to show my respect for them and to advance the goals of the company?" What you may remember many years from now, will not be what was on the agenda, but how you grew as a person under the direction of someone who was hand-picked as your supervisor.

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