ROS JAY How to manage your boss - English your skill base24 ... How to Manage Your Boss tells you everything you need to know to ensure your relationship with your boss is a long and happy one.

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How to manage your bossDeveloping the perfect workingrelationshipan imprint of Pearson EducationLondon New York Toronto Sydney Tokyo Singapore Hong Kong Cape Town New Delhi Madrid Paris Amsterdam Munich Milan Stockholm qR O S J AYPEARSON EDUCATION LIMITEDHead Office:Edinburgh GateHarlow CM20 2JETel: +44 (0)1279 623623Fax: +44 (0)1279 431059London Office:128 Long AcreLondon WC2E 9ANTel: +44 (0)20 7447 2000Fax: +44 (0)20 7240 5771Website: published in Great Britain in 2002 Ros Jay 2002The right of Ros Jay to be identified as Author of this Work has been asserted by her in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.ISBN 0 273 65931 6British Library Cataloguing in Publication DataA CIP catalogue record for this book can be obtained from the British LibraryAll rights reserved; no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying,recording, or otherwise without either the prior written permission of the Publishers or alicence permitting restricted copying in the United Kingdom issued by the CopyrightLicensing Agency Ltd, 90 Tottenham Court Road, London W1P 0LP. This book may not belent, resold, hired out or otherwise disposed of by way of trade in any form of binding orcover other than that in which it is published, without the prior consent of the Publishers.10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1Designed by Claire Brodmann Book Designs, Lichfield, Staffs.Typeset by Northern Phototypesetting Co. Ltd, BoltonPrinted and bound in Great Britain by Bell & Bain Ltd, GlasgowThe Publishers policy is to use paper manufactured from sustainable forests.Introduction viiiPart I q Knowing your boss1 Understanding your boss 3 What does the boss actually do? 4 What sort of boss have you got? 5 What are your bosss strengths and weaknesses? 14 How does your boss communicate? 15 What motivates your boss? 18 What stresses your boss? 18 What pressures is your boss under? 19 Building the picture 212 Are you part of the problem or part of thesolution? 23 Building your skill base 24 Improving your overall image 27 Managing your time effectively 343 Developing specific skills 43 What are your strengths? 43 What are your weaknesses? 45 What motivates you? 47 What stresses you? 49vContents4 Work stress and how your boss can add to it 53 Interruptions 53 Work overload 56 More than one boss 595 Create the perfect relationship with your boss 63 Do 63 Dont 74Part II q Building your skills6 How to cope with emotions 83 Your emotions 83 The bosss emotions 857 How to be assertive 95 Submission 96 Aggression 97 Assertiveness 99 Show respect for others 101 Express your feelings 102 Be honest 104 Learn to stand your ground 106 Be able to say no 1078 How to listenand be listened to 111 Eliminate poor listening 112 Listening actively 114 Silent signals 116 Getting other people to listen 117C O N T E N T Svi9 How to use feedback techniques 121 Why feedback? 122 Planning the meeting 123 What to say 125 How to express yourself 127 Getting results 128Part III q How to manage a difficultboss10 Tricky bosses 133 The boss who 133C O N T E N T SviiviiiYour relationship with your boss is probably the most important rela-tionship you have at work. So it needs to be excellent. You dont haveto be best mates outside working hours, but you do need to get on wellat work, and to trust and respect each other personally and profession-ally. The better you understand each other, the more enjoyable, easyand rewarding it will be working together.A good boss will be working hard at this relationship, and you need towork at it too. Not only will the relationship be far better if you are bothgiving it your best, but you are in a position to make the biggest con-tribution. After all, you have only one direct boss (or perhaps two atmost) to concentrate on, while your boss may have several team mem-bers to build relationships with. If youre also a manager yourself, youllrecognise this difference in your approach between your boss and yourteam members.And in the end, you have more to lose if the relationship doesnt gel.You rely on your boss for motivation, support, pay rises, promotion,even the fact that you have a job in the organisation at all. Your bossdoesnt need you as badly as you need them. It stands to reason, then,that the onus is on you to make sure that you and your boss make agreat team.IntroductionA good boss will be working hard at thisrelationship, and you need to work at it too.qI N T R O D U CT I O NixManaging your boss is all about making their relationship with yousimple and rewarding. The aim is that the boss should look up withpleasure when you walk into the room, knowing that youll be easy toget on with, co-operative, positive, reliable and trustworthy. If you andyour boss both fit this description already, youre very lucky. What ismore likely is that youll get on in certain areas but there will be otherswhere your work styles clash or your personalities sometimes rub eachother up the wrong way. When this is the case, you need to learn howto manage your boss to remove whatever is getting in the way of theperfect relationship.The first thing you need to do is to get inside your bosss head. If youdont understand what makes them tick, you cant hope to understandhow to manage them. Part of this includes understanding the pressuresthey are under, so you also need to learn about your bosss boss whatmakes them tick and how they relate to your boss.Once youve identified whats going on from your bosss perspective,you need to look at your own position. When you run into problemswith your boss, is it always because they are difficult, or might it some-times be that you are unwittingly contributing to the problem? Onceyouve identified any shortcomings in yourself, you can address them.Every boss is different, but there are certain skills you need in order tomanage any boss successfully. Some of them you need to use constantly such as assertiveness and good listening while others you will needonly occasionally, such as handling your own emotions when they runhigh, or addressing tricky topics with your boss without causing con-frontation.The first thing you need to do is to get inside yourbosss head. If you dont understand what makesthem tick, you cant hope to understand how tomanage them.qI N T R O D U CT I O NxAnd then, of course, there are the problem bosses. Maybe they are onlya problem some of the time, but theres no denying that certain bosseshave some unsavoury characteristics, from throwing tantrums to put-ting you down in public. If your boss exhibits any of these unfortunatetraits, you need to know how to set about eliminating the problem.How to Manage Your Boss tells you everything you need to know to ensureyour relationship with your boss is a long and happy one. And when thesuccess of your relationship leads to promotion and new challenges,youll have all the skills you need to manage the next boss, and the nextone.The final step will be to make sure each member of your team (if youhave one) reads this book, not only to show what an enlightened bossyou are, but also to make sure that you have a team which is as easy,enjoyable and rewarding to manage as you deserve.1Knowingyour bossIf you want a first class relationship with your boss, youhave to start by getting to know them. You need to learnwhat makes them tick and, to understand the pressures onthem, you also have to understand what makes their bosstick. Only once you understand what youre dealing withcan you go on to look at the relationship between the two ofyou. Then you can really get on with managing the boss andcreating the perfect working relationship.qIPA R TA good relationship with your boss is more important for you than it isfor them. You have more to lose from a poor relationship than theyhave. And on top of that, you have only one immediate boss (or maybetwo), while they almost certainly have more than just you in their team.So youre going to have to make the running here.Your first step is to get to know your boss. I dont mean socially Imean you need to be able to see the relationship from your bosss per-spective. You need to know how they operate and what is important tothem at work. To do this, you need to answer certain questions: What does the boss actually do? What sort of boss are they? What are their strengths and weaknesses? How does your boss communicate? What motivates your boss? What stresses your boss?You can answer these questions easily with a bit of thought theyrenot going to take you weeks of research. Even if you or the boss are newto the job, you can still find out what you dont know with a bit ofobservation and perhaps a few strategic questions to your colleagues.Lets have a look at each question in turn to see exactly what youretrying to determine.3q1C H A P T E RUnderstanding your bossWhat does the boss actually do?Your job is to help the boss achieve their objectives. They probably havewider-ranging objectives than you, and you are responsible for only apart of what they hold responsibility for. For example, they may beresponsible for sales throughout the country, while you are responsibleonly for sales in the south-west region. Or they may manage the entireaccounts department, while you deal only with bought ledger.So identify your bosss objectives. For example, their job may be toboost positive PR coverage for the whole organisation, or to ensure asmooth and cost-effective despatch system for all goods sent out to cus-tomers. Whatever their precise function, its likely to be more compre-hensive and to have more impact on the organisation than yours.The point of this exercise is two-fold. That is to say, it will help you tounderstand: how much greater your bosss responsibilities are than your own.This helps you to put their relationship with you in perspective.Much as they may want a strong relationship with each of their teammembers, you may be a much smaller part of their working life thanthey are of yours the scope you have to be of more value to your boss. While your toppriority is to meet the objectives in your job description, the mostvaluable team members are the ones who can give their boss supportwherever its needed. Without treading on your colleagues toes, youcan still increase your value to your boss by being able to step inwhen they need support elsewhere, because you understand the pri-orities and issues for the whole department, not just your own partof it.H OW TO M A N AG E YO U R B O SS4Here are a few more questions to ask yourself; the answers will helpyou to understand your bosss job better, and how you fit into it: How many people does your boss manage in addition to you? How many people is your boss answerable to, and who are they? How much of your bosss time is spent simply managing the depart-ment (running team briefings, training, handling staff-related paper-work, communicating, holding interviews and appraisals and so on)? How much of your bosss time is spent generating and promotingideas? What sort of decisions does your boss have to take?By the time youve answered all these questions, you should have agood picture of the tasks and concerns that occupy your bosss atten-tion. And you will be able to see that while a good relationship with youwill make their life vastly easier, they dont have as much time as youto invest in it, and they have wider concerns than yours.What sort of boss have you got?There are lots of different types of boss and, while some are certainlybetter than others, many are neither good nor bad, except perhaps inU N D E R S TA N D I N G YO U R B O SS5The big pictureOnce you understand your bosss objectives it makes it far easier for youto see the bigger picture that they have to look at every day. This meansyou can present ideas and solutions that meet all your bosss require-ments, not only your own. For example, when they ask for ways to reducecostly accounting mistakes, you can come up with a proposal that worksnot only for bought ledger but also for customer accounts. This is moreuseful to your boss and, obviously, scores you more brownie points too.relation to you. We all have our own working style some of us likedetailed work, some hate risk-taking, some are intuitive decision-makers and so on. You need to identify your bosss working style so youcan do your best to fit in with it. Here are a few examples of types ofworking style your boss may exhibit several of them. Bureaucratic: this boss sticks to the rules, and likes paperwork.Theyre not great risk-takers. To keep them happy: you need to putthings in writing and stick to the rules yourself. Dont bother puttingforward any proposals which involve taking major risks. Laid back: results are more important to this boss than dotting isand crossing ts. So long as things are going well, they wont be tooconcerned with details. To keep them happy: dont bother them withpetty details, just focus on getting the results they want. Consultative: if you have this kind of boss, they are likely to involveyou in decisions, projects and information, and keep you in the loopgenerally. To keep them happy: dont be secretive around them. Theywont necessarily want to be bothered with every detail of whatyoure up to, but they will want to feel that your general approach isas open as theirs. Non-consultative: quite the reverse, this boss never tells you whatsgoing on until they decide that you need to know. While their judge-ment may often be right (if frustrating), sometimes you need toknow more than they realise. To keep them happy: dont ask for infor-mation you dont require. If you do need to know something, explainwhy, so they realise your need to know. Concerned with detail: this is not necessarily the same as beingbureaucratic, although it often goes alongside it. This boss willH OW TO M A N AG E YO U R B O SS6You need to identify your bosss working style so youcan do your best to fit in with it.qbreathe down your neck most of the time if they can, always want-ing to know the nitty-gritty of what youre doing and why. To keepthem happy: give them plenty of progress reports and supply all thedetail they want. This will make them feel they can trust you. Focused on the big picture: this boss doesnt want to be hassled withminor detail. They are concerned with objectives and results, andhow they are achieved is your concern, not theirs. To keep them happy:dont trouble them with small things use your initiative. Expressideas and suggestions in terms of the objectives and results thatinterest this boss. Creative: originality and inventiveness are what grab this boss, andthey want ideas and creative suggestions from you about everythingfrom how to double sales to a novel approach to the Christmas party.To keep them happy: learn from them and from other sources such asbooks how to exercise your creative mind so you can approachproblems and challenges in the same way they do. Logical: this boss likes all ideas and suggestions to be based on logical reasoning, not on creative leaps of the imagination. Facts andU N D E R S TA N D I N G YO U R B O SS7Learn the lingoWhether your bosss personal style is included in this list or not, youll seethat its not hard to recognise how to keep your boss happy once youveidentified their working style. Remember, this is really about how youwork in relation to your boss, not how you work when youre left alone.Your boss may, in fact, have given you the job because youre different tothem an unorganised boss might have chosen an organised teammember to look after the tasks theyre not cut out for. But when you dealdirectly with them, it still helps if you can speak their language.figures should back up every argument. To keep them happy: make sureyou have data to justify every proposal or solution you bring to them. Organised: a tidy desk and a well-kept planner or diary are the hall-marks of this boss. They like plenty of lists, and they always knowwhat their priorities are, both short- and long-term. To keep themhappy: look organised yourself. This boss wont believe you can workeffectively if your desk is a mess and youre always late for meetings. Unorganised: this boss may work very effectively, but they dont lookit. Papers all over the place, always wondering where theyre sup-posed to be next, and never quite appearing to be on top of the job.To keep them happy: learn to anticipate what they will want, becausethey wont. Give them plenty of warnings and reminders beforedeadlines or important meetings, but dont give the impressionyoure nannying them (unless you know they like it). Proactive: new projects get this boss excited, and theyre alwayslooking to initiate schemes and ideas. To keep them happy: showenthusiasm for their ideas, and be ready with plenty of your own,geared towards key objectives (yours and your bosss). Reactive: this boss spends more time responding to issues and ideasthan initiating new ones. So they tend to be more thoughtful and lessinclined to take risks (its not unusual for them also to be thebureaucratic type). To keep them happy: dont try to get them to launchendless new projects. Instead, concentrate on getting the job donethoroughly and seeing things through to completion.Bosses come in all shapes and sizes, and theres no one perfect type ofboss (and no single version of the boss from hell, either). Here is aquestionnaire to give you an idea of the kind of boss youre dealingwith.H OW TO M A N AG E YO U R B O SS81. The plans for the new product launch were finalised at the end oflast week, but youve just had a brilliant idea which will get thecompany lots of positive media interest. You grab five minutes withyour boss to tell them about it. Do they:a) Tell you its too late now; all the plans are fixed?b) Say theyll consider it if you give them a full written proposal bytomorrow morning?c) Recognise the quality of the idea and set about adjusting theplans to incorporate it?2. Youre concerned that the forms sent through by accounts havebeen filled out wrongly. You go to your boss and express your wor-ries. Do they:a) Tell you to stop worrying, so long as the information you need isin there somewhere?b) Suggest you go and talk to accounts yourself and straighten itout?c) Pick up the pile of forms and storm off to the accounts depart-ment with them?3. Theres a possibility that your department may be relocated to a dif-ferent part of the building in the next few months. Does your boss:a) Tell you this plan is in the offing and ask for your views on itwhile theres still time to feed them into the decision-makingprocess?b) Wait until the plans are well under way and then let you knowwhats going on?c) Spring it on you a couple of weeks beforehand that youll bemoving?4. You put in a proposal to the board a month ago for a new sales initiative. Senior managers including your boss are discussing itthis morning. Does your boss:U N D E R S TA N D I N G YO U R B O SS9a) Say nothing about it until you ask, and then simply inform youthat no decision has been made yet?b) Give you a brief outline of what was discussed?c) Ask for you to be present at the relevant part of the meeting sothat you can be involved in the discussions and answer anyquestions?5. Your boss asked you to put together some research material forthem over the next week. While youre doing this, do they:a) Check how youre getting on several times a day, ask to see lists of organisations and websites youre checking out, andmake frequent suggestions as to where else to go and whatinformation to look for?b) Ask you each day how youre getting on, and have a quick lookover what youve done already?c) Leave you well alone?6. Youre starting to suspect that one of your suppliers is putting theirrates up faster than necessary. You go to your boss who:a) Tells you its up to you to solve the problem however you feel isbest?b) Suggests you phone round for a couple more quotes and thendecide whether youd be better off with another supplier?c) Asks you to put together some figures so they can go throughthem?7. Your boss is concerned that the latest team project is looking a bitstale, and needs a boost. Do they:a) Hold a team session somewhere offbeat the park or the localtenpin bowling alley for a day of quirky idea-generating exercises?b) Call everyone to the meeting room for an hours brainstorming?H OW TO M A N AG E YO U R B O SS10c) Ask everyone to submit a brief written outline of suggestions forboosting the projects results?8. Youve realised that you could halve your delivery times withoutadding to the costs simply by changing your packaging material to anew, lightweight product youve sourced. You take the suggestion toyour boss. Do they:a) Ask you to put together detailed figures on costs, packageweights and delivery options?b) Suggest that you write them a one-page outline of what youreproposing with a few sample costings?c) Get as excited as you and start looking at samples straightaway?9. You ask your boss if you can take the day off on 6 August (threemonths away), for your sisters wedding. Does your boss:a) Open their diary, turn to the year planner section and study it indetail alongside their list headed Holiday Dates before givingyou an answer?b) Ask you to send them a quick memo so they have the request inwriting?c) Tell you straight away theyre sure thats fine theyll worryabout arranging cover later?10. You need some information from a report which you lent to yourboss. You go to their office and ask for it back. Do they:a) Look slightly panicky, rummage through several piles of paperson their desk, and then say theyre very busy and theyll let youknow when theyve had a chance to track it down?b) Ask for five minutes, and then bring it in to you 20 minutes later?c) Reach into their filing cabinet or in-tray and pull the report outfor you instantly?U N D E R S TA N D I N G YO U R B O SS1111. Its the end of February and everyone is very busy and feeling a bitjaded. Does your boss:a) Boost everyones moral by launching yet another exciting newproject, despite the fact that several projects are under wayalready?b) Get the team together to discuss ways of breathing new life andenergy into some of the projects youre already working on?c) Try to generate a bit more enthusiasm by jollying people alongand taking the team out for a lunchtime drink?12. You and a couple of colleagues have come up with an idea for boost-ing output. Does your boss:a) Tell you theres a lot going on in the department at the moment,and any new ideas should wait until things are quieter?b) Ask you to put your proposal in writing so they can have a look atit when they get a chance?c) Leap at the idea and get to work on it immediately?H OW TO M A N AG E YO U R B O SS12If you answered a to any of these:Your boss is clearly a strong example of their type, and will need theright handling. Identify your boss from the list opposite, and then lookup how to keep them happy.If you answered b:Your boss has a tendency to the type identified in the list opposite,although its not their dominant style. Nevertheless, its worth check-ing out how to handle them.If you answered c:This is definitely not your bosss style.U N D E R S TA N D I N G YO U R B O SS13Question number Type of boss See page 1 Bureaucratic 62 Laid back 63 Consultative 64 Non-consultative 65 Concerned with detail 66 Focused on the big picture 77 Creative 78 Logical 79 Organised 810 Unorganised 811 Proactive 812 Reactive 8When you analyse your boss, you may well identify other dominanttraits which you need to adapt to in order to develop a good workingrelationship. Once youve established what sort of boss you have, youwill be able to answer two more important questions: What impresses your boss? What winds your boss up?The answers to these questions will doubtless relate to their workstyle. For example, a stickler for detail is likely to be wound up by slap-dash work. But think through your experiences of your boss, and yourteam mates experiences, and draw up a list of things you have knownyour boss respond particularly well or badly to. For example:H OW TO M A N AG E YO U R B O SS14Impressed IrritatedPutting forward ideas without being asked LatenessOffering to stay late to complete a project TimewastingUsing initiative Asking for approval for everylittle taskBringing in outsiders to help with projects Bringing them problemsFinding solutions to problems on your own ComplainingThis exercise should give you a good picture of how your boss likes youto work. The boss in the example above clearly wants to see evidence ofcommitment, and for you to think for yourself and act independently.They dont like negativity, lack of professionalism or people who cantuse their initiative. This information is a huge boost to your campaignto manage your boss effectively.What are your bosss strengths and weaknesses?Next, you need to identify what your bosss strengths and weaknessesare, both in their work style and in the way they handle you and otherpeople. Once you know this, you will have a better idea of where yourboss needs support, or where you will need to make allowances. Afterall, your boss is only human, and none of us is perfect. Your boss has tobe allowed a few flaws and weaknesses, and its up to you to be able tomanage them.Recognising your bosss strengths is also useful. These are areas whereyou can relax, as well as learn from your bosss example. Whilestrengths are essentially positive for you as well as the boss, somebosses are very sensitive about any criticism direct or implied inareas where they feel confident of their abilities. So dont give theimpression youre trying to tell your boss how to do something thatthey already do well.Here are a few questions to answer, to help you identify your bosssstrong and weak points: How do you and your team mates feel about your boss? What do youlike most and least about them? How popular is your boss among colleagues outside the department? How well does your boss handle people who make mistakes? Is your boss prone to emotional displays? If so, which emotions dothey show most often, and are these negative (such as impatience)or positive (such as enthusiasm)? Does your boss get the best from you? If not, how could they getmore from you? What part of their job would you say your boss was best at? What part of the job are they weakest at? How close does your boss come to meeting the objectives of thedepartment? Is your boss good at making decisions? Is your boss supportive of you and the rest of the team?How does your boss communicate?Communication is essential to any managers job, and it will help youto understand your bosss personal style. In particular, you need toanalyse their level of openness, and their ability to put informationacross.As far as openness is concerned, consider how readily your boss passeson information to you. Some bosses tell their team everything they can,U N D E R S TA N D I N G YO U R B O SS15and others are naturally highly secretive. But most are somewherebetween the two, having certain types of information they tend to with-hold or pass on, and not others. For example: background information about current projects information from other departments information from senior management confidential information information about customers information about competitors.Many bosses will be very open with some of these categories but notwith others.Once youve identified the areas where your boss is open and not soopen you can get a picture of what determines their openness. Maybethey dont give information because they dont realise you need it. Orperhaps theyre worried theyll get into trouble with management orcolleagues. Or maybe they dont trust you to keep confidential infor-mation that way. Or perhaps they think you wouldnt understand theimplications of certain types of information.Once you can see the picture, you can start to manage your boss to bemore open with you by working on building their trust in you, or byexplaining why it would help to have certain information.H OW TO M A N AG E YO U R B O SS16Some bosses tell their team everything they can, andothers are naturally highly secretive.qWhen it actually comes to imparting information, some bosses are verygood at it, while others are hopeless at explaining things so they makesense. If your boss falls into this category, youre going to have to dosome work yourself to make sure there are no crucial lapses of com-munication. If you dont understand instructions or briefings, youcould be in trouble, and your boss will insist they explained everythingclearly to youso it must be your fault.If your boss is poor at communicating information clearly, the solutionis two-fold: Keep asking questions until you have the information you need.Dont be afraid to say, I dont quite understand why this is beinghanded over to our department (or whatever). Its far better to saythat you dont understand than to keep quiet and then make mis-takes later. Put your understanding of the information, the brief or the instruc-tions in writing and email it to your boss saying, This is just to con-firm the brief for the report on the results of the recent PRcampaign. That way, if youve got anything wrong, the onus is onyour boss to correct it now before it matters.U N D E R S TA N D I N G YO U R B O SS17Matter of choiceHow does your boss generally prefer to communicate with you: phone,face-to-face, email, memo? Whatever their preference is, it will help them and therefore you if you use the same method. So if they send you anemail, reply by email. If theyd wanted to talk to you face-to-face or on thephone theyd have done so. Respect their choice. Equally, if they alwayspick up the phone when they want to contact you, opt for the phone your-self when you want to communicate with them. Obviously there will betimes when there is a particular reason for choosing a different means ofcommunication, but default at using their preferred method.What motivates your boss?All bosses want to see results, but there are plenty of other factorswhich make them feel more or less motivated during their working day.For instance: a convivial working atmosphere a feeling of being in control challenge a sense of order a relaxed atmosphere positive attitudes good relations with other people competition perhaps with other organisations, or with their owntrack record, or with colleagues.Your boss needs to be motivated to enjoy their job just as you do, andoften you can help with this. If they like to be surrounded by enthusi-asm, or enjoy feeling that tasks are being carried out methodically, orsimply want to have time for a good meal in the middle of the day, youcan often provide, or help to accommodate, these things.What stresses your boss?Just as it helps to know what motivates your boss, so it is clearly usefulto know what stresses them. The more you can work to reduce theirstress levels, the better your relationship with them will be. So compilea list of the things that most get up your bosss nose. Here are somepossibilities to get you started: time pressure pressure from senior managementH OW TO M A N AG E YO U R B O SS18 problems a noisy atmosphere negativity not being consulted by team members being bothered with what they see as petty details lack of organisation conflict.What pressures is your boss under?Your work and your mood is affected by your boss, so it