Friday, October 19, 2007

Working with a Difficult Boss

In honor of Boss's Day this week, I wanted to share some tips for working with difficult bosses of all types. These tips come from our book, First-Job Survival Guide. One of the authors, Diane Decker, is here this week presenting at JIST's job search seminar. She's an organizational effectiveness coach in Chicago.

In your working life, you'll have all different sorts of bosses, from ones who partner with you for success to those who make your life miserable just because they can (for example, Michael on "The Office"). You can learn something from all of them. Here are the authors' tips for making the best out of some of the most common bad-boss situations:

What to Do if Your Boss Is a Poor Performer
  • Write short reports summarizing your accomplishments and send them to your boss and other relevant team members.
  • Find ways to use your talents to offset your boss’s weaknesses.
  • Stay alert for open job positions within the organization.
  • Establish or strengthen a network to help you stay in the flow of communication.

What to Do if Your Boss Doesn’t Communicate

  • Meet with your boss and have a list of questions you would like answered, with the reasons the information will help your results.
  • Keep your eyes and ears open to learn needed knowledge from the informal network.
  • Try using e-mail and assess how your boss responds.
  • Talk directly to the recipients of your work to learn what they need.

What to Do if Your Boss Shows Favoritism

  • Accept that some people will click together better than others.
  • Look for a mentor to give you career guidance and coaching.
  • Ask your boss what he or she expects of you, and regularly seek feedback.
  • Focus on improving and maximizing your own results, rather than concerning yourself with the favorite employee.

What to Do if Your Boss Is Hard to Pin Down for a Meeting

  • Send a short e-mail or voice-mail message when you need an issue resolved or a question answered.
  • See whether your boss is available over lunch or a cup of coffee.
  • If you have a problem or issue, come forward with various solutions or options and your recommendations.
  • Request short meetings, send your agenda ahead of time, and come well prepared.

What to Do if Your Boss Takes Credit for Your Work and Ideas

  • Acknowledge your boss’s contributions to your success.
  • Share your concerns with your boss about others’ awareness of your results.
  • Keep track of and publish a summary of your goals and accomplishments.
  • Actively look for a career mentor to provide guidance and coaching.

What to Do if Your Boss Is Unapproachable

  • To increase your understanding of the situation, identify the possible cause(s) for this behavior.
  • Stay communicative and interact positively with your boss.
  • Use nonconfronting language to let him or her know what you notice and its impact on you.
  • During a meeting with your boss, identify common concerns and challenges, share your perspectives, and offer assistance.

What to Do if Your Boss Looks Over Your Shoulder

  • At the beginning of a project, ask your boss what he or she would like his or her role to be in the project.
  • Instead of waiting until the end of the project, or when your boss comes to you, schedule regular project updates.
  • Proactively communicate to help instill confidence in your ability to manage the details.
  • Regularly communicate barriers and the ways you are addressing them, to help prove your abilities.

What to Do if Your Boss Has a Large Number of Direct Reports

  • Ask your boss his or her preferred method of communication. Be concise and clear in what you share.
  • Tell your boss what is going well and the ways you are addressing your challenges.
  • Identify ways to stand out from the crowd of subordinates--look to expand your role in a way that can help reduce your boss’s workload, or forward articles of relevance with a short note.

What to Do if Your Boss Pits Direct Reports Against Each Other

  • Share your concerns with trusted peers, and decide to work together collaboratively, despite your boss’s behavior.
  • Go to your boss and share your concerns with the culture that has been created, what you would suggest, and the reasons it would be an improvement for the organization’s results.
  • If you stand alone in a desire to change the culture, determine whether you are willing and able to stay and endure your boss’s regime.

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