I read with great interest your advice to Mr. Confused in your column on Sunday, May 9, 2010 page M2 encouraging him to build a positive relationship with his department manager despite the latter’s actions and reactions against him. The reason for my interest in reading your advice is because I’m in the same predicament as Mr. Confused. My supervisor (I’m just a rank-and-file) ignores me. Even during meetings when I would raise my hand to express my opinion or idea, he would not even call me at all. This has caused me to be embarrassed. I don’t participate anymore in our meetings. I just do my work the best way I can and just leave him alone.
Shouldn’t a supervisor be the one to develop a good relationship with his subordinates so that they will be motivated and productive? It’s unfair that we subordinates should be the one to “dance to the music” (to quote you) just because he is the boss. I’m also confused about the role of a boss.
Try to reflect on what you have done to make your boss ignore you, and not call you to express your opinion/idea during meetings. If you can’t recall what you’ve done to get these reactions, try asking your co-employees what their observations of you were so you can become aware of your behaviors. Do they see your boss the same way you do? Do they get the same treatment as you? Perhaps hearing from them will modify your perception of your boss.
If you always perceive your boss the way you do, chances are you will always see him doing it. We see what we expect to see. When you always see him in a negative light, you will tend to avoid him, which is what you are now doing, and to be critical of him.
Yes, a boss should do everything to have strong positive relationship with each of his/her subordinates so that he/she can form a strong team who work together for greater productivity to meet team goals and thereby contribute to organizational productivity. Sadly, this does not always happen because of the following reasons: (1) the boss’ lack of training in management and leadership; (2) the boss has a low Emotional Quotient (EQ) required for successful leadership. Many bosses were promoted based on their IQ and technical skills. They tend to be task-oriented rather than to be both people- and task-oriented. The most important role of the boss is to develop each of his subordinates thru coaching and giving feedback in order to make them successful and productive and to build a strong team.
As I advised Mr. Confused, you have to accept you boss as he is and try your best to improve your relationship with him. You can not choose to ignore your boss the way you are doing now. He can also choose to ignore you and you are the loser. You can not afford to wait for him to initiate positive interactions because you may have to wait forever.
Instead of being reactive, show proactivity by doing the following:
1. Change your perception of him. See his good traits and his positive behaviors even though these do not impact on you directly. Example: punctuality for work, conducting meetings efficiently, good communication skills, etc. Find a reason to like and admire him.
2. Ask him for feedback on your work so you can further improve.
3. Ask him what he expects of you, what his priorities are and his timelines.
4. Come to the meetings that he calls on time and being prepared. Do not use your cell phone during the meeting even if the others do. Be attentive during meetings.
5. Look for opportunities to be of help to your boss.
6. When you are done with the tasks required by your position, go to him for additional work he may want to give you.
7. Don’t use the internet for personal use. Office time is company time; therefore, you are paid to work.
8. Build up your boss. Never say anything critical about him to any of your co-employees. Negative talk travels fast.
9. Recognize his humanity. Acknowledge that he has weaknesses just like you. Compensate for his weak points but don’t make it obvious to him and never tell others about them. Be low key.
10. If you have “great ideas”, sell them to your boss first. You may be tempted to make suggestions perhaps during meetings to show your boss and your co-employees how smart you are. Unfortunately this is not the right way to get the admiration of your boss.
11. Show respect for your boss at all times. Be careful when you try to propose changes or innovations in your work or section. Consider any or all of the following: first, you probably don’t know what you’re talking about; second, if the problem and its solution look so obvious yet no one has taken action, perhaps there’s a deeper level you don’t know; third, nobody likes a know-it-all; and, fourth, you’re making your boss look inept. Before you push your idea, get your boss’ reaction. If he agrees with it, get him to champion your idea, and make it his, not yours.
12. Find out his “soft” spot (i.e., what he likes) and his “sore” spots (what irritates him). Observe what pleases or displeases him. What he approves or disapproves and his work habits. Avoid doing those things that displease him and of which he disapproves.
When you do these, you are also enhancing your own EQ and developing your interpersonal and communication skills, strengthening your character and developing your personality. All these are vital for success in building strong positive relationships with people and in improving your chances for career advancement. Your EQ is enhanced when you develop greater self-awareness of your behaviors and how they affect other people; enhance your sensitivity to other people’s needs and values, and greater motivation to manage your own behaviors.
Why it is important for you to initiate a good relationship with your boss so that you can get along with him and be productive by his standards? Whether you like it or not, your boss has power over you.
1. He is the one giving you job assignments. These assignments can be opportunities for you to grow in knowledge and skills, to experience pride in your work and joy in your accomplishment. These job assignments can also be opportunities for you to gain visibility in your organization
2. He is the one who appraises and evaluates your performance on these tasks in terms of quality, quantity, and timeliness. He is the one who rates you and his ratings appear in your performance appraisal and become the basis for incentives and for your career moves.
3. He can give you challenging assignments that bring out your potentials. Or he can merely give you routine tasks that can bore or frustrate you.
4. He has power to approve or disapprove your requests for data, equipment, materials and training to enable you to do your work well and better.
5. He decides if you are “doing the right things and doing things right”. He decides what is “urgent” and “important”. If you do work your boss doesn’t need, value or care about, even if you do it brilliantly (according to your standards), it doesn’t count as “good work”.
The above are things we don’t learn in school; we learn them only from the school of hard knocks which can be painful and frustrating. Learning is life-long; it never ends.
Your boss is your #1 Customer. A customer is someone whose needs you must satisfy according to his standards. Your work contributes to his goal. Your success and professional growth should benefit your boss. You can succeed if and when you help your boss succeed. Dr. Andrew Du Brie, a management author, has written thus: “When you are caught up in the pressures of pursuing your own ambitions, it is easy to forget the primary reason you were hired: your prospective boss thought you could help accomplish the department’s objectives [and] contribute directly or indirectly to his/her success.”
May God bless you with an open mind and heart so that you will know what to do to bring the needed change in your attitudes, values and behaviors.
Josie O. Santamaria