stands toreason that they are influenced by their boss their mood, their atti-tude, the demands they make. You cant hope to get to grips with yourown boss unless you also examine this relationship.You can start by conducting the same kind of analysis of your bosssboss as you have just done for your own. Answer the questions: What does your bosss boss actually do? What sort of boss are they?U N D E R S TA N D I N G YO U R B O SS19Cut the bosss stress levelsTry compiling a list of the three traits you exhibit which you reckon mostirritate or stress your boss. Be honest. They may not be bad characteris-tics in themselves, just ones which rile your boss. Perhaps you work moreslowly than theyd like, or youre very talkative, or you dont always doublecheck your facts. Whatever three traits you pick, make a conscious effortto minimise them around your boss, and see what a difference it makes. What are their strengths and weaknesses? How does your bosss boss communicate? What motivates them? What stresses them?If you dont know your bosss boss as well as your own, your answersmay be a little skimpier, but thats OK youre at one remove from thisboss. You should still be able to get a clear enough picture to under-stand what pressures your boss is under, and where they are well sup-ported.Having gone through this process, you can flesh out the picture moreby analysing a couple more points: How good does the relationship between your boss and their bossappear? What are the main areas of friction?Appearances arent everything, but if the relationship is particularlystrong or weak, it will show. If you can identify the main areas of fric-tion, this will indicate where your boss feels most under pressure when their own views or style are contradicted by the directions thatcome down to them.You also need to consider the company culture as a whole. It is very dif-ficult indeed often impossible for your boss to operate counter tothe prevailing culture. If the organisation is highly competitive, theywill have to be competitive to survive. If their boss, senior managementand the organisation as a whole has little regard for staff welfare, yourboss is going to find it impossible to put staff welfare at the top of theirH OW TO M A N AG E YO U R B O SS20Look at your bosss prevailing attitudes in the light ofthe corporate culture, and you will often see a pattern.qpriority list. Every policy or action that requires approval from abovewill be rejected.Look at your bosss prevailing attitudes in the light of the corporate cul-ture, and you will often see a pattern. This is not to say that any nega-tive attitudes on your bosss part are blameless after all, they chose towork in this culture. (But then, so did you.) Nevertheless, attitudeswhich are backed up by the organisation as a whole are much harder toshift, and you need to recognise this. If your boss does try to break awayfrom the norm, they will put themselves under great pressure, and willneed all the support they can get.Building the pictureNow you have consciously considered how your boss works, and whatmakes them tick, you have the information you need to build a strongworking relationship. All this information tells you how they likepeople to interact with them. For example: If youve established that they are a stickler for detail, youll need tomake sure you give them detailed data and progress reports. If they hate anything that smacks to them of lack of professionalism,youll need to make sure you present work neatly, turn up on timeand dont criticise the customers in front of them. If one of their weak points is a short temper, youll want to avoidwinding them up, and brush up on your skills for handling anger ortantrums. If they are motivated by status, show them you respect their senior-ity, and sell them ideas by concentrating on what a successful out-come would do for their reputation. If your boss is easily stressed by time pressure, always deliver workearly and do what you can to ease time pressure for them.U N D E R S TA N D I N G YO U R B O SS21 If your boss is poor at communicating background information, learnto ask the right questions and let them know why youre asking. Forinstance, Can you tell me why the board wants this information? Itwill help me focus my research on the things that matter most tothem. If your boss is under pressure from their own boss, they will need agreat deal of back-up and support from you to resist it. Dont simplyput equal and opposite pressure on them help them find a solutionthat keeps everyone happy.All this should give you a clear picture of why you need to understandyour boss in order to build a good relationship with them. The moreyou know about them, the better you can target your own skills andstyle to mesh snugly with theirs. And thats the key to managing yourboss.H OW TO M A N AG E YO U R B O SS22If you look around at your colleagues in your team and in neighbouringdepartments, youre bound to see that some have better relationshipswith their boss than others. And often you can see why: many peoplehave only themselves to blame. Of course, in some cases any short-comings are clearly down to a tricky boss. But even so, some peoplehandle the same boss better than others do.Now turn the spotlight on yourself. Is it possible that you are one ofthose who isnt doing as much as you could to develop the best possi-ble relationship with the boss? Very few of us create frequent majorproblems in the way we deal with our boss, but most of us cause occa-sional difficulties, or simply miss opportunities to make the relation-ship even better than it is.This isnt, of course, a deliberate act. We dont realise that we are con-tributing to the problem. The answer is to analyse our behaviour, andto see how we can adapt it to avoid problems with the boss. (Chapter 5covers the third step creating positive opportunities.)There are certain skills we need to address which are important withany boss skills which are guaranteed to make you an easier, moreeffective and more rewarding member of the team from your bossspoint of view: building your skill base improving your overall image managing your time effectively.23q2C H A P T E RAre you part of the problem orpart of the solution?Lets take each of these skills in turn so you can see where there mightbe room for improvement.Building your skill baseThe better skilled you are to do your job, the more use you will be tothe boss. It stands to reason. If you know how to enter bookings intothe system when the person who normally does it is off sick, youll beof more use than if you dont. So one of the first steps in showing theboss how dependable and useful you are, is to develop any skills whichwill make your bosss job easier. Next time someone is unexpectedly off sick, or extra help is needed, orthe team takes on a new project, your boss may be tempted to panic thattheres no one with the skills to get the job done. But not with youaround, they wont. Theyll think of you and smile with relief: they cancount on you to step into the breach.So what sort of skills should you learn? Clearly you need to learn skillswhich will directly benefit the department and your boss. So its a goodidea to learn some of your colleagues skills. This might mean muggingup on procedures, learning to use a particular piece of software, or per-haps getting a new skill under your belt such as giving presentations,writing reports or running training sessions. Or perhaps you couldH OW TO M A N AG E YO U R B O SS24No change thereCreating new skills, and finding ways to improve your relationship withyour boss, is not about transmogrifying yourself into someone youre not.We cant change our personalities overnight, and it would be futile to try.Its all about bringing our best points to the fore and learning to controlour less helpful tendencies so that we present the most effective and con-structive side of ourselves.learn a foreign language (or brush up on one) if your department hasstarted doing more overseas business.The important thing is to make sure that whatever you choose to learnis genuinely useful to your boss. So dont bother learning Spanish ifyouve already got two fluent Spanish speakers in the department andalmost no Spanish customers. Look instead for areas where under-staffing can be a problem the sort of thing which leaves everyone inthe lurch whenever Sarah goes on holiday, or Ali is off sick on the dayof a big presentation.And how are you going to acquire these extra skills? The best way toimprove or learn any of these skills is to start by talking to your boss.Tell them youve noticed that Robin is often overworked and theres noone else with the skills to take on some of the load. Or that now Mandyhas left, theres no one to provide holiday cover for Kieran. Explain thatyoud like to learn these skills, and you want their opinion would it beuseful? And whats the best way to go about it?If youre right about your bosss life being easier if you have these skills,they will be really pleased at your offer and will back you up with what-ever help you need.A R E YO U PA R T O F T H E P R O B L E M O R PA R T O F T H E S O LU T I O N?25Mind out for other peoples toesYour colleagues may get understandably edgy if you suddenly start tryingto learn their jobs. They may worry that youre trying to oust them. So bediplomatic about it. Dont give the impression you want to take over andbecome the teams star presenter or researcher or software operator.Make it clear you simply want to be able to stand in or give support whenstaffing is stretched. If one of your colleagues is particularly territorial andtouchy, it would be better to look for a new skill to learn that doesntimpinge at all on what they do.If youve misjudged and a particular skill isnt going to help, theyll putyou straight (in which case you can say, Id like to make myself moreuseful to the team; what new skill could I learn that would be help-ful?). So approaching them is a sensible way to double check thatyouve picked the right skills.Now youve picked the right skill to learn, and youve got your bossssupport, things should be easy. It will make your bosss life much easier(which is what you want) if you have already prepared an idea or twofor learning your new skills which you can present to them, asking fortheir support if you need it. For example: Ask them to enrol you on a course to learn to write press releases. Offer to stay late a few times to learn the new software, but ask themto make sure theres a terminal you can use. Ask to join in a training session thats already been scheduled, per-haps in another department. Offer to enrol on an evening course at your local college, but ask toleave 10 minutes early on a Tuesday in order to get there on time.Your boss will clearly be more impressed the more effort you are pre-pared to put into adding this new skill to your portfolio. Theres nopoint putting in extra hours if its quite unnecessary, but offering to doan evening class or to work through lunch will clearly score youbrownie points if it helps you learn the skill faster.H OW TO M A N AG E YO U R B O SS26Just one word of caution here: make sure you dontbite off too much. Dont promise more than you candeliver.qJust one word of caution here: make sure you dont bite off too much.If you tell your boss youre going to learn to speak French and then giveup before youve mastered la plume de ma tante, youll end up lookingworse in your bosss eyes than if youd never started. Dont promisemore than you can deliver.ASSESSMENT TIMEHere are some ideas for assessing the most productive skills to learn: Write down a list of your team mates and identify an area where each ofthem could use support or back-up. Look around the department and see which skills are missing from thewhole team. If anyone has left the department or is planning to consider whetherthis leaves any skills gaps.Be honest about your own abilities: Pick a skill (or a few skills) which you feel sure you are capable of acquir-ing. Make sure youll be able to practise or remember the skill until yourecalled on to do it for real. Dont offer to learn a skill which you dont have the time or self-disciplineto learn. Pick a skill which you feel motivated to learn and will enjoy.Improving your overall imageHave you noticed how some people come across as being naturally suc-cessful and positive, a real bonus to have around? While others seem toA R E YO U PA R T O F T H E P R O B L E M O R PA R T O F T H E S O LU T I O N?27be natural losers, weak personalities? In fact, some of the former groupare not more successful or useful than their colleagues, and many of thelatter category are skilled at their jobs and an asset to their team. Butits as important to come across as being an asset as it is actually to beone.The point about these two extremes is that the first type those whoappear successful and positive are the ones people want around. Andthat includes your boss. Your boss may know their team well enough torecognise the strengths of those who seem at first glance to be losers,but they would still rather have the strengths and the positive image. Soif you want to develop the best possible relationship with your boss,you need to cultivate the best possible image.Various factors go to build up the image you project: appearance confidence energy positive attitude likeableness trustworthiness.AppearanceIf you look smart and professional, people will assume you are smartand professional. This doesnt mean wearing a pinstripe suit if yourcompany dress code is informal, but it does mean making sure yourclothes are clean, fresh and as smart as anyone elses.As a general guide, dress in the same sort of way as your boss. If theydress casually, be casual yourself. If they go for a smart style, you followsuit (if youll forgive the pun). This helps to create an empathy betweenH OW TO M A N AG E YO U R B O SS28you, and encourages your boss to feel that youre their sort of person.This doesnt mean you have to follow the same fashions as them simply match their level of smartness.Body language is also key to using your appearance to project the rightimage. We cant change our appearance completely but, with practice,we can make a few simple changes which will have a significant effect: Stand up straight (not stiffly to attention, but not slouching either). Look ahead (not at the floor). Make eye contact with whoever youre talking to. Use open gestures with your arms relaxed dont use defensive,closed gestures such as crossed arms and legs. When sitting, sit well back in the chair rather than perching on theedge.If your posture and body language leaves room for improvement, prac-tise these changes in front of a mirror and see what a difference theymake. If you are aware of your body language as much as possible, andadapt it to follow these guidelines, youll find it wont be long beforethe improved version becomes natural to you.A R E YO U PA R T O F T H E P R O B L E M O R PA R T O F T H E S O LU T I O N?29Be consistentIts essential to be consistent in your image. Its no good turning up atwork looking well groomed almost every day, but turning up lookingcrumpled once every couple of weeks or so. You will simply undo all thegood work of those other days when you made the effort. Its the untypicalappearance which will be most noticeable and stick in peoples memories and that may be the day the MD turns up in the office, or a key customercalls in.ConfidenceIf you project confidence, people will assume you are capable. If youtend to say things like, Ooh, Im not sure I can do that they will doubtyour ability, even if you can actually do the thing very well. So beingconfident doesnt mean blowing your own trumpet, it simply meanssaying Yes, I can instead of I dont know if I can.This kind of confidence not only gives a better impression of your abil-ities, it also reassures your boss, or whoever youre talking to. They willfeel far happier about handing over a task to someone who says confi-dently that they can handle it, rather than someone who says theyrenot sure. Thats why your boss wants confident people around them it takes a load off their mind.If you really arent confident that you can do something, trust yourboss. They wouldnt delegate a task to you if they didnt think you coulddo it. So give a confident reply even if you want support. For example:That sounds like a challenge. So long as I get the support I need, Imsure I can do that.EnergyAre you a dynamic, impressive personality? If not, would you like to be?These are the kind of people who are great to have around, and you canbe one of them. That will make your boss feel theyve got a real asseton their team. You can give an impression of far greater energy just byincorporating a few simple techniques into your repertoire. As withimproving your posture and body language, just practise until theybecome natural: Speak clearly without mumbling. Greet people with a smile. Be ready with a firm handshake.H OW TO M A N AG E YO U R B O SS30 Sound interested in what you are saying and in what others aresaying (theres more about listening skills in Chapter 8). Dont rush around, but move and speak at an upbeat pace.Positive attitudeMany of us are natural optimists and have no problem on this score. Butsome of us find it hard to be positive and enthusiastic about everything.Were too worried that things arent that rosy, and the optimists arekidding themselves. We feel its our duty to keep everyones feet on theground.Trouble is, most people bosses included find it frustrating anddepressing being around someone who seems to be negative all thetime. You may think youre a realist, but they may see you as more of aharbinger of doom. If this problem seems intractable, its not. Its all amatter of presentation.The fact is that people like you are important. You do keep everyoneelses feet on the ground, and often you point out potential problemsno one else was addressing. So dont stop. You simply need to couch itA R E YO U PA R T O F T H E P R O B L E M O R PA R T O F T H E S O LU T I O N?31Signs of lifeHave a look around you. Youll see some people who always look full ofenergy and seem like positive powerhouses of activity. Others comeacross as weak, listless, mousy or just plain dozy. Their level of achieve-ment doesnt necessarily reflect this image, but the impression they giveseems to count for more than what they actually do. Try to identify what itis about people at the extremes of each category that gives the impressionit does. Often it may be their appearance, their tone of voice, or the waythey terms that sound positive. So instead of focusing exclusively on thenegative, present a more rounded view. If the team is discussing theproposal for a new product launch, resist the temptation to say, Itll bea disaster. Say something like, Its a great idea, and I love the sound ofthe special effects. Im just concerned that we havent got the time orresources to prepare something on this scale and really carry it off.Youve made your point, but in a positive way. Rather than a sweepingrejection of the proposal, youve made a constructive and useful contri-bution. Youve followed the three rules for making a negative pointappear positive:1. Make your remarks specific (not, It wont work but, We haventthe time and resources to prepare something on this scale andreally carry it off.)2. Always add a positive remark to counter the negativity (Its a greatidea, and I love the sound of the special effects.)3. Use mild language, rather than dismissive or negative terms (not,It wont work, or, Its a major problem, but rather, Im con-cerned, or My one worry is).LikeablenessYour boss wants people around them they like and enjoy spending timewith. A good personal relationship does wonders for your professionalrelationship the two are closely interlinked. Whats more, howeverwell you manage your boss, there will always be times when thingsdont go as planned. Your boss will be far more understanding and for-giving if they like you than if they dont.H OW TO M A N AG E YO U R B O SS32Your boss wants people around them they like andenjoy spending time with. A good personal relationshipdoes wonders for your professional relationship.qA R E YO U PA R T O F T H E P R O B L E M O R PA R T O F T H E S O LU T I O N?33There are a few basic characteristics which have a huge impact on howmuch people like you. Heres a quick checklist mark yourself out offive on each point, and be honest:Characteristic Score (1=low, 5=high)You show an interest in other peopleYou are a good listenerYou use your sense of humour, but never against your boss or your team matesYou dont gossip behind peoples backsYou arent arrogantYou dont put people down2430: Youre obviously a likeable person, whom everyone in the team gets along well with1823: You doubtless have friends in your team, but there is scope for you to become more popular withyour colleagues and your boss1217: Youll do yourself no favours in your relationship with your team mates or your boss unless youwork harder on being likeable611: Whoops. Youre not teachers pet, are you? Still, compensate yourself with a bonus mark for hon-esty, and get to work on becoming more popular with the boss.And remember, your boss isnt blind, and if you exhibit unlikeable char-acteristics towards other people it will influence their view of you. Ifyou belittle junior members of the team it will do you no favours inyour bosss eyes, even if you dont direct it at them personally.TrustworthinessYour boss will have far more respect for you, and confidence in you, ifthey know they can trust you. This means making sure you never breaka confidence and can be trusted to keep a secret. Just because the bossdidnt specifically swear you to secrecy, doesnt mean that youre nec-essarily free to start gossiping. There are times when it is clear that yourboss wants information kept private, and they will want to know thatyou can identify these times for yourself without needing it spelt outfor you.Trust is also about doing what you say you will. If your boss gives youa task to do, its important to see it through and not let them down.Once they know they can rely on you, especially when a task is urgentor very important, it will do your relationship no end of good.ASSESSMENT TIMEAnswer the following questions honestly in order to assess your personalimage and identify areas for improvement: Are you always smartly dressed and well groomed? Is your body language and posture as good as it might be? Do you rise to a challenge with confidence, or do you express doubts in yourown ability? Do you project an impression of energy? If not, what characteristics areholding you back? Do you express negative views in negative terms? Do you make broad gen-eralisations such as It wont work? How well did you score on the likeability guide? Is there any room forimprovement? Have you ever betrayed your bosss trust, even over small matters?Use the answers to these questions to draw up a list of areas where you canimprove your overall image.Managing your time effectivelyYour boss isnt going to be happy if youre in the habit of missing meet-ings or delivering work late. Even if you are on time, cutting things finedoes nothing to inspire the boss with confidence in you. If, on the otherhand, youre always on top of your workload, usually available to helpout with urgent, last-minute tasks, and you always turn up on time,H OW TO M A N AG E YO U R B O SS34your boss will see you as reliable, professional and exactly the kind ofperson they need on their team.Its all about time management. Most of us are passable at this skill:even when we feel or appear useless at it, most tasks are completed bythe deadline and were not too late very often. However, few of us areentirely without failings. Perhaps we get things done, but only aftergenerating an air of panic and frenetic activity around ourselves, orbecoming irritable and snappy as we see the deadline looming. Or per-haps were generally organised, but an unexpected delay throws us outentirely. Or we get the job done, but sometimes have to compromise onquality. Or our lack of organisation creates problems for other people,as we forget to pass on tasks or information until the last minute, orhave to be nagged to fulfil our promises.Theres almost always scope to improve your time-management skills,and doing so will make you an easier, more effective and more reward-ing team member for your boss. So what do you have to do?Clear 15 minutes a dayThe first step to controlling how you spend your time is to create 15minutes a day during which you can organise yourself. If you dont dothis, you will spend all your time running to catch up with yourself. Ifyour time management is poor, this can sound like a real Catch 22: youcant manage your time until you can spare 15 minutes a day, and youcant find 15 minutes a day until you have managed your time.Yet that, Im afraid, is the bottom line. However, the good news is thathaving cleared your 15 minutes a day, youll get on top of the organisa-tion process really fast, and find youre saving yourself far more than aquarter of an hour each day. So where will the 15 minutes come from?Here are a few suggestions:A R E YO U PA R T O F T H E P R O B L E M O R PA R T O F T H E S O LU T I O N?35 Arrive at work 15 minutes earlier each day and spend that first bit oftime getting organised. Find time on the way to or from work if you can. Do it over breakfast before you leave home (a bit impractical if youhave children, but easy if you breakfast alone). Stay a few minutes later at the office, and make it a rule that youwont leave until youve done it. If your home life allows it, allocate a few minutes each evening afteryou get home.The important thing is to keep this time sacrosanct, and dont allowanything else to encroach on it. Thats why quieter times of day suchas after everyone else has left the office tend to be the easiest to stickto.Intelligence-gatheringNow youve cleared yourself time for organising, youd better havesomething to organise. Thats the next part. You need to spend your daycollecting things to organise. Get yourself a notebook and pen, andnever go anywhere without them. Take them to meetings, to lunch,even home on the train with you. In your notebook, you need to writedown anything which crops up during the day and which requires anyaction, thought, checking up or information any time in the future. Soyoull need to jot down (any note form will do so long as you can readit back accurately):H OW TO M A N AG E YO U R B O SS36And the good newsActually, once you get into the swing of this time-management thing,youll find that 15 minutes is generally the most you need. Often five min-utes is all it takes for a process that can save you massively more time. every time you promise someone youll call them back every time anyone else undertakes to contact you every meeting, appointment or event that is arranged every meeting or event that you need to know about, even if youdont need to be there (for example, you may need to know that salesare making a decision at Fridays meeting on which products to pushthis month) every action point that occurs to you or that anyone passes on to you(this is why you need the notebook with you on the way home fromwork, especially for that moment when you suddenly think, I mustget a copy of that new book on handling software crashes when itcomes out).Keep a folder with your notebook so that if you acquire this kind ofinformation in an email or memo, or handed to you on a Post-it note,you can store it without having to copy it into your notebook. Within amatter of days youll get so into the habit of doing this that you wonteven notice the process. But you will feel fully in control everythingyou need to know is stored in that single notebook or its accompanyingfolder.By the way, trust no one. If someone says theyll call you back, write itdown anyway. Otherwise, when they forget, youll have no mechanismfor picking up the error. If you have a note that youre expecting a callback by Wednesday, you can do something about it if the call doesntmaterialise.A R E YO U PA R T O F T H E P R O B L E M O R PA R T O F T H E S O LU T I O N?37Trust no one. If someone says theyll call youback, write it down anyway.qManage your diaryYou are now ready to spend 15 minutes (ish) a day transferring all thisinformation to your diary. Well, almost ready. First you need a decentdiary, so go and get one if you dont already have one. Your diary needsto be big enough to break each day down by time, and have plenty ofroom each day for notes as well. OK, now we can start.All you need to do now is to copy across everything from your notebookand folder into your diary. So, for example: If you told someone youd call them back on Monday, jot it downunder Mondays notes. If you said youd call them specifically at 2.30on Monday, put it down in the diary section (rather than notes) at2.30. You might find it helpful to add the phone number too. If you have a leaflet in your folder about an event you need to attend,enter it in your diary under the relevant date, along with any otherinformation or phone number that goes with it. If you make an appointment to visit somewhere, put it in your diary.Under the daily notes, include directions for getting there if you needthem, and the phone number. If someone said theyd call you back by the end of the week, make anote for Friday or Monday morning to chase them if you haventheard by then. If you have, you can simply ignore the note when youcome to it.H OW TO M A N AG E YO U R B O SS38Keep it togetherThe only thing you must remember is to keep the notebook and folder withyou all the time. If you dont, youll find yourself with notes and jottings allover the place and youll be back where you started disorganised. If you made yourself an action point to get prices from a supplier, forexample, find a convenient slot in your diary for doing it and write itdown on the to-do list for that day. Obviously you will also add any meetings to the diary, and includeany special notes of anything you need to remember to take withyou.As you get used to the system, you will probably find that you entermany things directly into your diary rather than into the notebook. Butyoull still need the notebook because some of your notes will tell youto do something you need to think about the best time for and youdont always have time for this process until later.Thats your daily diary time 15 minutes should be ample each day. Ontop of this, you will also need to spend time with your diary at the startof each year, month and week. Heres what you need to do:Yearly planningThis will take around half an hour, and should be done just before thestart of each new year. Enter all the dates you already have for the yearahead: special events such as trade shows regular meetings regular events such as a monthly department lunch holidays personal time off (for anniversaries, childrens birthdays or anythingelse you want to keep free) allocate 15 minutes at the start of each month for a similar diary session.A R E YO U PA R T O F T H E P R O B L E M O R PA R T O F T H E S O LU T I O N?39Monthly planningThis is the time to schedule in blocks of time for projects which needtime set aside but arent specific timed events. For example: writing proposals or reports doing research preparing for presentations dealing with regular paperwork catching up with letter writing holding interviews (if youre a manager)and so on. Some of these may need several