Nine Tips to Combat Tough Boss Syndrome
you have a boss who…
priorities often, giving you one direction then suddenly sending you
off in a different direction entirely?
priorities but doesn’t inform you?
give you timely feedback on your work, so you don’t even know if you
have been successful?
have the time to show you appreciation with a “Thank you” or a
“Hey, good job?”
every little thing to the nth degree?
a “Big Picture” type, giving you a sense
of what needs to be done but no real direction?
any of these sounds familiar—or if you have a different, difficult
scenario with your boss—you are experiencing Tough Boss Syndrome.
Don’t despair! You can
empower yourself to get what you want and need.
key is influence, which is not manipulation, but rather the ability to
shape someone’s behavior positively. You can get the results you
want and simultaneously build a better relationship with your boss
when you influence him or her to be more communicative with you.
tough boss problems center on communication. With better
communication, you can influence your boss more effectively and with
less effort. Consider the following questions and actions.
“How does my boss like to receive information?”:
How much information does your boss like to have? And what’s the
best way to deliver it? The easiest way to find out what your boss
prefers is through straightforward communication.
Ask “How do you like to receive information? When? And how
much detail do you like?” Or ask peers who already have successful
relationships with the same boss.
“How much should I involve my boss?”:
Some bosses feel they need to be included in all decision-making while
others are more hands-off. Micromanagers, for example, have a strong
need for control. While
you can’t change their personalities or argue away their tendencies,
you can find ways to
influence them to tell you exactly what they need to know in order to
feel comfortable without infringing on your need for autonomy.
3. “How can
I solve my boss’s problems?”:
Like it or not, your boss’s problems are your
problems. If you can figure out what keeps your boss awake at night
and then find ways to help solve these problems, you will be a better
influencer. Though you can’t force your boss to disclose problems,
you can offer: “If there’s something you want to talk to me about,
I’m available for that, and I have the skills to help you in those
areas. If you think so, too, the door is open for you to talk to
4. “How can
I make clear to my boss what I want?”: Don’t be shy about
asking for what you want. When your boss can give it to you—more
responsibility, coaching or a corner office—ask for it. You may
initially have to work up your nerve, but you will earn the respect of
your boss, even a tough one. A majority of bosses say that they wish
that their employees would just come right out and ask for what they
want instead of being evasive, timid or passive-aggressive about their
needs and wishes.
5. “Do I
need more responsibility or less?”: Do you feel like you’d
enjoy more responsibility, in order to have a sense of accomplishment
and to make your job more interesting? Or are you overburdened and
stressed out so you’d like less responsibility or a different type
of responsibility? Either way, you’re in an influence situation and
need to ask for what you want.
also means not being a victim; responsible people make changes when
they find themselves in a situation they can change. When you don’t
take responsibility for making a change or getting what you need, you
end up blaming your boss, the organization or your co-workers. Ask
yourself, “What can I do about this?”
6. “How can
I make my boss’s job easier?”: Influence and negotiation are
very similar; basically, everything’s a trade-off. You can make your
boss’s job easier by doing something you know he or she isn’t very
skilled at or feels burdened by. Offer to help by doing this for a few
hours every week, while influencing your boss to relieve you of work
you don’t want to do. Create a win-win situation when you offer your
boss a mutually beneficial deal.
“How can I make my boss look good?”:
One of the best ways to improve your relationship with your boss is to
find ways to make them look good in the eyes of his or her boss and
customers. If you can do this, your boss will be much more likely to
listen to you and grant your requests.
8. “How can I offer my boss feedback?”:
As people move up in an organization, the amount of feedback
they receive lessens. In fact, upper managers and CEOs often feel as
if they work in a void because they rarely receive clear, honest
assessments of their actions. Notice when your boss’s work is
particularly strong or beneficial to the organization and give
positive feedback and encouragement to continue. Be prepared to offer
constructive criticism if asked, but remain aware that sometimes
bosses need a simple, sincere statement of praise for a job well done,
just like you do.
the best way I can influence
my boss?”: Most communication problems with a tough boss result
from misunderstanding. Influencing your boss requires a good pair of
ears and some patience, so really listen to your boss’s expectations
and challenges. On a regular basis, ask your boss what he or she
expects from you, then summarize back what you’ve heard. You may
feel silly at first, but you will experience far fewer
misunderstandings and missed connections. Your boss will know that you
have correctly heard what’s been said.
stop with your boss:
Everybody loves to work with somebody who listens, cares and
understands. It’s an essential part of being a great influencer.
Listening in a purposeful, skilled way will give you the opportunity
to really know what your boss is about.
these tips are specifically for tough bosses, you can easily use them
in all of your relationships, including those with your colleagues,
customers, spouses, kids, parents and friends. When you practice your
influence skills and experience the positive changes, you’ll want to
use your influence to turn all of your relationships from tough to
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