Thursday, 22 September 2016

When you have issues with your boss

I think I have been fairly lucky that, for the most part, I have had a boss who I've been able to respect and communicate openly with. But what happens when you just don't think your boss is that great? What is all this talk about "managing up"?

Firstly, let's look some issues I hear most commonly from people complaining about their Manager.
Psst... I am not talking here about workplace bullying. If  there are any instances of bullying behaviour,  then you need to immediately take action by following your Company's procedure and/or talking with your Health & Safety representative.

managing up

1. Lack of communication

This is one of the most common complaints by employees regarding their Manager. Interestingly, this is often received by the Manager with exasperation as they don't understand how they could communicate more. Really, that is the key here, as for most employees it is not about the frequency but the value of what is being communicated.
So if you are feeling "out of the loop", then make some notes about specific instances and talk to your boss (yes, this is "Managing Up") and let them know why it would have been important for you to know about xyz. I know this can be a hard thing to do the first time, so bring it up in a way that works with your bosses communication style. I would also bring it up in a way that you have a problem, and you have a solution, but you need your bosses help to get to that solution. 

For example:
"I wanted to just chat to you for a minute about this project I have {project name}.... I found out on Monday that{this happened/this changed} and because I didn't know that before I had to {spend this time/effort} and it was really frustrating. Do you know how I would be able to get on those {email distribution/meeting lists} in future?"

2. "My boss has no idea what I do"

My view on this, is that it isn't necessarily a bad thing. If your boss knew the complete ins and outs of your job you may find yourself with a micro-manager. So the key here is to make sure your boss knows the parts of your job that are important. What does that mean? Well, your boss is your advocate to the manager levels above you, so if you are working on something that will impact on another area of the organisation, you need to make sure your boss understands what you are doing, why, and what you need your boss to do to advocate that for you to the other senior Managers.
If your boss is completely uninterested and doesn't advocate on your behalf, then this may be a motivation and/or competence issue on their part. That is when this can form part of your own thinking about if you can work in an environment with a very "hands-off" boss or whether it is time to look elsewhere.

3. "My boss micro-manages me"

This is the opposite of number 2 and is one of the most difficult situations to be in. I think the best option is to call it out. 

For example:
"I noticed that on my document you inserted a new paragraph and I'd like to understand the reasons behind that. I was trying to convey xyz, did you think it was not effective?"

This may not always work, but sometimes people don't realise they are taking over. I knew of a Manager that corrected every single document in red pen and it drove her team crazy, but she had done it her entire career and refused to change and would take any feedback as a kind of funny joke. Unfortunately if someone stubbornly refuses to change, there isn't any way to get around this, you just either have to let it go and try not to be annoyed by it, or wait until one of you moves on.

3. "Our Manager hates working here and I do too"

I can't tell you how much this makes me cringe. Part of a good leader's role is to protect the team from some of the crappy stuff that happens at work, and not to burden their staff with their own issues.
My advice is to rise above. Make a list of why you are working there and, yes, it is cliché, but focus on those positives. Keeping a good attitude and staying positive will not only make other people see you as one of the "good ones" (always helpful when going for a transfer or promotion!), but will actually help you to feel better. 

Photo credit: kodomut via / CC BY

Final word on managing up

You may have noticed that what all of these instances have in common is that the onus is on you to be pro-active and make your own work days better. 

It is absolutely true that people don't often leave a job, they leave their Manager, but if you are actually happy with your role and can make a few changes here and there to effectively "manage up", you may find yourself in an enjoyable role long term rather than reluctantly dragging your self to work each day.

More workplace tips

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