blocks of time set aside perhaps short ones while others may need a single day or half day.Weekly planningYou should start each week with a few blank spaces in your diary, sobefore they get filled in with appointments and meetings, spend fiveminutes (on Friday afternoon or Monday morning) allocating anyremaining tasks, such as: catching up with phone calls catching up with emailsH OW TO M A N AG E YO U R B O SS40New leafIf youre turning over a new leaf and investing in a new diary now, youllneed to do your yearly planning straight away for the rest of this year, anddo all the monthly planning for the rest of this month, along with theweekly planning for the remainder of the week. Then youre ready to startusing the diary daily. taking phone calls if your time is very busy and you often field calls,you need time to reply to them all handling miscellaneous tasks these are the ones which usuallymess up your time. You dont know what theyll be, but you knowextra tasks always crop up. So be smart and schedule time for them.An hour or two on Friday afternoons is usually good. delegating and monitoring work if youre a manager.With your yearly, monthly and weekly planning in place, you can seehow 15 minutes a day of adding ongoing tasks and information as theycrop up will give you a diary which is more like a bible. Everything youneed is in there.PrioritiseThere are lots of systems for prioritising work according to urgency andimportance. In theory they work well, but in practice if youre reallyorganising your time properly you shouldnt need them. The point isthat if you dont get through everything on your list for the day, at leastyoull have got through the tasks that matter most. However, youshould be able to see that the logical result of this process is going tobe a backlog that grows ever bigger.The real answer is to make sure that you get through all the work eachday. If you cant do this almost every day, youre taking on too muchwork or scheduling it unrealistically. If Thursday is already packed,dont add to it jobs that could just as well wait until Friday. If you neverget through your work, offload or dump some of it, with your bosssapproval if necessary.A R E YO U PA R T O F T H E P R O B L E M O R PA R T O F T H E S O LU T I O N?41The real answer is to make sure that you getthrough all the work each day.qHaving said that, however, there are occasional days when havoc breaksloose and you dont get through your to-do list for the day. In case thishappens, its worth making yourself a note warning you if anything youmark in your diary particularly needs to be done on the day indicatedno matter what else is happening. Any system that suits you is fine:mark the task with a highlighter pen, write it in red ink, or put an asterisk beside it.ASSESSMENT TIMEHow many of the following questions can you answer yes to? Do you know exactly what your key objectives are? Do you spend most of your time on your top priorities? Do you set aside a period each day to organise your time? Do you keep an up-to-date diary? Does your diary (or some equivalent system) include a daily to-do list? Do you complete every task on time, or early? Do you arrive on time for every meeting and appointment? Do you work in relative calm, without last-minute panics?If you answered no to any of these, it will have highlighted an area where youcould do more to plan and use your time more effectively.H OW TO M A N AG E YO U R B O SS42Now youve learnt the broad skills which you need in order to eliminatedifficulties with your boss, what about the specific skills that apply tothis particular boss? In Chapter 1, you identified what type of boss youhave, their strengths and weaknesses, and what stresses and motivatesthem. Now you need to do much the same for yourself, to identifywhich aspects of your character are a positive bonus, and which may beholding you back.However, in your bosss case you were making an assessment by broadobjective measures. This time, you need to assess yourself relative toyour boss. In other words, its not a matter of finding your greateststrengths or weaknesses in the job overall, but the biggest factors whenit comes to relating to your boss.What are your strengths?It may be that you consider your greatest strengths in the job to be, say,attention to detail and thoroughness. But these arent necessarily yourbest points when it comes to relating to the boss. They could be a hugebonus if your boss needs someone with an eye for detail, but with somebosses these could even be weaknesses if your boss is more interestedin the bigger picture and is irritated by people who fulfil tasks moreslowly than they would (even if you are doing them more thoroughly),such characteristics will rile them and certainly wont help your work-ing relationship.43q3C H A P T E RDeveloping specific skillsThat doesnt mean you should discard these skills they are strengthsin the broader sense, and they may well be positive points with the nextboss. The point is that this exercise entails looking for your strengthsin managing this particular boss, not looking for your overall strengths.So what you need to do is to identify the areas where your personalityor work style is a positive boon to your relationship with your boss.Here are a few possibilities to give you an idea: Youre very thick-skinned, which is a great bonus with a boss as irascible as yours. Youre patient and tolerant when your boss is weak at communicat-ing. Youre thorough in your work, and your boss hates petty mistakes. Youre creative, which your boss appreciates since they are not. Youre good at resolving people problems; your boss isnt and likesto leave you to handle such problems or advise them on how to doso. Youre very self-motivated, which is a big plus with a boss who doesnothing to motivate the team. Youre a good team-player, and your boss likes people who can workas a team. You like to concentrate on the big issues; your boss appreciates notbeing troubled with minor details. Youre excellent at number work, so your boss can gratefully handover that part of their job to you. You work well alone and use your initiative, so your boss can leaveyou to get on with tasks. Your work styles are similar in a way which helps you understandhow each other thinks. You get on well together and enjoy each others company.H OW TO M A N AG E YO U R B O SS44These are just a few possible strengths all of which relate directly tothe boss concerned to give you an idea of the kind of strengths youmust identify in yourself. The reason you need to recognise yourstrengths is so that you can capitalise on them. Once you know whatthey are you can: hone them, to make them even more relevant and beneficial to yourrelationship with the boss make sure you exercise them whenever possible look for related abilities you can develop to add more value to therelationship for example, if your boss regards you as a real assetbecause youre quick and able when it comes to computer skills, youcan make a point of learning everything useful you can about anynew software, and developing ways to use the existing softwaremore effectively.What are your weaknesses?Weve already seen how thoroughness and attention to detail, for exam-ple, can actually be weaknesses in relating to some bosses, despitebeing strengths with other bosses. So you need to examine the workingD E V E LO P I N G S P E C I F I C S K I L L S45The reason you need to recognise your strengthsis so that you can capitalise on them. qHow many?Try to identify at least two or three strengths Im sure you have at leastthat many. But if half a dozen spring to mind, list all of them. Youre look-ing for strengths which you use fairly frequently, rather than ones whichonly rarely come into play.relationship and see where your weaknesses lie with this particularboss. Again, here are a few ideas to get you started: You have a tendency to lose your rag with your boss when they rileyou which they frequently do. Youre inclined to sulk when your boss gives you a hard time. You have little patience with your boss when they act more slowlythan youd like and it shows. Youre easily influenced by your emotions when your boss givesyou a hard time or things are going badly, your standard of workdrops noticeably. You work fast, but not always as thoroughly as your boss would like. You work well alone, but youre not so good at working alongsideothers. You sometimes upset people by being blunt and speaking your mind your boss often has to pick up the pieces. You tend to ask your boss for frequent guidance or approval, whenthey have other things to concentrate on and would prefer you toleave them alone. Youre very verbose, and your boss would rather you kept your ques-tions and contributions briefer. Youre very untidy and, although you feel you work better that way,your boss feels otherwise. You are good at most of your job, but youve never really got the hangof keeping on top of the paperwork. Your boss considers orderlypaperwork essential. You dont always refer decisions which you consider minor to yourboss.H OW TO M A N AG E YO U R B O SS46Once youve worked out where your natural behaviour or style areinhibiting a good relationship with your boss, you can take steps toimprove things: Work on toning down or even removing those characteristics whichget in the way of your working relationship (youll find lots of tipslater in this book to help you). Find other ways to achieve the same results without riling the boss.For example, suppose they dont like the way you double-check allthe important figures because they think it takes too long. You, onthe other hand, consider it vital (and youre probably right). Perhapsyou could do the figurework or at least the checking when theyreout of the office.What motivates you?Its helpful to identify what motivates you because if you feel demor-alised and demotivated its likely that your boss is failing to provideD E V E LO P I N G S P E C I F I C S K I L L S47Life isnt fairYoull notice from the suggestions of possible weaknesses that some ofthem are only a response to provocative or unreasonable behaviour fromthe boss. If they didnt start it, you wouldnt have any cause to show yourweakness. This may be true, but the exercise isnt about allocating blame,its about improving your relationship with your boss. Theyre hardly likelyto change, so if you want things to get better, youre going to have to be theone to make the changes, fair or not.If you feel demoralised its likely that your bossis failing to provide whatever it is that you needto feel enthused and positive.qH OW TO M A N AG E YO U R B O SS48whatever it is that you need to feel enthused and positive. If you knowwhat you need, you can do something about it, such as: talk to your boss and explain what you need find some way to generate the motivating factor yourself find some other motivating factor to drive you. Most of us are moti-vated by more than one thing, even if we have a prime motivator. Ifyour main motivator is money, for example, but you cant extract apay rise from your boss, perhaps you can concentrate on, say, themotivation of competing with colleagues or with your own trackrecord.So what motivates you? Opposite is a list of common motivating fac-tors. In the middle column, mark down how available this form of moti-vation is in your job on a scale of 15. So if you are extremely well paid,score 5 next to money in the middle column. In the right-hand columnaward a mark from 15 according to how motivated you are by this par-ticular factor. So if money isnt what motivates you in the least, score 1in the right-hand column.Obviously, the ideal job will give you an exact match between themiddle and right-hand columns. Since almost no job is ideal, this isntlikely to happen, but its not unrealistic to hope for an approximatematch. What you really want to identify are any factors where the real-ity of the job differs significantly from your own personal motivations.These are the areas where you may be feeling dissatisfied and need totake action along the lines we have just looked at.This exercise isnt going to tell you anything new and earth-shatteringabout yourself. The idea is to bring consciously to the fore any motiva-tional problems which you have not addressed before, so that you cando something about them.D E V E LO P I N G S P E C I F I C S K I L L S49Motivating factor Reality of the job Personal motivator(15) (15)MoneyChallengeFreedomStatusPraiseThanksResponsibilityBeing in controlConvivial working atmosphereRelaxed atmosphereSense of orderCompetitionWhat stresses you?Again, if you identify the things that stress you most at work, you canconsciously take action to minimise them. All jobs entail stress, andsome entail a good deal, but you still want to reduce the stress as far aspossible. Im not talking here about positive pressure: many of uschoose the jobs we do because we thoroughly enjoy working understringent and challenging pressure, and are more stressed by boredomthan by a tough deadline. Pressure becomes stress when it stops beingfun and starts to generate negative emotions such as worry, frustrationor anger.H OW TO M A N AG E YO U R B O SS50Your boss cannot control every factor which stresses you, but they dohave at least some power over many of them. Again, once you haveidentified these you can do something about them, for example: talk to your boss and explain the problem find your own ways to alleviate the stress find ways to deal with the stress, such as going for a run atlunchtime, talking it through with a friend, or even writing I hate myboss 20 times on a piece of paper (but dont ever let them find it).Heres an exercise similar to the motivation one. Again, theres a list ofstress factors, followed by two columns. In the middle one, mark on ascale of 15 how big a factor this is in your job. In the right-handcolumn score 15 according to how stressful you personally find thisfactor.Motivating factor Reality of the job Personal motivator(15) (15)Time pressureDifficult problemsDifficult people (boss included)Poor communicationPressure from the bossNoiseLack of recognitionFailureWorking aloneNegativity from boss and colleaguesThe danger signals, of course, are those factors which gain high scoresin both columns. Youll find that simply analysing what stresses you isa big help in tackling it. Youll also find more detailed advice in Chap-ter 4 on certain types of boss-related stress, such as work overload, andhaving more than one boss.ASSESSMENT TIMEAnswer the following questions, but remember to keep the answers relevantto your boss. So you need to identify, for example, what your greatest strengthsare in managing your particular boss: What are your two or three greatest strengths? What are your two or three greatest weaknesses? What motivates you most? What stresses you most?D E V E LO P I N G S P E C I F I C S K I L L S51There are plenty of times for some people when stress is directly causedby a tricky boss. I hope this isnt the case for you but, if it is, there areplenty of other chapters in this book to help you. This chapter is aboutcoping with the kind of stress that even the most amiable and co-oper-ative boss sometimes generates as do trickier bosses too. Its not per-sonality stuff, its simply the stresses that come with work.However, that doesnt necessarily mean you have to put up with it.There are still ways of managing your boss when they create this kindof difficulty that will keep your stress levels down without disappoint-ing your boss. The biggest areas of work stress that your boss con-tributes to are likely to be: interruptions work overload more than one bossso thats what well look at in this chapter.InterruptionsOf course, interruptions are actually a big problem at busy times nomatter who they come from. But interruptions from the boss are worsethan most. They tend to assume that your time is theirs, so they have aright to interrupt you. And, while polite techniques are always the bestwith anyone, diplomacy is especially important with the boss.53q4C H A P T E RWork stress and how your bosscan add to itIt is infuriating if youre concentrating hard on something, in themiddle of a train of thought, and your boss ambles in and starts talkingabout something that could easily have waited. Or perhaps they inter-rupt you just as havoc has broken out and youre frantically trying tomeet a deadline thats just been pushed forward. How do you deal withit? Here are some techniques to use: At the risk of sounding obvious, one of the most effective is to say,as your boss appears in the doorway, Im very busy on those figuresyou asked me for. Can this wait? Ill let you know as soon as Im fin-ished. It wont always work, but its the most honest and often thebest way. After all, your boss has a vested interest in you doing thebest job you can in the most effective way. Aim to visit your boss in their office rather than have them visit you.Its much easier to time the visit to suit you even if it only gives youtime to get to a good stopping point in the next couple of minutes and you can keep the interruption much shorter. Once the boss hastheir feet under your desk it may be hard to shift them. Obviouslyyou cant predict a lot of interruptions, but you can predict a fair pro-portion of them. Maybe you know your boss is planning to speak toyou some time today about the agenda for next Mondays meeting.In that case, visit them before they visit you. Or perhaps they call youup and say, Got a few minutes? Good. Ill just pop down the corri-dor and see you. In this case, reply, Dont bother, Ill come and seeyou. I have to go that way anyway. If you have a task lined up which requires your undiverted concen-tration, try to schedule it when you know theyll be out of the office.If they tend to phone you when theyre out, pick a time you knowtheyll be in a meeting. Even if theyre in the building, you can stillschedule these tasks for times when theyre too busy to interruptyou.H OW TO M A N AG E YO U R B O SS54 If you know you need an uninterrupted spell, and you know yourboss is likely to interrupt, clear it with them before you start. Saysomething like, Id like to crack on with the report this afternoon,but I really need to be able to concentrate without interruptions. Isanything likely to crop up in the next few hours, or would this be agood time to do it? Or you might ask them, Could I use the meet-ing room to work so that I can avoid interruptions? Under cover ofasking a question, youre actually making it clear you dont want tobe disturbed. You could even ask, Is there anything you need me forbefore I get stuck into the report? If you rarely shut the door to your office, simply doing so will sendout a signal to everyone that you dont want to be disturbed. Oftenthis works on the boss too. Divert your phone calls or switch on your voicemail to prevent yourboss interrupting you by phone. If your boss is frequently inclined to visit and outstay their welcome,get rid of any extra chairs in your office. Or cover them with files. IfWO R K S T R E SS A N D H OW YO U R B O SS CA N A D D TO I T55Do-as-you-would-be-done-byTreat your boss as youd like them to treat you. It sends out a subliminalsignal which wont cure a hardened interrupter on its own, but it will helpto set an example. So dont interrupt your boss if you can help it saveseveral questions or points up for a single interruption; and always ask ifthis is a good time before launching into your interruption. At the veryleast, it gives you the moral high ground. Youre not expecting anything ofthem that you dont already do yourself.If you know you need an uninterrupted spell,and you know your boss is likely to interrupt,clear it with them before you start.qtheres nowhere to sit and get comfortable, theyll leave muchsooner. When your boss interrupts you, be as brief as you can with themwithout being rude. If you sit and chat to them for 10 minutes everytime they interrupt, they can hardly be blamed for not realising youneeded to get on with your work. So be brisk and businesslike with-out being brusque, and theyll soon get the point.Work overloadThe other interruption problem you can encounter with bosses, and aslightly trickier one, is when they interrupt you to give you additionalwork. A boss who likes to deposit more work on your desk withoutgiving you time to complete the current load can be a major cause ofstress.Suppose youre busy working on a major proposal you have to have fin-ished by Friday afternoon. Its a tight deadline as it is, given that youstill have to keep on top of the routine work, phone calls and so on aswell. Unexpectedly, your boss arrives and tells you that they want youto spend most of tomorrow attending a meeting on their behalf; its anhours travel each way and the meeting is scheduled to last all after-H OW TO M A N AG E YO U R B O SS56Everything in moderationAll these deterrent techniques work best if you use them in moderation. Ifyour door is always shut and your phone always diverted, your boss (alongwith everyone else) will have little choice but to interrupt if they want tospeak to you. But if they know that you only occasionally use these tech-niques when you genuinely need to, they are far more likely to respectthem.noon. Theres no way you can complete the proposal by Friday if youtake tomorrow out.So what do you do? Many of us tend simply to take on the extra workwithout complaining for fear of angering or disappointing the boss. Inorder to complete the proposal that means working on it until late atnight for the rest of the week. Stressful? You bet.Another option many people go for is to take on the extra load withoutputting up much of a fight, and then deliver the proposal late. When theboss complains, they respond by pointing out that they lost a day goingto that meeting last Wednesday. The boss is irritated by this, since theyhad no intimation that this would delay delivering the proposal.What are you supposed to do? The answer is to point out the problemto your boss, and make them take responsibility for it. Start by saying,I can go to the meeting tomorrow, but it will mean the proposal wontbe finished until Monday. Is that all right with you?With luck, your boss will agree to this. But a lot of bosses wont. Theymake unhelpful and unconstructive comments such as, No, I need theproposal by Friday. Im sure youll manage it. Dont stand for this. YouWO R K S T R E SS A N D H OW YO U R B O SS CA N A D D TO I T57Just dont make a habit of itIf your boss almost never dumps last-minute work on you, and only doesso in an emergency, it may well be better to accept it. If it means workinglate an average of, say, an evening every month or two, its probably worthit to cement the relationship with your boss (assuming you dont have per-sonal commitments that make it impossible). Make sure your boss knowsthat youre putting yourself out, or therell be no brownie points in it foryou. Dont try to make them feel guilty, just let them know: Itll meanworking late for a couple of nights. Yes, OK, I can do that.need to be assertive (more on this in Chapter 7). If it cant be done,make it clear: Im scheduled to work on this proposal from now rightthrough until Friday. If I take a day out, that will add another day to myschedule. I shant be able to deliver until Monday.If you still meet with an unhelpful, See what you can do or I have tohave the proposal on Friday, stand your ground. And ask your bosshow it can be done: Can you suggest how I can complete the proposalby Friday if Im not here tomorrow? If your boss is inclined to do thisto you frequently, you have to be assertive and stick to your guns. If itcant be done, keep telling them so politely but firmly until they get themessage.Dont settle for See what you can do either. It means the boss hasntaccepted what youre saying, and will feel free to berate you when theydont get the proposal on Friday. Theyve never actually said its OK todeliver a day later. The best response to See what you can do is, Ialready know what I can do. I can only go to tomorrows meeting if Ideliver the proposal on Monday.Some bosses are very unorganised and frequently dump work on you atthe last minute, simply because they forgot to give it to you in goodtime. This is very selfish behaviour, obviously, but more to the point itis extremely stressful working for this kind of boss. You simply have tobe firm with them for your own sanity. If the technique outlined heredoesnt stop them trying it on, use the feedback technique explained inChapter 9.H OW TO M A N AG E YO U R B O SS58Some bosses are very unorganised and frequentlydump work on you at the last minute.qMore than one bossHeres a scenario that will make your heart sink if ever youve experi-enced it. If you have to deal with it now, chances are you find it a majorsource of stress, at least sometimes and quite possibly almost all thetime two bosses (more if fate really has it in for you), each of whomexpects you to be available exclusively for them whenever they needyou to be.Get them talkingThe first step to handling multiple bosses is to get them talking to eachother. Explain that you dont want to let either (or any) of them down,and that the best way to achieve this is for them to agree between themwhat your priorities should be. So if you know that one of them has abig project coming up, or another is going to be short-staffed until theyfill that vacancy, anticipate trouble and ask them to meet with theother(s) in advance to discuss how much of your time should be allo-cated to each of them. Ideally, arrange to be at the meeting too if youcan.WO R K S T R E SS A N D H OW YO U R B O SS CA N A D D TO I T59Play fairDont be tempted to play your bosses off against each other, or to misleadthem about each others workload. Sooner or later they will realise whatyou are doing, and will come to regard you as manipulative; they will stoptrusting you. This not only damages your relationship seriously, but youllalso find that they dont believe you when you tell them for real that theirdemands are impossible to meet. And youll have only yourself to blame.Anticipate troubleThe next stage is to anticipate shorter-term trouble yourself. If one ofyour bosses gives you a time-consuming task to do, ask them straightaway to clear it with the others, or do so yourself. As soon as you cansee your time is about to be filled without gaps for the next few days,make sure everyone is aware of the situation. That way, when you tellthe second boss that your schedule has just been filled, they can say, forexample, Ah. Im going to need you to chase up those missing ordersfor me tomorrow morning. Ill talk to Janet now and see if she can spareyou for half a day.This also has the advantage of keeping your bosses regularly remindedthat they are not the only person you work for. Even on those occasionswhen they dont have a problem with your workload being filled byanother boss, theyll still be reminded that they cant ever take youravailability for granted.Last-minute hiccupsKeeping your bosses in touch with each other and anticipating troublewill make a big difference. But there will still be times when one of yourbosses tries to insist that you carry out a task that you simply donthave time for. Suppose they demand that you chase up the missingorders today, but that would mean you wouldnt get your other bosssresearch done by the time you agreed.The answer here is to insist that they sort it out among themselves.Again, you need to use all your assertiveness skills (which youll haveacquired by the end of Chapter 7) to make sure that: they do not expect you to take responsibility for deciding whosework gets finished late they dont blame you for the situation theyve got themselves into they dont use you as a go-between.H OW TO M A N AG E YO U R B O SS60As a default setting, explain that you have to operate on a first come,first served basis. The work youve already agreed to takes priority.Youre happy to change this if everyone agrees to the change, but youneed this boss to go away, clear any changes to your priorities with yourother boss, and then let you know. Until youre told that they have col-lectively agreed a change, youll carry on as planned.As with the boss who tries to give you too much work, you have to befirm here. It is not your responsibility to make their decisions for themabout priorities. So if they tell you that their work is desperately urgentand they cant get hold of your other boss, thats their problem. Bepolite but firm: Im sorry, but I cant let Paul down. If you cant contacthim then Im afraid Ill have to do his work first as I agreed with him.Keep repeating it until they get the message. And you can point out thatyoud do the same for them if the situation were reversed. Make surethat you would, too dont ever show favouritism in your professionalrelationships with your bosses.WO R K S T R E SS A N D H OW YO U R B O SS CA N A D D TO I T61Get confirmationUnless you trust your bosses absolutely, make sure that the other bossreally has agreed to change your priorities. The last thing you want isJanet saying, Ive spoken to Paul, and he says he can wait until Thursdayfor you to chase the orders only to have Paul demand to know why ithasnt been done on Wednesday. When you tell him what Janet said heinsists he said no such thing, and blames you for changing your prioritieswithout consulting him. So unless you trust her absolutely, tell Janet toget Paul to let you know he can phone or email you if hes out of the office that its OK to give priority to her work.You may be wondering what happens when one ofyour bosses is senior enough to overrule the other.qYou may be wondering and you will be if this applies to you whathappens when one of your bosses is senior enough to overrule theother. When Janet says, I dont care what Paul says Im overrulinghim. Get this urgent research done first and then chase his orders whenyouve finished this, what do you do?The answer is still the same: its not your responsibility to sort out theirproblems. If Janet is authorised to overrule Paul, youd better do as shetells you. Then get in touch with Paul and tell him the situation. Be firmif necessary and make it clear that if hes not happy you may sympathisebut theres nothing you can do. If he wants to sort it out, hell have totalk to Janet. If he asks you to talk to her, refuse politely: No, the onlyway to sort it out is for you to talk to her directly. Ill just end up as ago-between and nothing will get resolved. If you want her to change hermind, youll have to talk to her.If you are consistently assertive with your bosses when problems cropup, and you refuse to get drawn into making decisions for them oracting as a go-between, theyll soon learn to stop asking you to take onresponsibility for prioritising between them. They will have to beunited in the instructions, and the changes, that they give you. Andyour stress levels will drop wonderfully and deservedly as a result.H OW TO M A N AG E YO U R B O SS62Weve tackled the business of eliminating the negative aspects of yourrelationship with your boss. That goes a long way towards managingthem well. But you can do more, and youll need to for a really top rela-tionship with them. Thats what this chapter is all about: the extra dis-tance you can go to capitalise on the good work youve done so far, andcreate a relationship your colleagues will envy and your boss will treas-ure.Youll find here the top 10 dos and top 10 donts for creating a truly ter-rific working relationship with your boss. These are all tips which willearn you extra brownie points. Theyre not about crawling or suckingup to the boss simply working in a way which will make their lifeeasier and more pleasant. And it will all be down to you.Do1 be popularThis doesnt mean you have to be a creep, nor even that you shouldnever be tough sometimes thats necessary. The point is that youshould always be polite and courteous to everyone you encounter, andshow appreciation when others are helpful to you; if you do this you arebound to be popular and well liked.Your boss will notice the way you treat other people, and will be farmore impressed if you are always pleasant to everyone than if you arerude or offhand with people who are below you on the ladder. You needto be courteous with colleagues, customers and other contacts. Your63q5C H A P T E RCreate the perfect relationshipwith your bossbosss life will be a whole lot easier if other people are happy to dealwith you and do business with you.Being popular to do business with is not only a matter of being civil tothe people you deal with. It also means giving them good service. Sowhoever youre dealing with, customers or junior colleagues from otherdepartments, follow a code of practice: Always reply to messages promptly. Always return phone calls when you say you will. Always meet any commitments you make (so dont make any youwont be able to meet).These simple practices are very important because they send a messageto the person concerned that you take them seriously. If you dont replyto someones messages, call them when you say you will, or fulfil yourcommitments to them, you are in effect telling them theyre not worththe bother. Earn yourself a reputation for being popular, considerateand polite, and your boss will feel confident in asking you to deal withother people.2 be willing to do a little extraAny boss is grateful to have someone on the team who is happy to putthemselves out from time to time. Even if home commitments meanyou can never work overtime, it doesnt mean you cant show willing inother ways during normal hours.Suppose theres a bug going round and youre short-staffed. Someoneis needed to provide emergency cover on the sales desk for the morn-ing, or to sit on reception over lunch. If you volunteer, it shows the bossyoure enthusiastic about the job and that you want to make otherpeoples lives a little easier (including theirs).There are plenty of opportunities to give a little more than your jobdescription commits you to, from helping out another department toH OW TO M A N AG E YO U R B O SS64agreeing to write an article for the next issue of the company news-letter. Apart from the helpfulness of actually doing the task, being awilling volunteer also saves your boss the time and stress of having tonag the team into helping.3 identify with the organisationIf youre a true corporate player, you will be rooting for the organisationand enjoy its successes. When things are going well in the company, thedivision or the department, youll be cheering along as part of the team.Your boss will be pleased to see that you feel involved and loyal to theorganisation.The alternative is to regard the organisation as a separate entity, asmany people do. They refer to the company as them rather than us,and treat its successes as though they had happened to an organisationunconnected with them. If you do this you effectively indicate to yourboss that you dont feel any loyalty to the organisation, and that youdont care about it. Since your job is ultimately to bring the greatestpossible benefit to the organisation, its hard to see quite how youll bemotivated to do this when you feel no attachment to it.So make sure your boss can see that you are part of the family, and thatyou recognise that what is good for the organisation is good for you too.C R E AT E T H E P E R F E CT R E L AT I O N S H I P W I T H YO U R B O SS65Us and themSome organisations have an us and them culture, in which mostemployees regard senior management as being apart from them, andsometimes speak of them disparagingly or even contemptuously. As ageneral rule, it is the fault of senior management if this kind of culture isallowed to thrive. Nevertheless, if you work in this kind of company you canstill make yourself the exception rather than the rule. It will make yourbosss job easier, and will give the impression that you really belong.4 take criticism wellAny reasonable boss will criticise you only when they believe its justi-fied. More often than not, theyre probably right. Many people reactvery defensively to being criticised and try to justify their actions. Someeven get angry or upset. These reactions make it hard for the boss toencourage someone to grow and learn from their mistakes, and makethem dread having to give criticism to such people even though theyknow its their job to do so.How much more pleasant the bosss job would be if their constructivecriticism were met by a mature and relaxed response. If you can providethis, youll make yourself very popular. What you need to do is: admit any mistakes or shortcomings. Not only is this a sign ofstrength, but it also reassures the boss that you are fully aware ofwhere youve gone wrong show your boss appreciation for bringing your mistake to your atten-tion. You can say something like, Thanks for pointing that out tome. Ive learnt something useful, and Ill be able to do better nexttime.Your boss will be relieved and impressed by your maturity and yourstrength of character in being able to handle criticism so well.5 write competentlyWe cant all write brilliantly, but we should all be able to write compe-tently. A poor writing style will show up every time you write an emailor memo, let alone a report or proposal or a longer document. To thosewho cannot write or spell this may be acceptable, but if your boss andother superiors can write competently, they will be disappointed in you.They will be wary of showing anything youve written to other peoplebecause it will reflect badly on the department and the organisation.H OW TO M A N AG E YO U R B O SS66So if your writing isnt up to scratch, you need to brush up on it. Learnhow to write better by going to evening classes, reading books on howto write, or getting a friend or colleague to coach you. In the meantime,here are a few pointers to improving your writing style: Dont try to impress your readers with long words and jargon, orcleverly constructed sentences. You will only come across aspompous, and youre more likely to make mistakes. Aim for simplebut clear writing, and short sentences. Not only does this read better,its also far easier to do if writing isnt your strong point. Good layout is important as well as spelling, grammar and punctua-tion. You will give an instant good impression if any document, froma letter to a report, is well laid out and looks professional. Dontcram each page full of text, but leave comfortable margins and spacearound headings. For longer documents, use plenty of subheadings, bullet pointedlists and short paragraphs (they should be wider on the page thanthey are deep) to make the material look interesting and approach-able. If youve written an important document, get someone whose writ-ing, spelling and grammar are good to check it through for you. Dont rely on computer spellcheckers. Theyre great for a first sweepthrough a piece of writing, but they miss a great deal of mistakes.They will tell you only if you write something that isnt a word. Butmany spelling mistakes result in genuine words that simply arentthe right ones. For example, if you miss the final f from off thecomputer will see a real word, of , and not correct it. So by all meansC R E AT E T H E P E R F E CT R E L AT I O N S H I P W I T H YO U R B O SS67Dont rely on computer spellcheckers. Theyregreat for a first sweep through a piece ofwriting, but they miss a great deal of mistakes.quse a spellchecker for an initial round of corrections, but checkthrough the piece yourself, or get someone else to do it.6 be open-mindedOrganisations can grow only by changing. Paradoxically, change is aconstant feature of most successful companies. So the job of manage-ment including that of your boss means spending a lot of time driv-ing through change. One of the most frustrating things for bosses isfinding that their team members resist the kind of changes they needto promote. Team members who are open to change and happy toembrace it are therefore highly popular with their bosses. Whats more,if you can welcome change, it marks you out as being managementmaterial compared with those who instinctively resist it.Being open to change doesnt simply mean agreeing to go along with it,although thats a good start. If you really want to be seen as an open-minded member of the team, you can actively promote change, suggestnew ideas and help to find ways to make any necessary changes workwell. That way, youre not simply cheering from the sidelines; youre inthe thick of the change game.H OW TO M A N AG E YO U R B O SS68Moving up the ladderMany people get key promotions as a result of reports theyve written,partly because reports good ones at least tend to be circulated aroundthe higher echelons of the organisation so they get you noticed. This is onereason why your writing style is so important. You wouldnt want to pro-duce a report with brilliant content but which failed to impress as it shouldbecause it was so poorly written.7 accompany every problem with a solutionSome people just complain, complain, complain. They cant deliver thisorder on time because theres always a bottleneck in despatch. Theydont see how this idea can work because itll cost too much. They dontwant to invite this client for a meeting because theres nowhere suit-able in the building to meet.If youre seen as this kind of persistent complainer, youll frustrate yourboss and gain a reputation for being negative and unconstructive. In away it can seem unfair: maybe there is always a bottleneck in despatch.Or the idea on the table is too costly. Or there isnt a presentable meet-ing room. So what are you supposed to do? Keep quiet about it and letthe problems continue?Of course not. All you have to do is to come up with a solution. Not asarcastic, obviously flawed one (Ill just get on the plane to Bahrain anddeliver it myself, shall I, since despatch cant seem to get it there?). Youneed to find a solution that is better than the present option, even if itisnt perfect. For example: Post the urgent package first-class yourself, and then offer to workwith despatch to propose a solution to their bottleneck problems. Suggest ways in which the costly idea could be modified to bring thecosts down, or ways in which the money could be found to financeit. Explain the problem with not having somewhere suitable to see yourclient, and ask to take them out for a lunch meeting. Then recom-mend a feasible way to turn one of the offices into an occasionalmeeting room that could be smart and presentable.By doing this you are drawing your bosss attention to exactly the sameproblem, but youre doing it in a way that makes you look like a fixer, aproblem-solver, a solutions-person. In other words, just the kind ofC R E AT E T H E P E R F E CT R E L AT I O N S H I P W I T H YO U R B O SS69person your boss wants at their right hand. So the rule is simple: everytime you bring a problem or complaint to your bosss attention, coupleit with a workable solution.8 praise but dont flatterWhats the difference between praise and flattery? If you are sincere,genuine and measured in your remarks, you are praising. If you areinsincere or excessive in your praise, it becomes empty flattery.Your boss needs praise just as much as you do. Perhaps they get it fromtheir boss, perhaps they dont; either way their boss isnt in such closeproximity to them as you are, so theyre bound to miss out on a lot ofpraise for what they do. However, you can fill in the gaps, by makingsure that you give your boss praise when its due.You want to be certain that you come across as being genuine and nota creep. Apart from anything else, once your praise turns to empty flat-tery (or appears to), it ceases to be worth anything to your boss. Tomake sure this doesnt happen: praise your boss only when you genuinely mean it dont go over the top. A simple, I liked the way you handled that orHmm. Impressed! is often sufficientH OW TO M A N AG E YO U R B O SS70Add to the funIf you get into the habit of looking for solutions rather than presentingproblems to others and expecting them to solve them, youll soon find thatyour whole outlook on work becomes more positive, and you start to seedifficulties as challenges rather than problems. You may well find thischange of emphasis means that you enjoy work far more, and find it moremotivating than before. save the really strong praise for those big successes that come onlyoccasionally clinching a major contract or solving a serious prob-lem dont just focus on the boss if their achievement is shared withanyone else distribute your praise to everyone involved.9 be loyalWeve already touched on loyalty to the organisation, which is certainlyimportant. But of course you also need to show loyalty to your boss per-sonally, not only in their presence but also when theyre not there infront of the team, other colleagues, senior management, customers andsuppliers. In other words, loyalty is a permanent thing. You cant pickit up sometimes and drop it at others.On a personal level, loyalty to the boss means no gossiping about thembehind their back, on personal or professional topics. Sometimes theremay be a genuine need to discuss the boss with your immediate col-leagues, but make sure you say nothing that is unfair, unjustified orirrelevant to the discussion. In particular, never give away any confi-dence about the boss no matter what. And your boss shouldnt have totell you that something is confidential. Suppose they confided in youonce that their marriage was shaky; this kind of information shouldautomatically be treated as confidential. Even if a colleague tells youthat the boss told them too, that still doesnt entitle you to divulge anydetails which may have been given to you alone.Loyalty to your boss means not only resisting gossip and criticism, butalso actively backing them up. Some bosses dont make this easy foryou; nevertheless, if one of your bosss fellow managers criticises theboss in front of you, you need to stand up for them. Remember, theother manager may disagree with you, but privately theyll be thinking,I hope my team members would stick up for me like that.C R E AT E T H E P E R F E CT R E L AT I O N S H I P W I T H YO U R B O SS71Another aspect of loyalty is backing the boss up in front of them whentheyre being attacked by others. Obviously in the line of amicable dis-cussion of, say, a new idea, you should feel free to express your personalopinion (unless your boss asks you to do otherwise). But if things turnunpleasant or personal, or other people are criticising your bosss pastactions, you need to give them all your support. If you privately sharesome of the other peoples views you can say so privately to your bosslater if you wish. But in public, showing loyalty is more important thanvoicing your personal opinion.10 under-promise and over-deliverThis is a great rule for dealing with everyone, and especially bosses. Notonly does it prevent you disappointing people by letting them down, itgoes further and gives you the chance actively to impress the boss andanyone else you apply it with.The principle is very simple. You promise less than you feel you shouldbe able to manage. So if your boss asks you to complete a task by Fridayand you reckon you can do it by Wednesday, you keep quiet about yourown assessment and you simply agree to Friday. Then, when all goes toplan, youre done by Wednesday and you deliver more than you prom-H OW TO M A N AG E YO U R B O SS72Careless talkAs a rule of thumb, before you say anything about your boss ask yourselfhow you would feel if it got back to them. If youre making a genuine, rel-evant and fair criticism in front of friends, you should be able to justify iteasily to the boss if ever you had to. But if you feel uncomfortable at thethought of having to justify remarks made out of place either unfair com-ments, or fair but made to the wrong people then bite your tongue.ised the tasks done and its two days early. Whats more, if your worldhappens to collapse around your ears earlier in the week, youve builtin two days leeway and you should still complete the task on time byFriday.This approach cant fail to impress. Often youll be asked to say whenyou complete a task. Never give the earliest time you think you canmanage you can only disappoint if things go wrong and youre late.Always give the latest you feel is acceptable and that your boss willagree to. Then your worst scenario is that you still meet the deadline.Very often were talking about shorter timescales. Tell the boss you canget something done in an hour when you know it should take only halfan hour. Tell them youll get back to them with figures after lunch whenyou hope you should have them ready by mid-morning. Youre just con-stantly setting yourself up to impress.This works with things other than deadlines; it also applies to stan-dards. For example, you might tell the boss you can get the figures forthis year by the end of the day, but you wont have the past three yearsfigures until tomorrow. Privately you reckon you should have them allby 5 oclock, but youre building in some leeway, and the boss will bedelighted if your private view is right and youve got the whole lot byclose of play today.Or you might tell your boss that when you negotiate the upcoming dealwith one of your suppliers, you reckon you can get the discount youreafter, but that quality guarantees may not improve. Privately, yourehoping to get an increase in quality guarantees too.C R E AT E T H E P E R F E CT R E L AT I O N S H I P W I T H YO U R B O SS73Never give the earliest time you think you canmanage you can only disappoint if things gowrong and youre late.qDont1 splash out on expensesNobody expects you to forego your business expenses, but the way thatyou use your expense account says a lot about you. If you spend themost you can get away with, always taking customers out for expensivemeals, or staying at the best hotels, the implication is that: you are extravagant and dont know the value of money you can barely be trusted with a budget youre happy to fleece the company you dont care about your bosss budget constraints.None of these says a lot for you as an employee. If, on the other hand,youre sensible with your expenses and can easily justify everything youspend, youll look reliable, trustworthy and loyal. So dont book intothe grottiest hotel, or take your customers for lunch at the local greasyspoon caf, but show moderation and your boss will notice and appre-ciate it.2 badmouth your ex-bossWhen you speak critically of an ex-boss, what do you suppose yourpresent boss thinks? Do you imagine they feel sorry for you working forH OW TO M A N AG E YO U R B O SS74Risking your reputationThe closer you come to overspending your expense account, the greaterdanger there is that your boss will start to question why youre spendingso much. Theres an increasing danger they will suspect that you may befiddling some claims. Even if they cant prove it (very possibly becauseyoure not doing it) they will be left with lingering doubts about your honesty.such a difficult manager, and resolve to make your life more pleasant infuture? No, they dont. Heres what they actually think: There are two sides to every story. I wonder what really happened? Is this what theyll be saying about me once I become their ex-boss? What a negative attitude. If they havent got anything good to say,they shouldnt say anything at all.The fact is that all your comments about your ex-boss may be entirelyjustified understated even but thats not the impression youll giveto your present boss. Every impression you give to them is a poor one,so dont badmouth the ex-boss, whether theyre from your presentorganisation or a different one.The same goes for your former company. Badmouthing the last organi-sation you worked for (or any others) shows disloyalty and makes yourboss wonder what youll be saying about your present company in a fewyears time.3 complain about menial tasksFrom time to time, we all need to do tasks outside our normal routinewhich some might consider beneath them. Whether the boss asks youto fetch extra chairs, cover on reception at lunchtime or stuff envelopes,you need to show that youre happy to perform these tasks.Your boss wouldnt be asking you to do these things unless there werea good reason. Maybe theres some kind of crisis underway, or perhapsyoure seriously short-staffed. If you say no to doing them, you give theimpression of being arrogant and full of your own importance. Moreimportantly, however, you also show that youve missed the point.Your boss is looking at the bigger picture: the immediate priority issimply to get the chairs moved before the customers arrive. Who actually does the job is secondary. If you wont co-operate, youreC R E AT E T H E P E R F E CT R E L AT I O N S H I P W I T H YO U R B O SS75demonstrating that you arent capable of seeing where the teams pri-orities lie, but can see only your own narrow role. If, however, you muckin cheerfully, you show the boss that you are a real team player who,like them, has an eye on the bigger issue.4 bear grudgesYou cannot work effectively as part of a team if you sulk when youreput out, or if you bear grudges. Your boss will quickly become frus-trated with anyone who upsets the teams balance and morale by creat-ing an atmosphere or allowing disagreements to fester.If you are unhappy with your boss, a team mate or any close workingcolleague, either address the problem head-on (you can use the feed-back techniques in Chapter 9) or forget about it. But whatever you do,dont bear a grudge.5 go over your bosss headOne surefire way to irritate your boss is to go direct to their boss with-out consulting them first. Its disrespectful and it undermines theirauthority. It also implies that you dont think they know their job, andyoure telling their boss that too. Altogether not surprising, then, if itdamages your relationship with them.Clearly this rule applies to complaining about your work or even aboutyour boss. But it also applies to putting forward ideas. If you have animportant proposal to put forward, take it to your boss before you showit to any other managers, and let them be the one to take it forward.6 confront the boss in front of other peopleNever wash your dirty linen in public. If youre unhappy with your boss,save it until the two of you can discuss it in private. Your boss will neverforgive you if you embarrass or humiliate them in front of other people,and youll look pretty shoddy yourself to the people who witness youroutburst.H OW TO M A N AG E YO U R B O SS76It doesnt matter how justified you are in your complaint, you are neverjustified in making it public. Bite your tongue if necessary and dont letyour anger or frustration out until the appropriate time which wontbe until youve calmed down anyway. Use the guidelines in Chapters 9and 10 to help you deal with conflict with your boss, and keep it behindclosed doors.7 repeat mistakesIts natural to make mistakes, and your boss knows that. Great scien-tists such as Thomas Edison, Linus Pauling and Albert Einsteinexplained that you couldnt achieve successes without notching up fail-ures on the way. And if making mistakes was good enough for Einstein,its good enough for us.What the likes of Edison and Einstein did, however, was to make surethey never made the same mistake twice. That is a waste of time andteaches you nothing. Each time you make a mistake you need to learnfrom it so that you are closer to the next success.Your boss expects you to make mistakes, but also expects you to learnfrom them. They want to know that once youve got something wrong,C R E AT E T H E P E R F E CT R E L AT I O N S H I P W I T H YO U R B O SS77Diplomacy firstIf you feel strongly that you have no option but to go direct to your bosssboss, think hard about alternative approaches. One compromise solutioncan be to go to several managers simultaneously including your boss. Forexample, you might copy other managers in on an email to your boss ifyoure warning of the dangers of a decision which you believe will be cat-astrophic for the organisation and you cant convince the boss withouttheir support. Even so, you should avoid this approach unless you haveexhausted all other possibilities.they can count on you never to get it wrong again. So make sure youdont repeat your mistakes, and reassure your boss by being clear thatyou know where youve gone wrong and can prevent it recurring. Forexample, I can see now that if Id phoned to confirm the booking Idhave found out in time that there was a problem, so I need to do that infuture. Whenever I make a booking Ill put a note in my diary for nearerthe time to phone and confirm it. That way, this cant happen again.8 gossipWeve already established that you shouldnt bitch about your boss oryour ex-boss. But you dont want to get yourself a name as a gossip gen-erally. Gossip is far more common and damaging in organisationswhere communications are poor than in those which communicatewell. But even in well-run companies, gossip about the organisation isthe bane of managements life.Rumours can fly round an organisation closures, lay-offs, big changesfor better or worse and can do a huge amount of damage to manage-ment/staff relations. Dont be a part of this, or youll be branded a troublemaker.Gossip about other people in the organisation is far less damaging tomanagement as a rule (unless its about them), but your boss isunlikely to draw the same distinction you do between different types ofgossip. If youre labelled a gossip, youre labelled a gossip and thatsthat. And your boss will think that you rumour-monger or bitch aboutthem even if you dont. The only safe course is to steer well clear of thegossips around the coffee machine, and be seen to be above all that.H OW TO M A N AG E YO U R B O SS78Gossip is far more common and damaging inorganisations where communications are poor than inthose which communicate well.q9 bother your boss when theyre busyYour boss doesnt have only you to bother them when theyre busy.They have a whole team of people to pester them at inconvenientmoments. Wouldnt it be nice to be the one your boss could count onto leave them alone just when its most critical?Learn to recognise when your boss is busy or preoccupied, and dontdisturb them. If theyre completing a project to a tight deadline, orrushing to a meeting theyre on the verge of being late for, give them abreak. Here are some ways to make your interruptions as few and asconvenient as possible: Anticipate problems so you have time to wait for a good moment todiscuss them with the boss. Collect together several minor questions or discussion points andthen disturb your boss just once to deal with all of them. If you phone your boss or stick your head round the door, alwaysstart by asking Have you got five minutes? or Is this a goodmoment?C R E AT E T H E P E R F E CT R E L AT I O N S H I P W I T H YO U R B O SS79Ask for clarificationIf theres a rumour going round about critical decisions or changes to theorganisation, your best bet is to go to the boss yourself. Dont mentionnames or get the gossips into trouble. Just explain that you thought man-agement should know what is being said, and should be warned that ifthey dont communicate the correct facts to their employees, the gossip islikely to get worse. Doing this sets you apart from the gossips (despite thefact that youve obviously been listening to them), and supports manage-ment without getting any of your colleagues into trouble. For anything that requires privacy or needs some time to discuss,make an appointment with the boss. However, dont irritate byasking for a meeting every other day save it for the issues whichreally warrant it. Be aware of the pressures your boss is under so you can avoid dis-turbing them at times when they are very pressured.If you follow all these guidelines, youll almost never have to botheryour boss at a difficult time. And when you do interrupt them, whichwill be in only genuine emergencies, your boss will know that you musthave a valid reason to do so unlike most of the rest of the team whopester them without consideration.10 upstage your bossYour boss may be a shy retiring type or an egocentric megalomaniac.Either way, they like to be praised and given the limelight from time totime, even if they dont give that impression. So make sure that whenthey are praised by other people you dont get in the way.This isnt the time to point out your contribution to the success inquestion, nor to mention how much luck the project needed to succeed.This is the time to help direct the focus on to your boss and theirachievement. If they are magnanimous enough to mention that theycouldnt have done it without the support of the team, thats great. Ifthey arent that generouswell, thats their prerogative. Comfort your-self with the fact that their success is bound to reflect well on the restof you without their help.H OW TO M A N AG E YO U R B O SS8081Buildingyour skillsAs well as understanding your boss and learning to workmore effectively with them, you also need to build up a raftof skills for dealing with people generally. They will all beimportant when managing your boss; they will also be use-ful for managing your relationships with colleagues andsubordinates. And whats more, youll still need them whenyou or your boss move on and you find yourself workingwith a new manager who may be very different.qIIPA R TThere are times when getting on with the boss is a doddle. Everythingsgoing well, you know what youre doing and you can do it well. Andthen there are the other times. When youre under stress or the bossis theres a tendency to get emotional. You may be winding each otherup, or outside factors may be making one or both of you stressed. Eitherway, you can end up taking it out on each other if youre not careful.Heightened emotions, unless they are positive ones, get in the way of agood working relationship. So you need to be able to control your ownemotions, and you also need to be able to handle your bosss emotionsso that you can calm them down rather than inflame them. These tech-niques, of course, apply to handling emotions in anyone else, not onlythe boss.Your emotionsThe first step to handling unconstructive emotion in other people is tostay calm, so it stands to reason that the first skill to master is control-ling your own emotions. With many bosses this is rarely a problem, butwith some it can certainly be a challenge. Whether they make you feelangry, irritable, tearful or anything else, you need to find a way to keepon top of your response.Im not suggesting that your response may not be entirely justified. Butshowing your emotions is never going to be the quickest or the mosteffective way to resolve things in the short term, nor the best steptowards a good relationship in the long term. Whats more, to the kind83q6C H A P T E RHow to cope with emotionsof boss who provokes this response, your display of feeling can comeacross as emotional blackmail. It may appear to say, Look what youvedone! You made me cry/get angry/get irritable As soon as emotionalblackmail real or imagined enters the equation, youre in trouble.That starts to look like game-playing and manipulation, and you dontwant to be a part of that since it makes a strong relationship with yourboss impossible. A good relationship must be based on honesty andtrust.All this doesnt mean you should bottle up your emotions. As youll seelater, especially in Chapters 8 and 10, you should certainly express howyou feel. But you need to express it calmly in words, not by emotionaldemonstration. And to do that, you have to be able to stay calm. Onceyoure calm, you can choose your words carefully to make sure thatwhat you say is constructive rather than confrontational.Some of us find staying calm easier than others. If you find it tough,here are a few ideas to help you: Focus on your objective, which is to resolve the conflict that is gen-erating these feelings. Recognise that staying calm will help youachieve this faster and more effectively. Use the approaches in Chapters 8 and 10 to resolve things withoutemotional displays.H OW TO M A N AG E YO U R B O SS84Separate home and workAlthough you should aim to present as calm a front as you can at work,and not be given to bouts of rage, sulking or tears, there is an exception.You are allowed to be tearful about non-work related upsets. This shouldhappen rarely if ever, but if youve just taken a phone call telling you abouta family bereavement, for example, youre not expected to bite your tongueand show no response. Youre allowed to be human. If someones behaviour makes you feel tearful or angry, dont listento it. Once youve got the point, they are probably repeating them-selves anyway if theyre angry. So look them in the eye and count totwenty, or think about something that makes you happy. In any case,youre not going to be able to resolve things until theyre also calmand reasonable. If they are emotional, use the techniques later in this chapter to calmthem down. If you feel unable to restrain your emotions, just leave. If you needto give a reason, be honest: Im feeling too emotional to discuss thisnow. Im going to leave, and Ill discuss it with you when I feelcalmer.The bosss emotionsOnce youve learnt to control your emotions, you can start to handleyour bosss emotions, too, from a position of strength. Now yourecalm and rational, you are in a far better position to get your boss backon track. Probably the most common emotion youre likely toencounter from your boss is anger, so well look at how to handle thatfirst.There are two types of anger you might encounter from your boss: jus-tified anger and unjustified or tactical anger. You need to handle thesetwo emotions in very different ways.Justified angerThe best bosses dont make emotional displays of anger no matter howout of line you are. They express their feelings through words, notH OW TO C O P E W I T H E M OT I O N S85Once youve learnt to control your emotions, youcan start to handle your bosss emotions, too.qactions. But there are times when the boss is entitled to be angry witha team member (though Im sure this would never happen to you).So what do you do when your boss gives you a legitimate dressingdown? If youre out of line, the answer is that you: admit it apologise offer to make reparation if its possible.Its as simple as that.There is another category of justified anger, however, which you are farmore likely to encounter (since you would never make stupid mistakessuch as the example above). Your boss may be understandably angryabout something which is actually a misunderstanding, or which youcouldnt have foreseen the result of. Suppose theyve just got into trou-ble with their boss because their budget is late the reason being thatyou still havent submitted the figures they need from you. No wondertheyre angry. In fact, youve been badly let down by a supplier who keptpromising you the figures you needed but never came up with them.The result is that your boss calls you in and you can see theyre veryangry at being let down. How do you handle the situation and defuseH OW TO M A N AG E YO U R B O SS86Let the punishment fit the crimeFor anger to be justified it must be in proportion to the offence. If your bossspends three hours screaming at you for being two minutes late for thefirst time in a year, thats not justified anger. But if they spend 10 minutessounding off at you for a stupid mistake that has cost the organisation20,000 in sales, thats justified (even if it would have been better to handleit without raising their voice).the bosss anger? For a start, you stay calm as weve already seen. Butthen what? People who get angry for a legitimate reason tend to do so becausethey feel they wont get the response they want otherwise. They fearthey wont be listened to or taken seriously. Your boss is worried thatif they dont get angry with you, you wont learn for next time theimportance of getting the figures in on time. So the first thing to dois to listen fully to them (follow the guidelines in Chapter 8) so theycan see youre taking in what theyre saying. Now show them you feel their anger is justified. Not necessarily thatdirecting it at you is justified, but that anger is an understandableresponse. Legitimise their feelings by sympathising with them(without apologising if its not your fault): I can see why youre feel-ing angry, or You must be incredibly frustrated. Dont spend ages justifying your actions. It will just sound as ifyoure making excuses. Theyre angry about their own problems:they dont want to hear a sob-story about yours. So you can say,Theres a delay because I cant get Simpsons to give me their fig-ures, but then leave it at that. The truth here is that you should finda way to prevent such misunderstandings in this instance youcould have warned the boss that you were having problems gettingthe figures so although the root problem may not be your fault,youre responsible at least for poor communication. In the end, people who are angry (your boss or anyone else) want aresult. So once youve shown that you understand their anger, offera solution. For example, tell them youll go to another supplier forprices, or that youll get on to Simpsons again and if theres noresult in 48 hours youll get back to the boss about it. If theres alsoa poor communication problem, acknowledge this and show that itwont happen again. So you might say, Ill get on to Simpsons again,H OW TO C O P E W I T H E M OT I O N S87and Ill try to get prices out of Sergeants too, and Burkes. Ill havefigures from at least one of them for you by Tuesday. And I can seenow that I should have warned you that Simpsons were letting medown; another time Ill tell you in good time if I cant meet a dead-line.If your bosss anger is justified youll find that, once youve beenthrough these steps, they will calm down because theres nothing leftfor them to be angry about. Youve appreciated the seriousness of theproblem, acknowledged their anger, agreed a solution and shown thatit wont happen again.Tactical angerWhile some peoples anger is genuine, others use anger as a weapon tointimidate you into giving in to them. This is a particularly difficultemotion to handle when it comes from your boss, who is already in aposition of authority over you. Obviously this means they dont need touse such tactics to get you to carry out tasks it is your job to do; a simpleinstruction is enough. But what about using anger to intimidate youinto, for instance:H OW TO M A N AG E YO U R B O SS88A promise is a promiseIf youve agreed a solution with your boss, you must stick to your side of it.If you encounter problems, say so before its too late and get your bosssinput into how to deal with them. Otherwise their anger will be even morejustified next time.While some peoples anger is genuine, others useanger as a weapon to intimidate you into giving in tothem.q doing tasks youre not obliged to working longer hours than your contract stipulates backing ideas you dont agree with handling other people perhaps your own subordinates in waysyou dont wish to misleading other people on their behalf, or even lying to cover forthem.People use anger tactically because they have found it works. Like throw-ing tantrums, they probably discovered as small children that they couldget what they wanted this way, and theyve kept on using the tactic eversince. The way to counter this is to let the boss see that this approach doesnt work on you. This means youll have to be assertive(see the next chapter), and not give in to them when they treat you in thisway. Eventually (I cant pretend it works overnight) theyll realise theyrewasting their breath and theyll stop using this tactic with you.The assertive approach to handling tactical anger means refusing toallow it in your presence: Say something like, Im not prepared to be shouted at, and I shallleave if you dont calm down. If they dont stop, carry out your threat: leave the room. You can say,Ill talk to you when youre calmer, or simply say, Excuse me, and go. If they repeat the outburst at the next encounter, repeat yourresponse to it. Keep on doing this until they learn to deal with youcalmly and rationally.Theres no denying that a lot of people find the prospect of talking tothe boss in this way somewhat scary, to say the least. But once yourboss starts behaving like this, youre actually dealing with a five-year-old, not a manager. They may be senior to you in the organisation, butH OW TO C O P E W I T H E M OT I O N S89on a personal level were all equals, and you have the right to be treatedrespectfully.Theres nothing the boss can do to you for standing up to them; if theytry other emotional games with you, you can simply respond assertivelyto those too. But it shouldnt come to that if youve built an otherwisegood relationship with your boss they will learn quickly not to use thistactic on you. They will respect you more for defending your rightscalmly but firmly than they did when you used to buckle under the forceof their anger.Feedback techniques (see Chapter 9) also work well in convincing yourboss to drop this unconstructive behaviour. One of the advantages offeedback is that it enables you to raise the issue at a time when the bossisnt angry, so it can be resolved calmly and reasonably. You could usefeedback to let your boss know that in future you wont remain in theroom if they start shouting at you.SulkingIn many ways, sulking is an alternative to anger. Most children tendtowards either tantrums or sulking; few regularly use both. Many of usopt for one or the other in our personal relationships, too, when ourH OW TO M A N AG E YO U R B O SS90Positive spiralOne of the many reasons for managing your boss well and building astrong working relationship is that it makes it far easier to deal with issueslike tactical anger employed against you. Refusing to give in can give riseto all sorts of unpleasantness if you do it in the context of a tricky rela-tionship. But when youve built a relationship that is otherwise sound,honest and trusting, your boss will respond positively when you decline toplay their game.emotions get the better of us. The same goes for those adults who arenot mature enough to keep their displays of emotion away from theirwork.People sulk because they want to let you know how upset they are.They feel that if they didnt sulk you would think the matter wasntimportant to them. Almost all of us are prone to sulk occasionally, butsome people do it over such seemingly minor issues that it ends up hap-pening frequently and creates an unpleasant and unhelpful atmospherethat can seriously sour the working relationship. When your boss is asulker, things can get very unpleasant, so here are a few tips for han-dling a situation: Silence is intended to make you feel guilty once you realise howupset or disappointed the boss is in you. Any approach to handlinga sulking boss only works if you honestly have nothing to feel guiltyabout. So when you have the kind of discussion with your boss thatcan lead to an unpleasant silence, make sure you genuinely listen tothem with an open mind, explain the reasons behind your view ofthe matter, and act in a friendly and reasonable way. Once the dis-cussion is over, if they choose to sulk you know that there is nothingelse you could have done except give in for no good reason, simplyto avoid it. The aim is that you will capitulate. Never, ever do so. Just like usingtactical anger, if it works for them once, they will try it every time. Dont make the atmosphere worse by being short with them either.If they give you the silent treatment, just say, OK, well sort it outlater. Then behave as if everything were normal, and as though theywerent sulking at all. Dont be tempted to try to cheer them up, orH OW TO C O P E W I T H E M OT I O N S91People sulk because they want to let you knowhow upset they are.qkeep checking if theyre OK. Sooner or later, theyll have to abandonthe tactic when it becomes clear that it simply isnt working.TearsUnlike anger and sulking, its unlikely that your boss is going to turnon the taps in order to get a response from you. Your subordinatessometimes do this if youre disciplining them or giving them bad news when its not genuine its a form of emotional blackmail but yourboss will have little call to try this on you.Nevertheless, with some bosses you may still encounter this emotion,and you need to know how to handle it. Some bosses are very sensitive,others are going through particularly major emotional upheavals.Whether your boss has just been bawled out by the MD, or whetherthey are going through a particularly horrendous divorce, what do youdo if they burst into tears in front of you? Here are a few guidelines: Drop the boss/subordinate relationship for the duration, and treatthem as you would any fellow human being who is upset. If you think they might prefer you not to be there, ask them, Wouldyou prefer me to leave? If you dont get a direct answer, stay withthem unless the signals to go are strong. Let them talk, and you do the listening.H OW TO M A N AG E YO U R B O SS92Check the factsRemember that most of us sulk to some extent over major issues whenwe feel our feelings arent being taken seriously. Even frequent sulkersoccasionally have a genuine case they really arent being listened to orconsidered over something important. So always make a mental checkwhen they get upset and satisfy yourself that this isnt one of those occa-sions if it is, hear them out. Dont give them any advice unless they specifically ask for it, andpreferably not then either. Next time you see the boss you can ask, How are you feeling? butdont make a big thing of it, or ask them repeatedly, unless theyencourage it. They may well be embarrassed later, and be uncom-fortable with any reference to the incident. No matter what they say or do, dont mention the episode to anyoneelse in or connected with the organisation. Your boss will appreciateand respect your ability to maintain their confidence, and it willbuild their trust in you. Betraying their confidence will do seriousdamage to your relationship. Unless your boss is also a close friend, dont mention the incident tothem again unless they bring it up first. Most particularly, dont useit as any kind of emotional leverage, in other words dont remindthem how sympathetic you were just as youre asking for a day off,or imply that they owe you a favour.Positive emotionsNegative emotions such as anger, sulking and tears call for an assertiveand calm response. But dont forget that you also need to respondappropriately to positive emotions. If your boss is delighted at thismonths results, excited about tomorrows presentation or thrilledabout some personal success that they want to share with you, they willwant to see a suitable response too.If you want to build and maintain a strong relationship with the boss,you need to give them the reaction they are after when their emotionsare positive. From their point of view, its fairly demoralising if theyproclaim enthusiastically that this months figures are the best ever,only to have their announcement met with a shrug or a dismissiveReally?H OW TO C O P E W I T H E M OT I O N S93So make sure that when your boss is enthusiastic and positive, youshow empathy by responding positively to their emotion. Let them seethat you understand how they feel you feel the same too. It shows solidarity, and reassures them that you are a fellow spirit. And it makesyour boss feel that youre the sort of person they like to have around.H OW TO M A N AG E YO U R B O SS94Assertiveness is a skill which very few of us are born with. We have tolearn how to do it and, while many of us can do it some of the time, fewof us can do it all the time without practice. So what is it? Beforeanswering that question, lets just see if you recognise either of thesescenarios.95q7C H A P T E RHow to be assertiveScenario 1Your boss calls you in, looking very displeased. Theyve just been told byone of their fellow managers that you turned up half an hour late for a vitalinterdepartmental meeting yesterday. They are extremely disappointed youve let the whole team down. You start to explain but they tell youtheres no excuse for such behaviour. You mumble an apology and get outas fast as you can.Scenario 2OK, so thats not you. Lets try this version. Your boss calls you in, lookingvery displeased. Theyve just been told by one of their fellow managersthat you turned up half an hour late for a vital interdepartmental meetingyesterday. They are extremely disappointed youve let the whole teamdown. When you hear this, youre furious it wasnt your fault. The man-ager in question changed the time and the message never reached you.You lay into your boss, complaining about the other manager, and the factthat your boss thinks you would do such a thing without a valid reason.Then you storm out.If youre wondering which of these is supposed to be the assertive ver-sion, the answer is neither of them (OK, so you probably guessed that).In fact, assertiveness is the form of behaviour that prevents either ofthese scenarios from happening. So before we look in detail at how tobe assertive, lets look at the alternatives to assertiveness, and why wedont want to use them. Assertiveness is a balanced approach betweentwo extremes. If assertiveness is the fulcrum in the centre of the see-saw, the two opposite extremes are submission and aggression.SubmissionThe first scenario is classic submissive behaviour. Rather than risk con-frontation, we succumb to the temptation to take the easy route. Dontanswer back, dont stand up to the boss in case it puts their back up.Submissive behaviour always means taking what appears to be the easyroute, so it includes: keeping your feelings hidden saying what you think the other person wants to hear apologising even when its not your fault taking on more work rather than saying no allowing people to take advantage of you.Recognise any of these? Many of us are submissive at least some of thetime, at least with certain people and the boss is often one of them.In the short term it avoids unpleasantness and conflict. So whatswrong with it?Our submissive behaviour may work for everybody around us, but itdoesnt work so well for us. Here are just a few examples of the damageit can do:H OW TO M A N AG E YO U R B O SS96 Bottling up feelings can lead to dissatisfaction, demotivation andgeneral work stress. For some people, hiding their feelings lasts only so long. Then theyexplode out in a display of aggression, which has its own disadvan-tages (as well see in a moment). Suppressing your feelings can also lead to resentment and ill-feelingtowards the boss and anyone else you are submissive towards. If you never disagree openly with people, many of your best ideasnever get aired. As well as being extremely frustrating, this meansyoure not making the contribution you should. Keeping your head down also makes it very hard for you to take thekind of risks or promote the controversial ideas that can earn yourespect, reward and promotion. Apologising when its not your fault will give people the impressionthat you are to blame. You can end up overworked through being unable to say no, andthrough allowing others to take advantage of your excessively goodnature.That should give you some idea as to why submissive behaviour isnt agood thing. It can lead to stress, demotivation, resentment, overwork,professional frustration, missing out on promotion and pay risestoname but a few of the points against it.AggressionSo what about the other end of the scale? Some of us behave aggres-sively because we feel that it gets us what we want. Some of us even doit when the pressure valve finally blows after all that submissive behav-iour. So what is it that we think will get us what we want?H OW TO B E A SS E R T I V E97 Telling people exactly what we think rather than bottling up feelings even when it is hurtful or offensive. Pushing our own ideas forward, at the expense of others ideas ifnecessary. Telling people where to get off if they try to take advantage of us. Intimidating other people by raising our voices or using offensive orthreatening language.Its quite true that aggressive behaviour can often get us what we want in the short term. And some of us arent really very aggressive, afterall; were just a bit aggressive occasionally. Thats OK, isnt it?Well no, not really. Even displaying only occasional aggressive behav-iour means that others are permanently aware of the threat of aggres-sion from us. Occasional moderate aggression may not be as bad asfrequent strong aggression, but its still a bad thing.But whats so wrong with using a technique that can get us what wewant? Heres an idea of the problems an aggressive manner can bring: People often wont tell us things because of the risk of an aggressiveresponse. For example, our colleagues may not tell us how our work-ing relationship with them could be improved; our boss might notlet us know what was wrong with the report we submitted (so howwill we be able to improve on it next time and earn more credit?). We will get an unpleasant reputation among our colleagues, subor-dinates, boss and other managers, which will do nothing for ourprospects of being given interesting and stimulating tasks, especiallyif they involve co-operating with others. And it will do nothing forour chances of promotion either.H OW TO M A N AG E YO U R B O SS98Its quite true that aggressive behaviour can often getus what we want in the short term.q If were pushy about our own ideas, other peoples resentment maytempt them to reject our ideas for personal reasons, regardless oftheir merit. If we are offensive or hurtful to others, they are more likely to beoffensive or hurtful to us. Adopting an intimidating or unpleasant tone when dealing withothers means we will far more frequently find ourselves in argu-ments and conflicts, which are not the most effective way of resolv-ing differences, since everyone tends to dig their heels in.There. Well get a bad reputation, we wont be told things we need tohear, our ideas are less likely to be adopted, people will treat usunpleasantly, well end up in more arguments and conflicts, and welldamage our chances of promotion. Thats not an exhaustive list, but itshould be enough to persuade you that aggression is no smarter a tacticin the long run than submissiveness. So that just leaves us with themid-point where the two behaviours balance out: assertiveness.AssertivenessAssertive behaviour carries all the advantages of both these extremes,without the disadvantages. It is an easy route to take, and it gets uswhat we want. Whats more, it works in the long term as well as theshort term. Now youve learnt the basic techniques you can be assertiveall of the time instead of just some of the time, and youll start to appre-ciate the benefits: Youll be able to express how you feel, without confrontation, sotherell be no more bottled-up feelings, frustrations and the stressthat goes with it. Others will be able to respond to your feelings in a calm and meas-ured manner, so that you feel your voice is heard.H OW TO B E A SS E R T I V E99 Your boss and others will be able to express their views and feelingsto you, so you can rely on being told the things you need to hear. Youll learn to put forward even controversial ideas without conflict,so you can air all your views and feel more involved. People will behappy to accept your ideas if they agree with them. This means youll be able to take credit for your own ideas. Youll earn a reputation for being easy to work with, so people willwant you on the team for interesting and prestigious projects. You will earn the respect of your boss, your colleagues and yourteam. People will treat you with the respect that you give them, makingyour working relationships pleasant. You wont ever again find yourself overworked simply through beingunable to say no.Thats a pretty persuasive list of reasons why its worth learning to bemore assertive. Whichever end of the scale you tend to veer towards submission or aggression, or even a mix of the two assertiveness hasgot to be a better way. And its not difficult. The only thing that takespractice is learning to suppress your habitual response, whether itssubmissive or aggressive, and replace it with the assertive approach.Before long, assertiveness will become the habit, and you wont evenhave to think about it any more.So how do you do this assertiveness thing? Well, there are five key skillsyou have to master. You probably use all of these at times, and some ofthem may already be no problem to you. Its just a matter of incorpo-rating them all into your mainstream approach, rather than keepingthem as an occasional add-on:1. Show respect for other people.2. Express your feelings.H OW TO M A N AG E YO U R B O SS1003. Be honest.4. Learn to stand your ground.5. Be able to say no.Wed better look at each of these in turn.Show respect for othersHeres one for the naturally aggressive among us. Its an importantfactor whatever your natural inclinations, but people with aggressivetendencies usually find it the hardest to master.A large part of the principle of assertiveness is about respect, but it hasto work both ways. If we are going to expect respect and fair treatmentfrom others which we will if we are assertive we must give as goodas we want to get. So showing respect for others is all about demon-strating the behaviour we want to receive back. So we need to: allow other people to have opinions without shouting them down orcriticising them unfairly listen carefully when others are speaking (thats what the next chap-ter is all about) choose friendly and constructive ways of making negative comments speak calmly and fairly when we disagree with someone, withoutraising our voices, or becoming offensive or personal give encouragement to other people, and praise them when they dowell.H OW TO B E A SS E R T I V E101Wed like to be on the receiving end of these behaviours, so we shoulddemonstrate them to other people. And being assertive means behav-ing like this with everyone, not just a select few people whom we dealwith frequently, or whom we think are useful to us.If youre inclined towards aggression, just think how this new, assertiveyou could transform your relationship with your boss. They will changetheir view of you, and come to see you as a mature, pleasant personwhom everyone including them is happy to work with.Express your feelingsThis ones for both the submissive and the aggressive. Submissivepeople need to learn to say what they feel, while the aggressive need tolearn how to say it in a more assertive manner. As an assertive person,you recognise your right to express your feelings and have them heard;H OW TO M A N AG E YO U R B O SS102Well done!Yes, you can even praise the boss when they do well. Theres no need tosound patronising, and so long as its honest it wont sound sycophantic.Even bosses like to know that the people around them are impressed bythem. So why not say, I never thought youd pull that one off so success-fully! or How did you get them to agree to such generous terms? You canalso praise them indirectly by asking for tips and advice: Negotiatingsobviously one of your strong points. Id love to sit in on a negotiation witha customer some time and see how you do it.If your boss or anyone else makes you feel angry,hurt, offended, sidelined, humiliated or anything else,the assertive response is to tell them so.qyou also recognise others right to be told your feelings in a way thatwont upset them.If your boss or anyone else makes you feel angry, hurt, offended,sidelined, humiliated or anything else, the assertive response is to tellthem so. After all, if you dont tell them, how will they know? Youdeserve to have your feelings considered, but the boss doesnt have theoption of doing this if you dont tell them how you feel.There are several ways to tell someone how you feel. You could start bysaying, for example: Youre making me angry by I dont like you sayingbecause I feelwhen you Youre being offensiveOnly one of these options is assertive; that is to say it expresses howyou feel without provoking a confrontational response. (Ill tell youwhich one in a moment.) Your boss may not even realise the effecttheyre having on you, so if you show respect you wont want to upsetthem by being aggressive. If they are aware of the response they gener-ate in you, you still dont want a confrontation. Apart from the unpleas-antness of it, its not likely to resolve the issue.So which approach will be assertive, and make your point without caus-ing a row? The answer is the third one. It puts the focus firmly on youand your feelings, rather than on your bosss behaviour, while stillmaking the point. Theres no hint of accusation in it; its merely a state-ment of fact. For example: I feel frustrated when you check up on mywork closely. I feel Im not trusted to do a good job by myself.H OW TO B E A SS E R T I V E103Whenever you want to express your feelings, in a group meeting or one-to-one, use this approach. Focus on yourself and start by saying, Ifeelwhen and take it from there. So long as you continue in thesame vein, showing respect for the other person, theres no reason fora confrontation to develop. (For more long-term issues, youll find thisis also part of the feedback techniques explained in Chapter 9.)Your boss may be in the habit of walking all over you. In this case, itmay take them by surprise when you start to express how you feel. Orthey may be used to you standing up to them, creating rows and beingdifficult to handle. Either way, they will find you far easier to work withonce you adopt an assertive approach.Be honestYou have a right to be honest. If you like, you can see this as a right toexpress your negative feelings as well as your positive ones. So if youdisagree, or you dont want to do something, say so. If you think aboutthis, its much fairer towards your boss or whoever youre dealing with,too. Otherwise they will probably sense something is amiss but wontknow what.If youre going to be honest, dont beat about the bush tell it straight.If youre not happy, say, Im not happy. If you disagree, say, I disagree.H OW TO M A N AG E YO U R B O SS104In their shoesYour boss should realise that its in their interests to know how you feel. Ifyoure frustrated or angry or upset, they want to know about it. How elsecan they resolve it? And if they dont resolve it, they have someone on theirteam who is demotivated, demoralised, unhappy and not working aseffectively as they might. If they want you to give your best work, they needto know about any negative feelings that are getting in your way.Dont confuse everyone and underrate the importance of your feelingsby saying, Hmm, Im not sure. I mean, Im sure its fineits justthatits great, butwell, you know Spit it out and youll achievetwo benefits: Everyone will know what your point of view really is. You will have asserted clearly your right to say what you think or feel.If your natural tendency is towards submissiveness, you will find it hardat first to state your opinions and feelings clearly. However, as soon asyou try it youll find its really far easier than you think. If youre moreprone to aggressive behaviour, you may be tempted to be honest to thepoint of being blunt, or even rude. This is something you have to watchout for, so pick your words carefully and express your feelings withoutupsetting or offending anyone.This is easiest if you simply avoid emotive or negative words and stickto statements of fact. So instead of saying, Thats rubbish, say, I dontagree with that. Instead of saying, I think we should scrap your idea,say, I think we should reconsider. H OW TO B E A SS E R T I V E105Mind your languageAssertive people use clear but constructive language, and look forphrases which encourage unity. They also remember that other peoplesviews are as important as their own. So to be assertive you need to useexpressions such as: I feel Id like to Shall we How about What do you think? How do you feel?Learn to stand your groundAs an assertive person, you should be able to fend off attempts to intim-idate you, without becoming defensive and emotional. If your boss isinclined to bludgeon you, you need to learn how to assert your positionwithout causing trouble. Dont be pressured into changing your opin-ion or putting up with something youre not happy with. There are twooptions for handling this kind of situation: State assertively how you feel. Im not happy, or I feel pressured.This makes the position plain to your boss, and you can then followthe guidelines for expressing your feelings that we looked at earlier,or use the feedback techniques explained in Chapter 9. Adopt the stuck record technique. This involves stating your posi-tion clearly and then repeating it as often as necessary. Dont becomeemotional or heated, just stick to your guns. For example: I dontfeel ready to take on the scheduling on my own yet. If your bosspressures you, repeat it: I need more training before I feel ready totake on the scheduling by myself. Just carry on with this as long asyou need to: Im not happy about taking on the scheduling on myown. I need more training. Its only a matter of time before yourboss gets the point.H OW TO M A N AG E YO U R B O SS106Look the partAssertive body language will help to back up your assertive language. Ifyou look nervous and submissive, this will send messages to your bosswhich contradict your words. The same goes for aggressive, overbearingposture. Assertive body language: is upright but relaxed doesnt impinge on the other persons personal space involves plenty of direct eye contact.Be able to say noIf you are under-assertive, you may well find it difficult to say no topeople who ask you favours, especially your boss. Theres the worry youmight make them angry, or that they will dislike you or be disappointedin you. In fact, if you think about it, we all know plenty of people whoare able to say no without losing popularity or respect, and withoutcausing conflict.If you avoid saying no, you find your workload slowly increasing, andyou often take on tasks youre not happy to be doing. Some of us find amiddle ground by saying no and lying about the reason I cant do that,Im afraid, I have an important meeting to go to. This may get you offthe hook, but it generally leaves you feeling uncomfortable, not to sayworried that the other person will find out youve lied to them.So the assertive answer is simply to say no when you want to. Andagain, this is actually fairer on the person youre dealing with. If theyknow youll say no if you want to, they wont feel uncomfortable askingyou to do things for them. If you start saying no to people, you may putyourself through agony the first couple of times trying to pluck up thecourage, but once youve said it you usually find the other personthinks its no big deal. OK, fair enough, they reply, and cheerfullywander off to find another solution.Here are a few tips for saying no: Remind yourself that you are quite entitled to say no, and there is noreason to feel guilty.H OW TO B E A SS E R T I V E107If you are under-assertive, you may well find itdifficult to say no to people who ask you favours,especially your boss.q It may help you to feel better to give a brief explanation of why youresaying no. You dont have to do this, but it can feel more co-operative. So rather than say, I dont have time to do that, you mayfeel happier saying, I dont have time to do that Im already cover-ing for Sandy this week. You may also feel more helpful if you offer a different solution totheir problem. For example, I dont have time to find the answer foryou, but I can tell you where to find it yourself, or I cant do it foryou now, but if you can wait until Monday Ill be able to do it then. If your boss is persistent, use the stuck record technique. Supposeyour boss wants you to stay late: theres nothing in your contractthat says you have to and on this occasion it would be really incon-venient, too. Just keep saying no until they get the message: Imafraid I cant work late on Friday. If your boss reiterates the request,reply, Im sorry, but I cant work late on Friday. I have to take mymother to the hospital. (Youre not obliged to give a reason, but ifyoure happy to it often helps.) If they ask again, just keep tellingthem, Im sorry, I cant do Friday. Dont raise your voice or get upset just be clear and assertive.Its not easy to change personality overnight. If youre usually assertive,these guidelines will help you to become assertive more of the time. If,however, you are more often either submissive or aggressive, it will takeH OW TO M A N AG E YO U R B O SS108Practice makes perfectIf you have a repeated situation where you find it hard to be assertive, thinkthrough the assertive response and then rehearse it until you feel ready toput it into practice. Perhaps your boss persistently puts you down in meet-ings, or is always making unreasonable requests. Decide how you willhandle it and run through the words until you feel comfortable with them.You could get a colleague or someone at home to roleplay it with a little while to perfect the new, assertive you. And it will also takea while for people to notice the change. So dont expect other peoplesattitude towards you to change instantly. But give it time, and keepbeing assertive, and before long people will stop trying to walk all overyou once they learn it doesnt work, or stop being defensive once theyrealise you are no longer aggressive.H OW TO B E A SS E R T I V E109The idea of learning how to listen probably seems either unnecessaryor patronising. Surely weve all been doing it since we were babies?Well, yes, weve all been listening superficially that is to say, hearing.But really listening carefully is a different skill, and one which we canstill learn after weve grown up. So whats the point of learning to listenproperly? Well, it has several benefits: It prevents mistakes caused by crossed lines and poor communica-tion. It helps you understand what is going on. It enables you to read between the lines when someone is speakingto you. It makes the other person feel more positively towards you.So its worth learning. Few of us are dreadful listeners (though weprobably know one or two people who are), but most of us could listenbetter if we just learnt some of the basic techniques. Like so many otherbasic people skills, becoming a good listener is not only useful whenyoure dealing with your boss, but also when youre dealing with otherpeople, from colleagues and subordinates to family and friends.111q8C H A P T E RHow to listenand be listened toEliminate poor listeningTo begin with, you need to do away with as many barriers to effectivelistening as you can. We all have them. There are times we listen betterthan others, and the worse times are generally the result of some blockwe have put up that inhibits our ability to listen properly. How many ofthese sometimes prevent you from listening as well as you might (behonest)? Youre too busy planning your next response to take in what theyresaying. You go off on a sidetrack train of thought sparked by something theysaid. You stop listening because you reckon you know what theyre goingto say. You are too preoccupied with thinking about how much you disagreeto listen properly. Youre simply listening out for an opportunity to butt in and say yourpiece. You get bored.Once you learn to recognise these barriers when you put them up, itbecomes much easier to take them down. So when youre listening toH OW TO M A N AG E YO U R B O SS112Two-way benefitIf you go through the motions of listening carefully, youll find that withouttrying you really do listen better. Equally, if you listen carefully to beginwith, youll notice yourself following the guidelines in this chapter withouteven trying. Whether you approach this new set of skills by genuinely lis-tening or by faking it, youll end up listening better than you did before.You cant lose.something you need to take in clearly, be conscious of any blocks youput up and simply remove them.Theres another set of barriers to good listening, and those are the onesthat come from outside yourself. For example: You dont understand what the other person is saying its too com-plicated or theyre using too much jargon. There are noises or distractions which are taking your attention. They are taking longer than you expected, and youre distractedbecause youre due in a meeting in two minutes. They are slow, long-winded, boring or rambling, or they keep repeat-ing themselves.By and large, honesty is the best policy if you find you cant listen prop-erly. For example: Tell the person you dont follow what they are saying. Ask them toexplain it more clearly. Tell them if there are certain words you dont understand, and askthem to explain them to you.H OW TO L I S T E N A N D B E L I S T E N E D TO113Say that again?Repetitious people can be very boring to listen to. But why do you thinkthey repeat themselves? Its often because they dont think theyre gettingthrough to us. Its a vicious circle: they bore us so we dont listen, theysense were not listening so they repeat themselves to get through to us,we become more boredand so on. The solution is simple. If we listenproperly in the first place, theyll have no need to repeat themselves, andeveryone will benefit. Let them know you are being distracted and ask to move somewherewhere you can give them your full attention it may be away fromthe door, or it might mean moving to another room. Explain that this is going to take longer than you thought, and youhave to be somewhere else. Ask to get together later when you canconcentrate better.All these responses will actually flatter the person youre talking with,since they are all ways of telling them that you want the opportunity tolisten to them better. If your boss wants you to take in what theyresaying, theyll appreciate the fact that you clearly want to make theeffort to listen fully.The exception to the be honest rule is when the problem is personal your boss (or whoever youre dealing with) is boring, rambling or slow.In this case, its not a good idea to say so straight out (no surprisesthere). By and large, youre just going to have to grin and bear it, andregard it as the ultimate training for good listening skills. However, youshould find that when you practise effective listening, a lot of these bar-riers are partly removed or become easier to tolerate.Listening activelyOnce youve dealt with the barriers to listening, you can start activelylistening to the other person. A large part of this entails concentratingon what they are saying, and making sure none of those barriers canpop up and get in the way. Catch yourself as soon as your mind startsto wander, or you find yourself planning your counter-argument, andbring your mind back to what the other person is saying to you.H OW TO M A N AG E YO U R B O SS114Once youve dealt with the barriers to listening, youcan start actively listening to the other person.qIts important to let the other person know youre listening. It helpsthem establish that theyre making themselves clear. It is also politeand when it comes to your boss respectful. Youll also find that itseasier to concentrate and listen properly if you are focused on showingthat youre listening. You can show your attention by various means: Making eye contact with the person who is speaking. Making encouraging noises, such as Mmm or Uh-huh or Go on Making encouraging signs, such as smiling, nodding or leaning for-wards. Repeating back key phrases, such as Deliver by Tuesday week, OK. Paraphrasing important points, such as So Richmonds cant goahead with their launch unless we confirm the specifications thisweek.If you follow all these points youll have to listen properly, and the otherperson will feel they have your full attention. In addition to making allthese active indications that youre listening, there are also other thingsyou need to avoid if youre going to listen fully. In particular, dont: interrupt (tempted though you may be) keep asking for minor points of clarification save them until theother person has finished speaking.H OW TO L I S T E N A N D B E L I S T E N E D TO115Whats your point of view?If you mentally view listening as an opportunity to improve your rapportwith your boss (or whoever is speaking), and to learn or gather informa-tion, youll find active listening far easier than if you view it as an opportu-nity to put your own point of view. A simple change of attitude can improveyour listening skills vastly.Silent signalsSome of the techniques for active listening involve using your body lan-guage to show that youre listening nodding, making eye contact andso on. But listening fully also entails taking in the body language sig-nals that your boss, or whoever youre talking to, is sending out oftenunwittingly.Our body language is almost always honest, unlike some of the wordswe use. Im not calling your boss a liar, but we often say things we dontreally mean, especially when it comes to talking about our feelings. Wesay things like, Im not angry with you, or Im not worried when infact we are.If youre attuned to body language as well as spoken words, you shouldbe able to tell when the person youre listening to is saying one thingand indicating another with their body language. When this happens,you can bet its the body language that is telling the truth. Often wesense that something doesnt ring true but were not clear what. Whenthis happens, analyse the body language and see if its out of synch withthe words.Reading body language isnt a specialised science its just a matter ofbeing on the lookout for the signals. Here are a few examples of mixedH OW TO M A N AG E YO U R B O SS116See it their wayOne useful technique is to make a conscious point of visualising whatsomeone is telling you. If they are explaining that the pink copies go to theaccounts department, conjure up a mental image of one of the desks inaccounts covered in piles of pink paper. If they are giving you directions,create a picture in your mind of yourself turning left at a newsagents, orright by a large tree, or whatever.messages that should alert you to the possibility of an unspoken sub-text.Words Body languageIm confident well complete this Strumming fingers, biting top lipproject on timeIm not angry Tense voice, leaning forward, clenching fistIm really concerned to hear Looking over your shoulder at something youre not happy else, checking watchIm not suggesting that every one of these guarantees that your boss islying to you. One or two minor contradictory actions or gestures maymean nothing. But a strong set of contradictions, especially coupledwith a sixth sense on your part that what youre hearing doesnt ringtrue, is a good reason to suspect that youre not hearing the wholestory.Getting other people to listenIf only everyone we deal with was as good at listening as they could be.And a boss who doesnt listen is often inclined to blame any lack ofH OW TO L I S T E N A N D B E L I S T E N E D TO117Keep a weather eye on your skillsIf you want to test how good youre getting at listening, heres a simple testyou can do. Watch a three-minute weather broadcast, or listen to one onthe radio, and see how much of it you can take in. Talk to the television ifit helps, repeating back key phrases for example, and then see how muchof the broadcast you can repeat back afterwards. You dont have to get thewords exact, of course the aim is to have absorbed the key points.communication on you rather than themselves. Youll find some spe-cific tips on dealing with bosses who are bad listeners in the final partof this book. But here are some general pointers for getting the personyoure talking to to listen properly: If youre talking to a poor listener, make sure you express yourself assuccinctly and as briefly as you can. Make it as easy as possible forthem to listen. Ask them to repeat key points to you: Can you say it back to me, justso I know Ive made myself clear? Often people can remember thelast thing you said without having really taken it in; getting them torepeat it back will fix it more clearly in their mind. Ask them questions as you go along. Try to ask open questions(which cant be answered in a single word or two but require morethought). For example, if youre trying to tell your boss you haventas much time as you feel you need for a project, you might ask, Howwould you tackle the research for this report with only a couple ofdays to do it in?If you follow all these guidelines you should find that active listeningbecomes a habit very quickly. And youll soon get the hang of makingH OW TO M A N AG E YO U R B O SS118A boss who doesnt listen is often inclined to blame anylack of communication on you rather than themselves.qRemember the written wordIf you want people to remember what youve said to them, you dont haveto rely wholly on their listening skills. Follow up important conversationswith an email or memo summarising the key points.poor listeners take more notice of what youre saying. So bad commu-nication with your boss will become a thing of the past, youll be clearwhat the unspoken messages are, and your boss will instinctively warmto you as someone who really takes notice of them.H OW TO L I S T E N A N D B E L I S T E N E D TO119Do you ever wish there was a non-confrontational, middle way betweenputting up with a situation you dont like or making a formal complaintabout it? Either you let your boss demotivate and demoralise you, forexample, or you go to their boss and make a big thing of it? Well, thereis another way, and its called feedback.Feedback, broadly speaking, is information from other people on yourperformance. But there is also a technique known as feedback which isa more structured way of passing information between people. It is aform of general feedback, of course, but it has two useful characteris-tics in particular: It feeds information both ways between two people. It works especially well for resolving behavioural or personality dif-ficulties.Suppose your boss never sets you clear targets and then complainswhen you dont achieve what they expected of you. Or perhaps theynever let you get a word in at meetings, so you wonder why youre eventhere. Or maybe they breathe down your neck all the time. Or they putyou down in front of other people. Or every time they look over a pieceof your work they make negative criticisms but never mention the goodpoints.121q9C H A P T E RHow to use feedback techniquesWhy feedback?So what has feedback got that other techniques havent? The big advantage of feedback is that it is non-confrontational. Thetechnique is designed for you to be able to tackle tricky topics in apositive way, without either of you feeling the need to become defen-sive or aggressive. Another key advantage of feedback is that its two-way. It may wellbe that the reason your boss constantly breathes down your neck, forexample, is that you never give them progress reports or keep themin touch with how tasks are going. Often the kind of problem youwould discuss at a feedback session has implications for both of you understanding and action are needed on both sides to resolve theissue. Feedback encourages this two-way flow of dialogue. Its a technique which, once youve learnt it, you can apply to allsorts of knotty problems, from personality clashes to work-style con-flicts. Its success rate is very high and, as an added reassurance, ifyour boss is so intractable that feedback doesnt achieve the resultyou want, at least it wont have made matters worse either.H OW TO M A N AG E YO U R B O SS122The middle wayA feedback session is a more formal way of dealing with problems than aquick word when you pass in the corridor (as youll see in a moment). Thismeans that the boss has to recognise that this is a serious matter to you,and one which they must address. At the same time, however, it is not aformal meeting in which everything must be recorded it is a privateexchange between the two of you. So it doesnt carry any of the heavyimplications of an official procedure such as a formal complaint. Feedback is an ideal measure to use when things have reached thepoint where you feel you have to do something, but havent yetreached the point where things have become unpleasant or drasticaction is needed. In other words, you dont have to reach breakingpoint before you employ feedback. We often respond to frustratingor upsetting situations by bottling up our feelings until we blow,causing a scene and usually escalating the problem. Feedback givesyou an easy outlet for those feelings before its too late. Feedback techniques can be used for resolving specific, one-offissues, but they are also ideal for tackling persistent, longer-termproblems.Planning the meetingClearly, since the point of a feedback session is to be semi-formal andnon-confrontational, you will need to arrange the session for a timewhen neither of you is rushed or excessively stressed, and when you can talk comfortably in privacy. Ideally, you want to arrange the following:H OW TO U S E F E E D B AC K T E C H N I Q U E S123Feedback gives you an easy outlet for thosefeelings before its too late.qUse it anywhereThis is a great way to resolve difficulties with your boss, but feedback tech-niques work just as well for resolving problems with colleagues or subor-dinates, or for bringing two subordinates together to resolve difficultiesbetween themselves. (They also work, by the way, for resolving problemswith friends and family away from work.) a pre-arranged time when you both have at least half an hour to spareso you wont feel rushed no interruptions that means a closed door and phone calls divertedor intercepted somewhere private to meet which should be in the office (not thepub), but which may well be neutral territory, such as a meetingroom comfortable, informal and equal seating arrangements. Rather thanfacing each other across a desk, its much better to sit at right anglesto each other in comfortable chairs around a coffee table.If as a boss you use feedback to deal with issues between you and amember of your team, make sure you follow these guidelines. However,where youre asking for a meeting with your own boss, you obviouslywont always get the final say on where and when you meet. So the min-imum you should (politely) insist on is: privacy without interruptions allocation of at least half an hour.And how will you ask? The best approach is to say something like, Idlike to have a chat with you sometime. Please can we set up a time tomeet, perhaps in one of the meeting rooms, for about half an hour? Ifyour boss asks what you want to talk about, its best not to be too forth-coming or youll find yourself having the session on the spot. So say, forexample, Ive been encountering a few problems lately in my work, andId like to see if you can help me resolve them. If they push for you tobe more specific about the problem, tell them, politely and assertively,I think it would be better to talk about it when we meet.Before the meeting takes place, think carefully through the key pointsyou want to make, and how you are going to phrase them in a con-structive and non-confrontational way (well look in more detail at howH OW TO M A N AG E YO U R B O SS124to phrase your comments in a moment). If you dont plan in advance,you may find yourself making matters worse by thoughtless wording ofyour remarks. Your boss may quite reasonably want some examples ofthe kind of behaviour youre talking about, so think through someappropriate instances you can quote.What to sayOnce youre in the session, what are you going to say to your boss?Obviously, you need to start by telling them what the problem is. Butfocus on yourself, not them. Dont tell them the problem is that, Youbreathe down my neck all the time that would clearly rile them andlead to confrontation and argument. So start by saying, I feelwhenyou. For example, you might say, I feel Im not trusted to do my jobproperly when you check up on me so often.Explain why this is a sufficient problem to warrant this conversation.For example, I feel demoralised because as well as feeling Im nottrusted, I also find it hard to feel satisfied with my performance; I feel Icant claim my achievements as my own when theyve been so closelysupervised.H OW TO U S E F E E D B AC K T E C H N I Q U E S125Be preparedSuppose you tell your boss that you feel humiliated when they criticise youin front of other people. Your boss replies, When have I ever done that?Youre going to feel pretty embarrassed when you cant come up with asingle example. Dont forget that, until youre used to using feedbacktechniques, you may well feel nervous during the session, and this mayprevent you remembering pertinent examples on the spot. So have themprepared in advance.Once youve had your say, without being long-winded or repetitive, letyour boss give their reaction dont try to talk over them or preventthem getting a word in edgeways. And when they speak, listen to themproperly (following the guidelines for positive listening from Chapter8). They may ask you to give examples; in this case be ready to do so.They cant be expected to respond to a charge with no evidence, andthey may need examples to clarify exactly what you mean.Be prepared for the fact that your boss may give reasons for their behav-iour which will be critical of your own work style. If you want them totreat your problems seriously without becoming defensive, you mustdo the same in return. They may tell you that they supervise you soclosely because you never keep them in touch with your progress oth-erwise, or because youve been prone to make too many silly mistakesin the past. Hopefully, your boss will pick up on your tone and expressthese feelings as tactfully as you have done with yours. If they dont,however, you should do your best to take the remarks in good faith. Ifyou react emotionally to a poorly worded criticism from your boss,youre not going to get this problem sorted.In order to be constructive, and to keep things amicable, it also helps topoint out occasions when your boss has behaved in a way you prefer.You might say, for example, I thoroughly enjoyed working on the pres-entation I gave to the conference last March. I felt youd given me plentyof space to work in my own way, and I was very motivated by it. I feelvery happy with that level of supervision. This tells your boss clearlywhat kind of behaviour you would like from them.H OW TO M A N AG E YO U R B O SS126If you react emotionally to a poorly wordedcriticism from your boss, youre not going toget this problem sorted.qIf youve planned what youre going to say in advance, almost any bosswill respond well to this kind of approach. Youve been constructive,youve focused on yourself and not on them, and youve shown no ani-mosity. Youve simply asked them to help with a problem, andexplained why its worth resolving and how they can contribute. Howcan they argue with that?So thats the opening stage of feedback: tell the boss how you feel, withexamples if they ask, and listen while they reply. Let them know whenthey have behaved in the way that you prefer, both to indicate a con-structive attitude on your part and to illustrate exactly what youreasking for.The next stage of feedback is to find a solution to the problem, but firstits worth looking at the best way to express yourself to keep the ses-sion positive and friendly.How to express yourselfWeve already seen that its important to focus on yourself, and to startsentences with, I feelwhen you rather than, You make me feelHere are some more tips for putting your comments in a friendly andnon-confrontational way.H OW TO U S E F E E D B AC K T E C H N I Q U E S127No good points?Even if your boss has never displayed the kind of behaviour youd like themto, see if you can come up with examples of when they have acted at thebetter end of the scale, and let them know that this approach to you helpsyou feel better. It shows them what youre asking for, and it indicates thatyoure being reasonable and amicable. Avoid provocative expressions such as you breathe down my neckor you bully me. Dont exaggerate. If your boss sometimes lets you get on with tasksunsupervised, for example, they will wonder why they bother if youtell them, You always supervise me more closely than necessary (letalone, Youre always breathing down my neck). Dont judge. Its not for you to tell your boss that theyre not a goodmanager, or that theyre useless with people. (If you use feedbackwith colleagues or subordinates, its equally important to follow thisrule.) More to the point, its not helpful and it will turn the sessioninto an argument instead of a constructive means of resolving atricky issue. Dont label your boss. Remarks like Youre negative or Youre acontrol freak arent helpful. These remarks are easier to avoid if youfocus on your bosss behaviour, rather than on what they are.Getting resultsYouve outlined the problem to your boss, and heard their response.Now youve both had a chance to discuss the issue, its time to look fora solution. Feedback, after all, is an eminently practical technique,focused on putting things right.The first thing to do is to suggest a solution. You may have one pre-pared in advance, but your bosss comments may mean that it needsH OW TO M A N AG E YO U R B O SS128Take your timeDont be embarrassed to take time choosing your words. Your boss willrecognise that you are making an effort to be constructive, and willrespond in kind. Far better to pause while you pick the right word than tocome out with the wrong one and risk offending or insulting your boss.adapting. Youll want to demonstrate a spirit of compromise, so be pre-pared to give some ground. Its no good suggesting to the boss, Howabout this? Ill carry on exactly as before, and you change your behav-iour totally. That should work. Sure, in an ideal world it would proba-bly work very well for you. But how would you like it if someone elsesuggested it to you? If you ask them to make all the running, youreimplying they are totally responsible for the problem. Now, true or not,thats not a helpful implication.Offering a compromise implies accepting a shared responsibility. Soyou might suggest, If I were to give you regular progress reports, sayonce a week, would you feel able to supervise me less closely? Onceyouve made your suggestion, let them respond so you can gauge howthey feel about it. No solution is going to work unless you are bothbehind it, so their view is as important as yours. You need their fullagreement to any proposal before its worth adopting it.They may agree to your suggestion straight away and if youve beenlistening to them properly youre more likely to come up with a solu-tion they find workable. Or they may have an alternative to offer: Idprefer it if you came to me to ask for advice or help when you run intoproblems; then Id feel confident in letting you work unsupervisedknowing youd ask for support when you needed it. Its only right youshould treat their proposed solution as seriously as you want them totreat yours. So dont pooh-pooh any idea, however daft you think itsounds; simply explain why you dont feel it would resolve the problem.Discuss all the suggestions on the table until you arrive at a solutionthat you both feel will work. One of you should then recap to be sureyouve both agreed to the same thing. Your boss, as the senior of you,may choose to do this but, if they dont volunteer a recap, do it your-H OW TO U S E F E E D B AC K T E C H N I Q U E S129No solution is going to work unless you are bothbehind it, so their view is as important as yours.qself. You may well also want to agree a follow-up meeting in a fewweeks to review how the new system is working out.And thats feedback. A simple way to resolve shared problems thatdoesnt lead to arguments or dissent. A two-way approach that leavesyou both feeling youve gained from the discussion.H OW TO M A N AG E YO U R B O SS130Ten steps to feedbackJust to summarise, here are the key steps to holding a productive andeffective feedback session:1. Arrange a meeting in advance which is private, uninterrupted andgives you plenty of time to talk.2. Think through the key points you want to make, and how you willphrase them. Get examples ready in case your boss asks for them.3. Tell the boss what the problem is, starting your explanation, Ifeelwhen you. Explain why this is such a problem. Give themexamples if they ask for them.4. Listen (properly) while your boss replies, and be prepared to take anynegative comments on board.5. Give your boss examples of times they have exhibited the kind ofbehaviour you prefer.6. Pick your words carefully. In particular, avoid provocative expres-sions, exaggeration, judging or labelling.7. Once the issue has been clearly outlined, from both points of view,offer a solution that takes your bosss comments into account.8. Be prepared to compromise; if you both give some ground neither ofyou will come away feeling short-changed.9. When you have discussed the options, agree a solution that suits youboth and recap to make certain youre both clear about what actionyoull take.10. Set a follow-up session for a few weeks ahead to review your jointprogress.131How tomanage adifficultbossNot many of us are lucky enough to have perfect bosses, andif you were one of the few I dont imagine youd be readingthis book. If youve been following everything youve readso far, youve done all the work you reasonably can on yourown performance and behaviour. Any outstanding problemsarent realistically going to be down to you.Lets face it, bosses are only human (at best). Most of themhave a few faults, and some of them have bucketloads. Sohow are you going to handle the characteristics that makeyour boss difficult to work with? What you need is a troubleshooters guide to handling the key types of problemboss, from the one who never listens to the type who alwaystakes credit for your ideas.qIIIPA R TSo here it is. Twenty-five different tricky characteristics and how tohandle them. Youll probably recognise a fair few, and your boss mayeven exhibit more than one, Im afraid.The boss whonever listensThis is infuriating. You know theyre not taking in what youre saying,but you dont feel you can start screaming, Listen to me, dammit! atyour boss without jeapordising your position. Its not just that theyrebeing rude it can also lead to serious problems. For example, you tellthem about an issue you have to deal with and what you intend to doabout it, and they reply, Mmm-hmm. OK.In fact, theyve taken nothing in and three weeks later they demand to know why you made a major decision alone when you should haveconsulted them. Its no use telling them you did consult them theywill insist you didnt and they really wont remember that you did. How can they remember something they never registered in the firstplace?So what can you do? Here are the best ways to get your boss to take inand absorb what youre saying:133q10C H A P T E RTricky bosses Ask them to repeat back what youve just said. You wont want tosay, I dont reckon youve been listening to a word Ive said, soinstead try a tack such as, Im not sure Ive explained it clearly.Could you just repeat it back for me? In order to do this, they willhave to take note of what you just said. Another way to achieve the same effect is to ask open questions(ones which dont allow a yes/no answer), so they cant simplymumble Mmm at you absently. In the case of checking a decisionwith them, for example, dont just present them with your decisionand the reasons behind it. Fill them in on the facts and present themwith a choice of decisions and make them choose. If they choose thewrong one without thinking it through properly, youve nowengaged them sufficiently to discuss the comparative merits of thetwo options with you. If by any chance the boss does this with no one else, or only a fewothers, youll need to address the possibility that youre adding tothe problem. People who dont listen are especially inclined toswitch off with people who dont get to the point quickly. If thiscould be you, prepare anything important you need to say to them sothat you can put it as briefly and succinctly as possible. Get it in writing. Email your comments, briefings or requests tothem. Not only can they not deny that youve discussed the thingwith them, they may well respond better to this medium, and giveyou the responses you want.H OW TO M A N AG E YO U R B O SS134Dont take it personallyTry to bear in mind for your own sanity that most people who dontlisten are unaware of the fact. Its not malice, or even lack of concernabout you and your work. They almost certainly do it to everybody. You justneed to be smarter than your colleagues about handling it.never communicatesPoor communicators can cause all sorts of trouble. And when its yourboss whos failing to communicate, the results can be devastating. Ifyou dont have the necessary information, its almost impossible to doyour job properly. And its demoralising, too. Its hard to stay motivatedand keen when no one seems to think you important enough to be toldwhats going on.You can certainly use feedback techniques (Chapter 9) on an uncom-municative boss, and if they are seriously deficient in the communica-tion department youll probably have to. But many bosses areuncommunicative enough to be tricky without necessarily warrantingmajor action. Often a few simple strategies will remedy the problem. A lot of the time, youve got a pretty clear idea what youre not beingtold. Assuming your boss isnt deliberately withholding information,they probably havent realised that you need this information too.They just dont think. Often, all you need to do is ask. So when theyask you to do a task, say, Sure. Can you tell me what its for, andwhen its needed by? Or when you need to know whats going on,ask, for example, Ive heard that one of our major customers is aboutto call in the receivers. Is it true, and how will it affect us? Make a point of asking open rather than closed questions of them asa matter of course. So instead of asking, Will we be discussing thenew software at Mondays meeting? (to which they can simply reply,yes), ask them, What aspects of the new software will we be dis-cussing on Monday? Theyll have to give you a fuller answer. If your boss is one of those introvert, quiet types who never thinksthat you might need information, they may well simply not reply tosome of your questions. When faced with this kind of person weoften make things harder for ourselves: as soon as theres a silencewe fill it, thereby letting them off the hook. This perpetuates theirT R I C K Y B O SS E S135behaviour. To avoid this, ask a question and then shut up until theyanswer eventually the silence will become so uncomfortable thateven they will notice, and give you a reply. This technique workswith anyone, but its great with bosses because its perfectly polite.Youve asked the question so the onus is clearly on them, and notyou, to speak next. Some bosses withhold information deliberately, sad to say, as somekind of power game. They feel important because they know some-thing you dont. Petty, huh? This is a different type of behaviour, andyoull find it dealt with further on, under the boss who is secretive.never does anythingYoull never turn this boss into a powerhouse of frantic activity, sotheres no point wasting your efforts trying to. What you need to do isto eliminate the negative effect on you. The problems arise when youdont get the information, resources or decisions you need to get onwith your own job effectively. So address these issues, and leave yourboss to twiddle their thumbs or chase their tail whichever variationon doing nothing is their personal preference.H OW TO M A N AG E YO U R B O SS136Some bosses withhold information deliberately, sad tosay, as some kind of power game.qNo change thereIts a general rule of thumb with tricky bosses and tricky people of anykind that youll never change their personalities. Youll only drive your-self crazy in the attempt. So dont aim to turn your boss into someonetheyre not just find techniques that help you cope comfortably with themthe way they are. This boss isnt deliberately withholding support (later on well lookat bosses who wont back you up). They are just so ineffectual orincompetent that they never get round to giving you what you needwhen you need it. The answer is to do it for yourself. You have to dotheir job for them, in order to be able to do your own. This maysound unfair on you and your workload thats because it is. But itsa great deal more productive in the long run than waiting for supportthat never materialises. And this kind of boss will probably be grate-ful that youve taken a task off their hands if they even notice. The trick is to anticipate the problem and do what needs doing inplenty of time. This will ease the pressure on you enormously, andenable projects to run smoothly. If your boss will let you get away with it, offer to elicit informationfrom their fellow managers yourself. If they feel youre treading ontheir toes, send them a memo or an email listing precisely what youneed to know, and by when. This makes it far easier for them to getaround to finding out information for you. When it comes to decisions or resources, write a brief report or pro-posal for them, justifying what resources you need, or recommend-ing a particular decision. Once youve done all the work, they mightas well get on with the easy bit of passing your brief, report or pro-posal on for approval. They can always take the credit by claimingthey asked you to put the material together. Its generally better not to offer to do this kind of work for your boss just present your paperwork as a fait accompli. If you offer theyoften refuse, convinced theyll get around to it themselvesandthen they dont. Just hand it over, saying, I thought you might findthis useful.T R I C K Y B O SS E S137is secretiveThis kind of deliberate withholding of information is a power gamesome bosses play. It makes them feel important knowing that theyknow something you dont. The straightforward way to counter this isto make them feel important without having to keep secrets (much asit may stick in your craw). Be deferential to this kind of boss, without crawling. Just make sureyou always show them respect, so they know you are aware they aresenior to you. Dont try to get too familiar with them; they wont likeit. The more they feel their importance is recognised, the less theywill need to play this kind of game. Be very specific about what information you need from them, andask for it in a way that acknowledges that they know something youdont. For example, I really cant prepare this material withoutknowing precisely what the customer is looking for, and I reckonedif anyone knows the answer itll be you. (Dont get too creepy aboutthis, but you get the picture.) The point is that youre letting themknow theyve achieved their aim being recognised as the one whoholds the power so now they can afford to pass on the prejudicedWhen people judge you wrongly for something you have no controlover, it is extremely frustrating. When its your boss, it can also damageyour career. Whether they are sexist, racist, ageist or classist or any-thing else you need to tackle the problem.Feedback can work extremely well for this problem, forcing your bossto acknowledge that your performance is not affected by your age,gender, race or any other similar factor. But alongside this, there are acouple of other steps you can take to help your case.H OW TO M A N AG E YO U R B O SS138 Dont get involved in an argument with your boss about their preju-dice. Decline to discuss whether women are better than men,whether experience or youth is better, and so on. You will only rein-force their prejudice. Youre not going to change your mind aftersuch a debate, and its no more likely they will. Show by example. Make sure that you dont reinforce their ideas.Volunteer for tasks which will prove your point, and behave in wayswhich will undermine their prejudice. For example, if your boss is asexist woman who thinks all men are dunderheads, take on a taskrequiring delicate diplomacy when you get the chance, and let hersee you can handle it. If youre a lot older than your boss, dont be astick-in-the-mud, but let them see that older people can be creativeand open to new ideas. When you decide to ask for a feedback ses-sion with your boss, youll be armed with examples that contradicttheir prejudice. At the same time, dont inadvertently reinforce their views. If yourea woman with a sexist boss, dont ask him to change the light bulbfor you. It may not have anything to do with your ability to do thejob, but it will convince him women are pathetic even if you wereasking only because hes six inches taller than you. You dont wantT R I C K Y B O SS E S139Force of numbersYou may not be the only member of your team the boss is prejudicedtowards. If several of you have the same problem, sound out the othersand see if they also want to take action. If you all decide that you want theproblem resolved without making a formal complaint or a big issue, youcan all follow the suggestions below. A joint feedback session can makethe point firmly, but be aware that if the boss feels threatened or intimi-dated you could make matters worse, so get everyone to follow the guide-lines carefully for using feedback without becoming arm your boss with examples to use at the feedback session.When you ask for examples of how your work is detrimentallyaffected by your being a woman/being over 50/being public school-educated/being black/being gay or whatever your bosss prejudice is,you want them to be unable to cite any example.Of course, you always have the option here of going to your bosss bosswith a complaint (or even taking more extreme legal action if youbelieve you have a case). Feedback is always worth trying first, but ifyour boss is unresponsive is it worth going over their head? Only youcan decide on the answer to this, but here are a few factors to take intoaccount: Is your bosss boss likely to be sympathetic or if not is there a per-sonnel department which you could go to instead? How is your boss likely to respond? Their boss cant do anythinguseful without talking to them, so its no good thinking they wontfind out. Is it likely to pull them up short, or more likely to makethem resentful towards you? Have you any firm evidence of their treating you in a prejudiced fash-ion? If not, you have relatively little chance of success unless youencounter someone sympathetic who knows your boss well enoughto know youre being honest. Do you have colleagues who will vouch for the prejudiced treatmentyou say youve been receiving from your boss? How much do you want this job? Im not suggesting you should saynothing, but the action you take may be affected by your answer tothis question. If the jobs become unbearable, you might as well takedrastic action since you have nothing to lose. If the reaction makesthings worse, youll be happy to leave. But if you thoroughly enjoythe job apart from your bosss attitude, youll want to try more cir-cumspect approaches first.H OW TO M A N AG E YO U R B O SS140is a perfectionistWe should all aim for perfection every time in our work, and having aperfectionist for a boss shouldnt be a problem. But, in fact, so-calledperfectionists are rarely perfect. They aim for top quality, but forget thatthere are other vital factors too, such as time. Delivering a job that isspot-on but a week late is not perfection. This is your problem. Yourboss wants not only perfection, but also perfection in an unreasonablelength of time, or at an unreasonable cost. Point out to your boss when they set you a task that they are askingfor the impossible. Tell them, I can do that to the standard you want,but not by Tuesday. If you want it then, Ill have to compromise else-where. Get them to recognise the problem in advance and help finda workable solution, rather than waiting until afterwards to com-plain that the brief was impossible. As well as the problem of asking for the impossible, some perfec-tionist bosses expect you never to make a mistake. If you sufferunder this kind of boss, youll need to use feedback, explaining thatyou feel under undue pressure to be superhuman, and that you needto be allowed to learn from your mistakes sometimes.T R I C K Y B O SS E S141Your boss wants not only perfection, but alsoperfection in an unreasonable length of time, orat an unreasonable cost.qAim for perfection yourselfYoull get on best with a perfectionist boss if you make sure your work isnever slapdash or shoddy, and that you genuinely do learn from your mis-takes. If you deliver poorly prepared work, or repeat your mistakes, youhave only yourself to blame when you meet trouble from the unorganisedIf youre unorganised yourself, you may not mind working with thiskind of boss. But if youre highly organised they will drive you to dis-traction. They wont be able to find the information you need, they willforget to turn up to meetings, theyll promise you something and thendisappear without sorting it out.The one good thing to be said for most unorganised bosses is that theyknow their failings, and they are usually happy for you to do some oftheir organising for them. So long as you dont blatantly tread on theirtoes or play the moral superior, you shouldnt fall out with them. Youre going to have to do some of the work yourself. Create systemsif you need them but make them idiot-proof if you expect your bossto stick to them. Remind them in advance about meetings andappointments, and chase them up for information theyve promisedbefore they miss the deadline they promised it by. For example, Youare still going to be able to get me those figures by the end of the day,arent you, so I can finalise my report? Make sure your boss understands why you need them to turn up tomeetings, give you information or stick to the system. Make themaware of the potentially damaging consequences of their disorgani-sation: If I dont get the pink copies from you within 24 hours, thedeliveries go out late and we start getting customer complaints. Or,If you dont give me the mail before 4 oclock, I cant get through itin time to knock off at 4.30. That means Im late to pick the kids upfrom school. Unless youre a secretary or PA, dont try to overhaul your boss com-pletely it will be a full-time job in itself. Just concentrate on thoseareas which interfere with your own job, and learn to leave your bossto their own devices the rest of the time.H OW TO M A N AG E YO U R B O SS142is no good at their jobBosses who are downright incompetent can make your life immenselydifficult. Often their inability to do the job also mutates into one of theother problems in this chapter (passing the buck, for example, beingunorganised, or taking credit for your ideas).The incompetence itself is a problem when it reflects on you. The wholedepartment performs poorly and you (and your team mates) miss outon bonuses, promotions and successes. The challenge is to make surethat others realise that you dont deserve to be tarred with the samebrush as your boss. Get as much of your own contribution to the organisation down inwriting as you can. Instead of taking ideas to the boss verbally, writethem down as proposals. These may only be a page long, but theyrethere in black and white. Now make sure they get seen outside thedepartment. Copy them to anyone you can justify copying them to.You can tell your boss, Ive copied this to despatch because I thoughttheir input would be useful in helping us to schedule, or, I thoughtMike could use this idea in his department, too, so Ive emailed hima copy of my proposal.T R I C K Y B O SS E S143Get outIf your boss is incompetent, your aim should be to get promoted out of thisdepartment as soon as possible or promoted into your bosss job. How-ever, you dont want to make your boss feel threatened, or you will makea bad situation worse. So dont start trying to steal their job. Its only amatter of time before they move (or get moved) without your help, espe-cially once youve made sure everyone knows that its not you (and yourcolleagues) who is incompetent. Now do the same with any warnings you have to make. If you are con-cerned that a project is going off-course, email your boss or send thema memo outlining your concerns and your recommendations for rem-edying the problem. Again, copy them wherever you can. Even if youcant, at least keep your own copies. Then when things go wrong, itwill be clear it wasnt your fault. In fact, if the boss had listened toyou, they wouldnt have gone wrong. And suppose the boss does takeyour advice? Better still you have a success on your hands, and thepaperwork shows it was all thanks to your intervention. Finally, get your achievements down in black and white, and circu-lated as widely as possible. You dont have to send round a memosaying, Arent I brilliant? Look what I did. You could email yourboss with essential details of a big new contract youve just landedand copy it to other relevant departments. Just make sure its clearthat you were the one who landed the deal, came up with the idea orput in the hard work.passes the buck (on to you)None of us likes being blamed at the best of times, and being blamedfor someone elses mistakes is particularly galling. But its somethingcertain bosses do. Its bad enough when they salve their own con-science by pointing the finger at you in private, but blaming you pub-licly for their mistakes simply cant be permitted. It can be deeplydamaging to your career. For a start, if your boss makes a habit of this, use the same tech-niques as you would with a boss who is no good at the job. That wayyour real achievements are down in writing for when you need them appraisals, promotion interviews and so on. If your boss tries toblame you in private, draw their attention to the relevant paperwork. Encourage your boss to put instructions to you in writing. If you encounter problems with this, simply email them saying, forH OW TO M A N AG E YO U R B O SS144example, Before I launch into this, can I clarify your instructions?Youve asked me to; they need only send back an email saying,Yes to have committed themselves on paper. Dont try to put the blame back on your boss, realistic though itmight seem. If you say, It wasnt my fault, it was yours, and I canprove it you may make your point, but youll do serious damage toyour working relationship. Your boss probably knows perfectly wellit was their fault thats why theyre so desperate to palm the blameoff on to you. Instead, use the word we a lot, as in, We certainlydidnt get the results we wanted, or, With hindsight, wed havedone better to set the schedule further in advance and then focuson solutions. Dont accept the blame, just aim to avoid pointing fingers, and move on to the next stage. If your boss blames you for their mistakes in public, dont try to passthe blame back to them in front of everyone else. It may be fair, butit wont work. Most people wont be able to tell which of you istelling the truth, and the result will be that youll look petty and yourboss will be furious with you. Instead, take the blame, but do it col-lectively, using that word we a lot: Theres no denying we mis-judged this one Now focus on the solution, outlining how you think the problem canbe solved, and what you can do to help. Drop the we for this bit, andtalk about yourself as I when it comes to finding solutions and res-cuing a poor motivatorWhen theres no recognition, enthusiasm or reward coming back fromyour boss, you wonder why you bother making an effort at work. Someof these bosses show little or no interest in your work whatever you do,while others wield plenty of sticks but no carrots if you dont pull yourweight theyll soon make you feel bad about it, but do your best and youwont even get a thank you.T R I C K Y B O SS E S145 Try feedback (see Chapter 9) with this boss. It wont suddenly getyou a hundred thank-yous a day, but it may well have some effect.And one word of encouragement a week from this boss will mean asmuch as one every hour from some others. If your boss is unawareof this problem, they may well take on board any feelings and com-ments you express during a feedback session. You could try asking for more frequent performance reviews andfeedback sessions after you complete projects. If youve done a goodjob, its hard for them not to say so in this situation. And most ofthese bosses arent trying to avoid motivating you; they simply dontrealise the effect their natural reticence is having. Asking specificallyfor their view of your performance should earn you any recognitionyou deserve. Ask for rewards in advance. For example, If this presentation goeswell, could I run the next presentation myself? or, If I exceed myH OW TO M A N AG E YO U R B O SS146Living with itYoull have to accept that some bosses just arent the type to become theworlds greatest motivators. There are steps you can take, but they willonly get you so far in the end you must compromise, and accept that untilyou or the boss moves on, youre going to have to live with less recognitionthan you deserve. Take comfort from the fact that your non-expressiveboss may actually think the world of you they just dont think to say so,or perhaps dont know how to say so.One word of encouragement a week from this boss willmean as much as one every hour from some others.qtarget this quarter, will it be reflected in my next bonus? I know itsnot as good as a reward spontaneously offered, but you have to meetthis boss half way. Learn to translate any recognition into normal language. When yourboss says, Good, you need to hear, Terrific work! Well done! Find ways to motivate yourself. Work towards targets of your own,or promise yourself a reward for certain achievements. Or aimtowards promotion or earning new responsibilities as an incentive tokeep you enthusiastic. Presumably your team members have thesame problem, so perhaps you could find collective incentives. Youcould try friendly competition, or set yourself team targets and agreethat youll all go out for an evening together if you meet them. Orsimply make a point of congratulating each other on good work, evenif the boss doesnt join in.throws tantrumsThis kind of behaviour is abusive, and theres no reason why you haveto stand for it. Your assertiveness skills (see Chapter 7) will serve youwell here youll need them. If youre a parent youll have some expe-rience of dealing with tantrums, no doubt, and youll know that the firstrule of handling a tantrum is never give in to it.Theres no reason to think that your bosss tantrum is any differentfrom the kind of tantrum a small child throws. In fact, theyve probablybeen doing it since they were a small child. Why? Because theyvefound it works. So the key to handling it is to teach them that it doesnt work, at least not with you. Never give in to it. Dont respond to a tantrum with emotion. Remain cool and rational,and stick to facts (if you get a word in at all). Set them an exampleof adult behaviour. If theres anyone else around youll look good andthe boss will look extremely foolish.T R I C K Y B O SS E S147 Dont give in to them when theyre having a tantrum. Let them seethat their behaviour gets them nowhere and makes them look veryfoolish. Eventually theyll learn theres no point in it. Any time you decide youve had enough, youre entitled to leave. Youcan either make an excuse (Ive got another meeting at 10.00) orsimply say, Im here to do a job, not to be shouted at. Im going toleave and Ill discuss this with you when youre calm. Now go. Dontbe lured back or drawn into any further discussion. They wont likeit, but they can hardly sack you or even complain to their boss aboutyou for refusing to be abused. If you use this technique every time,theyll have to learn to deal with you rationally. If you can, enlist the support of your colleagues. If everyone in theteam adopts this approach, it will work much faster.If your boss has been throwing tantrums to good effect for 30 or 40years, theyre not going to be able to give it up in a matter of days. So you need to accept that this is a long-term process. However, thetechniques above will work in the end (though the tantrums may continue towards other people who arent as smart as you). In themeantime, youll find them easier to handle, and you can leave if theyget unpleasant.H OW TO M A N AG E YO U R B O SS148Who are you working for?When your boss throws tantrums, you need to be assertive and recognisethat just because this person is your boss, they have no right to treat youin this abusive way. If they have chosen to behave like a small child, theyhave also chosen whether they recognise it or not to suspend theirauthority over you temporarily. You dont work for a small child, you workfor a rational adult. You have to deal with them only in their adult mode.humiliates you in publicThis boss puts you down in public, making snide or sarcastic remarks,and does their best to belittle you in front of other people. If you are theonly person they do this to, you would also do well to look at the bosswhopicks on you personally later in this chapter. But even if they doit to many of their subordinates, thats little comfort.The trick is to turn their technique back on themselves, by behavingrationally and reasonably in a way which makes them look small. Hereshow its done. To start with, dont give them any ammunition. If they are sarcasticabout the standard of your work, make sure its always excellent. Ifthey are snide about you turning up late, get to meetings on time.You cant win with these bosses unless their remarks are unjustified. If you want to, you can ignore the remarks with dignity. But thiswont stop them. On the other hand, if you get riled you simply findyourself rowing with your boss, which helps no one. So the logical middle way is to be assertive. Remain calm and unflus-tered, but ask them to justify their remarks. When they snidely say,Another day off work again yesterday, I notice reply with, Apartfrom taking a day off a fortnight ago for a family funeral, I dontremember taking a day off for several months. Which occasions areyou referring to? This is an entirely reasonable response, but willleave them looking pretty foolish. The more you do it, the soonerthey will learn its not wise to try to humiliate you in public. Teachthe technique to your colleagues too.T R I C K Y B O SS E S149Remain calm and unflustered, but ask them tojustify their remarks.qwont back you upIt is a managers job to make sure everyone in their team is able to dotheir job as well as possible. That means giving you all the support youneed in terms of resources, training and so on. It is also their job to takeresponsibility for the whole department. Any mistake you make is ulti-mately their mistake, because they didnt equip you to prevent it hap-pening.The good boss gives you everything you need to do your job, and thencarries the can if anything goes wrong. But not all bosses are that good.Some of them give you little or no support, and then step back whenthings go wrong, leaving the full spotlight to fall on you. These two problems are linked because it is often the same type ofboss who commits both crimes lack of support and unwillingnessto share responsibility. They are also linked because if you were toget the support you needed in the first place, you would rarely makeH OW TO M A N AG E YO U R B O SS150Dont change the recordIf your sarcastic boss is hard to handle, you may need to take the tech-nique one step further. If you ask them, When did I last take a day offwork? they may either laugh off your response or give a general answer,such as, I cant remember, it happens so often. Dont stand for this.Adopt the stuck record technique and put pressure on them to answer thequestion: No, seriously. I dont believe Ive taken a day off for over sixmonths. Tell me when you think Ive taken time off. You may never get astraight answer, but repeating the question once or twice will make yourpoint clearly enough that theyll feel uncomfortable. After theyve experi-enced this a few times, theyll think twice before throwing out unfoundednegative remarks.mistakes, so your bosss readiness to point the finger at you wouldrarely matter. You need to spell out for this boss exactly what you need from them.Tell them, for example, youll need them to elicit co-operation fromthe marketing department, with access to their records, and youllneed to be allowed to devote a day a week to this project if its to becompleted on time. And youll need to be trained in using the soft-ware before you can start. In order to get what you need from thisboss youll have to be specific right from the start, so they have noexcuses. Let them know why you need these things. Explain that if you dontthe project will go over budget, or not be finished on time, or youllbe unable to do it to standard. If they think youre asking too muchtheyll have to hammer it out with you now, rather than simply failto come up with the goods. Put this list of requirements down in writing for them email willdo. That way its down on paper, and they cant claim they didntknow what your needs were. Include any time constraints; for exam-ple, I need this information by Friday 10th in order to complete theproject in time for the new product launch. Having elicited their agreement by this means, you should continueto email or send written reminders every time some promisedresource fails to materialise, including a reminder of the conse-quences if you dont get what you need by the agreed time. If things still go wrong, and your boss attempts to let you take theblame, youre now in a position to demonstrate that it wasnt yourfault. Your paperwork shows that you werent given what youneeded when you needed it, and that your boss knew it. Now you can respond in the way outlined earlier for the bosswhopasses the buck.T R I C K Y B O SS E S151wont let you developThe longer you do your job, the easier it gets. It stands to reason. Sonow you want new challenges and fresh responsibilities. But your bossis happy for you to stay as you are, doing a good job and not likely toneed a lot of input or to make any significant mistakes. Training up staffis a lot more time-consuming, not to mention riskier, for a boss thanleaving them where they are or so the boss thinks.The sad thing is that people who arent allowed to develop get fed upand tend to leave eventually (which actually costs the boss more in thelong run). But youd rather not leave. If you were only allowed todevelop, youd be very happy in this job. So what can you do? Volunteer for extra responsibilities as often as you can, and ask fortraining and new responsibilities. In particular, point out to yourboss the advantages to them. For example, If I spent a day or twowith Sonia learning how to organise conferences, I could cover forher when shes on holiday, and Id know exactly what I was doing.H OW TO M A N AG E YO U R B O SS152The sad thing is that people who arent allowed todevelop get fed up and tend to leave eventually.qSpeedy developmentTry feedback (Chapter 9) on a boss who wont let you develop. Once youveexplained to your boss how frustrated youre feeling, they may well co-operate. The feedback technique is great because its non-confronta-tional, and this is just what you need to encourage your boss to help. Itavoids the temptation to threaten them (If you dont let me develop myskills Ill hand in my notice). Threatening is never helpful, as it simply rilesyour boss.As you can see, this approach should reassure your boss that therewill be less risk training you than leaving you untrained. If your boss is reluctant to let you develop because they are a controlfreak, see the section later in this chapter on handling the controlfreak negativeThe negative boss always looks on the pessimistic side of things. Theytell you your ideas wont work, and their outlook is always bleak. Thishas two key disadvantages. First, its demoralising to work in a negativeatmosphere. And second, its particularly demotivating to have yourown ideas and suggestions criticised and often dismissed.So why is your boss so negative? Its almost always down to a fear offailure. If youre prepared for the worst, it wont come as a shock (goesthe thinking). And if you never take risks, you wont make big mistakes.Of course, this is a nonsense since its logical conclusion is total inac-tion, and the potentially huge mistake of missing opportunities. Butthats not how your boss sees it. Remember that without any negative input, failure would be farmore frequent. In moderation, negative comments are a helpful wayof spotting pitfalls in time to avoid them. So dont dismiss all nega-tivity out of hand aim to tone it down, not eliminate it. As far as general negativity is concerned, you need to get your bossto be specific. When they tell you It will never work, ask themwhich aspects of the project wont work, and why. This ensures atleast that they focus on rational worries, even if they have them outof proportion. Now play on your bosss fear of failure. Point out why rejecting youridea would be riskier than accepting it: If we dont take the initia-tive, our competitors will and well be left behind, or, On average,T R I C K Y B O SS E S153each member of this team generates twice as much income as theycost the organisation. So if we dont take on two more people, wecould be losing the department something like 50,000 a a bullyThis kind of boss sometimes exhibits several of the characteristicswere looking at in this chapter. They may throw tantrums, humiliateyou and pick on you, as well as being unreasonable, pressuring you towork long hours and otherwise behaving abusively.Working for a bully can be extremely stressful. Some bosses resort tobullying when theyre under pressure, while others bully constantly.Some bully everyone, while others bully only one or two team mem-bers. Whichever type your boss is, here are a few strategies for handlingthem. Try feedback (Chapter 9). It can be scary when you have a bully for aboss, but its more likely to work than anything else. If youre diplo-matic, theres no reason why the meeting should make mattersworse, and its often helpful. Let your boss know how their behav-iour makes their department less effective (which will obviouslyreflect on them). You can do this non-confrontationally by sayingsomething like, I find it very hard to perform as well as I could whenI feel under excessive pressure, and my morale and the morale ofthose who work closely with me suffers as a result. Practise your assertiveness skills (Chapter 7) until you can stand upfor yourself in front of your boss without becoming confrontational.Once their bullying tactics stop working on you, they will be lessinclined to use them. If these techniques dont elicit the results you need, and you feel theproblem warrants further action, make a formal complaint againstyour boss. Before you do this, however, collect as much evidence asH OW TO M A N AG E YO U R B O SS154you can, enlist the support of witnesses, keep a log of your bosssbullying behaviour, and keep copies of any memos or emails whichcontain bullying language. Some organisations now have an anti-bul-lying policy; if yours does you can refer to this for advice on how tocomplain.picks on you personallyMaybe your boss is a great boss to most of the team, but not for you.Being singled out and picked on is deeply distressing; arguably worsethan receiving the same treatment from a boss who dishes it out toeverybody. What can you do when youre being victimised? Talk to your colleagues if you can. See if they are aware of your prob-lem, and enlist their support if possible. If they back you up when theboss is picking on you, it will make it obvious that they can see whatthe boss is up to which may act as a deterrent. Talk to your boss. Use feedback techniques, and try to find out whytheyre picking on you. Dont put it in these terms; instead tell themyou get the feeling that they are displeased with something youredoing, or failing to do. Ask them what you can do to resolve things.If theres a specific cause, the boss will probably tell you in responseto this and you can take steps to change things. If the cause is moreto do with personalities, or perhaps jealousy on your bosss part, youT R I C K Y B O SS E S155When all else failsIn the last resort, you may be able to take legal action against your bully ofa boss. However, be prepared for the fact that you will probably have toleave your job first so that you can claim constructive dismissal, so takelegal advice before you do anything.wont get a clear response. But highlighting the problem may wellpersuade them to lay off you. You can also use the techniques for dealing with a boss who humili-ates you in public, and you may find that some of the other cate-gories covered in this chapter apply to your a control freakControl freaks are convinced that the job is only safe if its in theirhands. No one else can do it as well as them. Consequently they checkup on you constantly, they tell you exactly how to do each task (onlytheir way will do), and they delegate little or nothing. You feel stifledand unable to develop or expand your responsibilities. Theres good news. The control freak is worried you cant do the jobto their exacting standards. But in fact, almost every control freakhas one or two chosen people who they do trust. These people areallowed to get on with the job, leaving the boss safe in the knowl-edge that it will be done just as they would have done it themselves.You just have to become one of the trusted few. The way to do this is to play their game better than they do. Givethem a progress report even before they ask for it. Perform tasksexactly as the boss stipulates you can even ask for their advice orguidance. Do your work logically, and copy your bosss style in suchthings as organising your time or keeping lists. Once your boss realises you are a team member after their ownheart, they will gradually start trusting you to have more autonomy,or to take on new responsibilities. Dont expect to reach this point ina couple of weeks, but have patience, and be thorough in your work,and youll get there in the end.H OW TO M A N AG E YO U R B O SS156Give them a progress report even before they ask forit. Perform tasks exactly as the boss stipulates.qis always rightThis boss wont listen to anyone elses point of view. Why should they?They already know the right answer. And once theyve made up theirminds about something (which doesnt generally take long) the subjectis closed. Period.Working for this kind of boss is extremely constricting because theyknow exactly how to do your job, and they wont be happy if you dontdo it the way they know is right. Here are the best ploys for dealing withthe boss whos always right. Never tell them theyre wrong. Youve probably picked this one upalready, but what do you do when they are wrong? The best way toget them to see it is by asking innocent questions: Can you explainhow that will work in peak production periods? I think I follow, butwhat happens after the initial promotion? Could you just explainhow that works with new staff? Now sit back, and let your bossrealise their error of judgement for themselves. If you have trouble wresting responsibility away from this expert,who knows how to do the job so much better than you, be realistic.Find the area of the job they find least interesting or consider leastT R I C K Y B O SS E S157Ask for interferenceDont get defensive with control freaks, especially if there seems to be alevel of personal mistrust (such as a conviction that youre fiddling yourtime sheet). Perversely, what you should do is encourage your boss tocheck up on you (no, that wasnt a misprint I really did say encourage).The point of this is that it will build your bosss trust in you and, althoughthey may take the opportunity initially, they are more likely to loosen theirhold once they see that you are trustworthy.important, and ask to be allowed to make decisions over that. Forexample: I know Scotland is our smallest territory, and none of ourbig customers is there. Could I look after those regional accounts,with authority to agree discounts? There wont be any really big fig-ures involved anyway, and Ive been watching the way you handlecustomer discounts in the south east. This way you can slowly buildup a recognition in them that you know much of what they do, andmust therefore be right quite often yourself. Bosses who are always right, and therefore never listen to anyoneelse, are actually wrong quite often (surprise, surprise). When thishappens, resist the temptation to say, I told you so, and instead helpyour boss to save face: Of course, if it hadnt been a leap year, yourprojections for February would have been spot on. Theres a goodreason for this. These people, once proved wrong, will always lookfor someone else to blame. (Obviously. It couldnt have been them,after all, because theyre always right.) So align yourself with themfast, so the finger of blame points past you and elsewhere. Make sure you get things right as often as is humanly possible. Doyour homework thoroughly, so that your results always demonstratethat you, too, are invariably right. Well, almostyoull doubtlessfind that no one else is allowed to be quite perfect.stallsThese people are often friendly, affable and easy to get along with. Butwhen you need a decision made, or need someone to put your case tosenior management or even just need advice they somehow wriggle,stall, or just plain disappear.H OW TO M A N AG E YO U R B O SS158Since they hate conflict, this boss is also very reluctantto give you constructive criticism or to put you straightif you go wrong.qSince they hate conflict, this boss is also very reluctant to give you con-structive criticism or to put you straight if you go wrong. Consequently,you may well have little idea if your performance isnt up to scratch.This is demoralising for you, and can be downright dangerous to yourcareer if more senior managers can see the problem but your own bosshasnt enlightened you.So what can you do to get these reluctant bosses to start doing their jobproperly? Here are a few techniques that will help. If you ask them for a straight opinion on your performance, theywont be able to make any negative comments. It might upset you.Theyll just insist theres nothing wrong. So if you sense theres aproblem, try phrasing your question differently: What do you thinkcould improve my proposal to make it even better? This allows themto feel they are being helpful rather than brutally honest, and theyanswer while still implying that the proposal was excellent. If your boss is stalling, there is some kind of conflict. Maybe theyknow that senior management dont want to see any budgetincreases this year. Or perhaps they feel that their own boss doesntT R I C K Y B O SS E S159Why stall?Often the problem for these bosses is that they simply cant handle con-flict. So rather than tell you that your proposal isnt considered goodenough to implement, they just avoid making a decision on it. Or, worse,they send you off to do some extra research on it, or add another section,just to put off having to disappoint you. And its not only you they dont wantto get into deep water with. They are nervous of arguing with their ownbosses. So when you ask them to clear a budget increase for you, theysomehow never sort it out. They take no for an answer without putting upany reasoned defence, and leave you in an impossible the project you want the additional funds for. So get them totell you what the conflict is then you know what youre dealingwith. And they may find it easier to tackle the situation once its outin the open. Try saying, I realise theres a conflict for you here. Impushing for an increase for this budget. So whats on the other side,holding you back? If your boss is simply indecisive and puts off making decisions, tryacting as an unofficial adviser, and see if you cant help them to finda firm solution. Or simply make the decision yourself. Talk to themabout the problem, and then say, Thats really helpful. OK, Ill tellyou what Ill do Make this a statement rather than a question.This gives them the chance to disagree, but almost certainly they will leave you to get on with it, having effectively approved your decision. Dont pressure this kind of boss too hard. If the pressure feels worseto them than the risk of doing something, they will do anything justto get you off their back. And it probably wont be what you wantthem to do.takes credit for your ideasThis is not only infuriating, its also damaging to your career. If yourgood ideas arent recognised as your own, how can you be rewarded forthem? If you have one of these bosses, you need to take action to makesure you get the credit you deserve. For a start, keep records of your ideas and suggestions, and notes ofrelevant meetings with your boss. Send them memos and emails inorder to elicit a written response. For example, send them an emailsaying, As I promised during our meeting about my idea for devel-oping a motorised pushchair, here are the figures Any reply thatdoesnt argue with your mention of its being your idea clearlyacknowledges the fact that it is.H OW TO M A N AG E YO U R B O SS160 Get your ideas down as a formal proposal, with your name on thecover page, and the date. Let other people know about your ideas, either verbally or by copy-ing to them anything you can justify, including your proposal. After the idea has been proved a success, blow your own trumpet asmuch as you can. Let people know how pleased you are that youridea turned out to be a winner. While senior management may be thegroup you most want to notice you and recognise the idea as yourown, its worth telling anyone just to get your success widely circu-lated. So tell colleagues in other departments as well as your own,managers of other departments and so on. In order to avoid riling your boss, give them credit (even if youre notsure they really deserve it) for encouraging your idea. You may evenfeel you can send an email or memo to your bosss boss, saying howgrateful you were for your bosss support for your dishonestWeve already looked at certain specific acts of dishonesty, such as pass-ing the buck or stealing your credit. But what about telling lies to getout of trouble, or fiddling report sheets to make the figures look better?And what if your boss expects you to join in with this dishonesty?T R I C K Y B O SS E S161Comments welcomeAs well as getting your ideas and successes down in writing, try to elicit and keep on file any outside evidence to back you up. Testimonials fromcustomers, emails from other managers offering thanks or praise, statis-tics showing how things have improved since you introduced your ideaallthese go to show that the credit should be yours. If you are not personally expected to get involved in the dishonesty,youll have to use your own judgement to decide when things areserious enough for you to take action. Once you decide to do something, go to your boss. Dont take amoral tack or lecture them simply tell them you are uncomfortablewith the situation and feel you have to do something about it. Thisgives your boss a chance to stop doing whatever it is and you will letthe matter rest. If your boss refuses to stop and you decide to take action, make sureyou can prove your allegations of dishonesty. Your boss will very pos-sibly deny it, and may well try to make you a scapegoat in some way.So secure your own position before going to whichever senior man-ager or department is appropriate. Should your boss try to involve you in the dishonesty, refuse with-out moralising. Tell them youre not prepared to be put in a positionthat could jeopardise your career. Remember, if the deceit is uncov-ered, your boss may well try to cast the blame in every direction buttheir own. And youll be right in the firing line. From a career pointof view, refusing to play ball will be far less damaging than gettinginvolved.Obviously there are certain kinds of dishonesty which you may feel callfor you to blow the whistle at once, without giving your boss a chanceto remedy things. Only you know when this type of serious action iscalled for.H OW TO M A N AG E YO U R B O SS162If your boss refuses to stop and you decide to takeaction, make sure you can prove your allegations ofdishonesty.qbelieves in workaholismIf your boss wants to work 18 hours a day, its really not your problem.But if youre expected to join in, it can be a big problem. And the moreyour colleagues play ball, the more isolated you will feel if you complain. If its not too late already, dont start working long hours. Its a loteasier to say no in the first place than to get fed up after a few monthsand try cutting your workload down by several hours a week. Talk to your boss, using feedback techniques (Chapter 9). If you canget the support of your team mates, this will be even more effective.But dont make it look like a mutiny just a collective request for arethink on the hours your department works. Explain that when youtook this job on, you were led to believe the working hours were nineto five (or whatever theyre supposed to be check your contract tomake sure of your facts). Dont come across as a jobsworth you cansay that you understand that its not realistic to expect to leave workon the dot of five every day, but that working late seems to havebecome the norm, and its making you feel demoralised and demoti-vated. Dont allow your boss to intimidate you into working unreasonablylong hours. You are not paid to work these hours, so you have theright to refuse. Your boss has to recognise that you work extra hoursT R I C K Y B O SS E S163When in RomeThere are some industries where long hours are considered the norm. Youmay not like it, but its no good becoming a theatre actor and then sayingyou dont want to work evenings, or a footballer and declining to play at theweekends. The trouble comes when colleagues in other departments getto work nine to five, but your boss expects longer hours.out of goodwill. You can be assertive (see Chapter 7), explaining thatyou are not happy giving the organisation this many extra hours fornothing, and that you intend to reduce the work you do outsideoffice hours. If you can come up with a reason for cutting down your hours, thiswill be a big help. It may genuinely be the thing that has spurred youto take action in the first place. Maybe youve just started a family, oran elderly parent suddenly needs more care, or youve been diag-nosed with a stress-related illness. The biggest problem for your boss, in practical terms, will be that ifyou reduce your hours you will necessarily reduce the amount ofwork you get through each week. So do whatever you can to help.Improve your time management skills, delegate what you can, findways to streamline tasks. You might discuss this option with yourboss, and let them know youre aiming to reduce your hours withoutyour work suffering. You can often cut your hours this way without reference to the boss.If they notice youre now knocking off at six instead of eight eachevening, and try to give you an extra few hours work a week to fillin the time, make it clear youve improved your effectiveness for yourown benefit, not theirs. Expect it to take time to cut down your hours. Tell your boss, forexample, that when this project is completed at the end of nextmonth, you intend to avoid working such long hours again. Yourenot trying to get out of your existing workload, youre just planningto reduce it by natural wastage. You may need to do this in severalstages, depending on the options and how many hours youre tryingto cut. Youll need to recognise that your boss isnt likely to be happy withyour working nine to five if no one else does. It might seem likeplenty to you, but theyll see you as lazy. If you are otherwise happyH OW TO M A N AG E YO U R B O SS164with the job, and want to stay, find a reasonable compromise. Per-haps you could work half an hour later each day, with the occasionallate evening for a special reason. Be prepared, however, for yourbosss constant pressure to increase this, and be ready to declinetasks that wont fit into the working hours youre happy with.uses emotional blackmailEmotional blackmail is unpleasant coming from anyone, and comingfrom your boss it can be particularly insidious. The whole teams goingto be in a mess if you dont do this or Please dont let me downYour boss is playing on your desire to do well, contribute to the teamand be successful, and trying to make you feel guilty if you dont co-operate. People who use emotional blackmail do it because it works. If youcan show them it wont work with you, theyll learn to stop doing itin time. The way to counter emotional blackmail is by beingassertive, without becoming aggressive. Recognise emotional blackmail when its directed at you, and dontfeel guilty. In fact, as soon as you sense feelings of guilt, ask yourself,T R I C K Y B O SS E S165Permanently on call?If your boss is inclined to call you up out of hours, or even on holiday, makeit impossible for them. Dont give them your number, or give them onlyyour mobile number and turn it off whenever you can. Leave your answer-ing machine on at home, or get someone else to answer calls. Make itclear you consider it an invasion of privacy being called out of hours. Tellthem the place youre holidaying doesnt have a phone or be straight andtell them it does but youre not giving them the number. And brief familyand colleagues not to put the boss in touch with you.Am I being emotionally blackmailed? If the answer is yes, dump theguilt. How do you dump it? It can be hard, but you need to remind your-self that emotional blackmail is a manipulative behaviour, and theperson practising it should be the one to feel guilty, not you. Anyonewho stoops to emotional blackmail doesnt deserve a positiveresponse. Remind yourself, too, that if you can show them it doesntwork with you, youll be setting a valuable example for other sus-ceptible members of the team. Now just adopt the stuck record approach, Im sorry, I cant do itrepeated until they get the message. If they ask why, try to avoidgiving a detailed answer or youll find yourself in a debate about it.At most just say, Im sorry, I havent time, I cant do it.or is simply never thereAn absent boss probably sounds like heaven to some people especiallythose whose boss is a control freak or a perfectionist. But in fact it car-ries its own problems. The reason you have a manager is presumablybecause you need one to make decisions, authorise money andH OW TO M A N AG E YO U R B O SS166Anyone who stoops to emotional blackmail doesntdeserve a positive response.qCan the boss take a joke?If you respond aggressively to emotional blackmail it will simply causeunpleasantness. But with some bosses you can get away with saying, jok-ingly, Careful, thats starting to sound like emotional blackmail Theylldeny it, of course, but it will often make them back off when they realisetheyve been rumbled.resources, and smooth the way when you need co-operation from otherdepartments. All these things are hard to achieve when your boss isnever around.Most bosses jobs take them out of the office from time to time. Theproblem arises when your boss seems to arrange endless appointmentsand trips away, and to be in a continuous stream of meetings when theyare back at base. They should make sure there is time for their team toconsult and talk to them when they need to, but not all of them do. Try feedback with your boss. They may be unaware of the problemsthey are causing, and if you explain the difficulties you have becausetheyre rarely there, they may readily agree to be around for, say, acouple of hours twice a week, and available on the phone at leastonce every day. Whether or not they really change their ways as a result of the feed-back session, youll need to be as organised as possible to make thebest of the time you have access to them. Anticipate what yourelikely to need from them, so that when you do get to speak to them,you can sort out all the things youre going to need before the nexttime you see them. If theyre not in the office again until Monday, beready with all your requests for authorisation, decisions and so onfor the rest of the week. Put all your requests as briefly as you can, so as not to waste whatprecious time you have with them. Try to put things in writing, suchas proposals for ideas, figures to justify requests for money or otherresources, and pros and cons with recommendations for any deci-sions you need them to approve. If you can put your requests in writing, you can also do yourself afavour by giving them to your boss as early as possible, and lettingthem know when you need a response. This way they can read themwhile theyre away from the office.T R I C K Y B O SS E S167