This week I thought I’d answer a question that I get asked quite a lot or that I observe as a major frustration when coaching women.
That question is….’what do I do if my boss is a dick?’ I use this language because that’s what comes out of people’s mouths. What they really want to know is how do I manage my manager?
There’s nothing worse, (I know, I’ve been there) than having a boss that’s pretty crap (or appears to be at least). It can make your job much harder, damage your credibility and make you extremely unhappy in your job.
I’m going to get straight to the point today (unlike me I know but I’m practising). In 99.9% of cases this is all down to communication fuck ups. Ahh, sounds a piece of piss to fix then eh? Think again my friend! That one, simple word is the key to unlocking the universe! (Now it’s a big deal innit?).
An easy example to demonstrate my point…
A fab woman said to me a few weeks ago ‘My boss is a dick .In 3 months in my new job he’s spoken to me twice. He doesn’t give me any feedback. I’ve no idea if I’m doing a good job or not and it’s knocking my confidence and I feel out of my depth’.
Now that’s not great, is it? Even the most shite of managers out there should be able to cotton on to the idea that they need to speak to their people more than twice in 3 months, especially when they’re in a new and promoted role.
We’re talking basic stuff here folks. I’m not even gonna bother to tell you the stories that have got shit loads of history, baggage and a closet full of skeletons to go with it!!
So, here’s my pointers to help you out of this somewhat sticky situation:
1. Shift your mindset – oh yes, I’m pointing the finger at you first, not your boss. You only have control over yourself, not your boss (as much as you’d like), but you do have influence over him/her. We know that behaviour breeds behaviour and to fundamentally create a change in behaviour it requires us to challenge our mindset. So instead of holding the belief ‘my boss is a dick’ challenge that to create a belief more like ‘we’re just different to each other and see the world through different lenses’. When you believe something more of the latter ilk you will naturally behave differently and in turn get different results! Bingo!
2. Mindset nailed. Tick. Now let’s get into behaviour. Sometimes to get what you want and need you have to stretch a little bit. Go and meet that other person on their turf. By that I mean, notice how they generally communicate (words/tone/body language/what’s important to them) and make an effort to communicate in their language/style.
E.g. A common situation is a woman who is quite extroverted, people & relationship driven, into the big picture/vision/ideas struggling with a boss who is quite low energy, task focused, anal (had to use that word, it makes me chuckle) & into the detail – you can easily see how that doesn’t work and they wouldn’t get along.
I get a lot of resistance to this one by way of “why should I? He makes no effort to communicate with me in my style!” Time to leave your ego at the door and stand true to your desired outcome. You’re ultimately doing this to get what you want remember! Not for their benefit!
3. Perceptual positions – step 3 is an NLP technique I learned on my executive coaching qualification 7 years ago and it’s one of the few that has really stuck with me. It helps you to have an open mind (we often become narrow minded in these situations). It involves you physically moving to view the situation from different perspectives.
Place 2 chairs opposite each other. Sit in chair number 1 – here, view the situation from your own perspective, asking question like:
What’s happening for you?
What do you want as an outcome?
What’s important to you about this relationship?
How does this relationship need to change to be successful?
Next move to chair 2 – now you are sitting in your boss’ chair. Ask yourself the same questions but this time from his/her perspective looking out at you.
The 3rd position is you stand neutrally alongside the chairs and observe/notice the relationship – what recommendations do you make to these 2 people from an objective viewpoint to move their relationship forward?
Finally sit the 2 chairs side by side. This helps you both move forward in the same direction. It puts you on the same ‘team’ not the opposition. Here, make some decisions about what you will do differently.
4. Coach/challenge upwards – I meet a lot of people, women and men, who gripe about their boss but are just not willing to have a conversation with them about it and I find it bewildering why? In my view it’s about fear and most people articulate that as they are scared of the consequences e.g. A bollocking, ‘career suicide’ or ‘my card will be marked’ are common phrases (reduced opportunities is what they mean), some even believe it will result in a P45! When I ask them for evidence to back up their belief there very rarely is any, or if there is it was a minor bollocking, probably warranted because of HOW they did it and in their mind they’ve exaggerated and embellished it (or rumour control used the Chinese whispers technique and you heard it on the grapevine instead of observing it first hand – God! We all love a bit of drama!). What’s actually going on here is yes, a fear, but a fear of ability and competence. Not very many people are truly skilled at feedback and coaching. So my top tip here is – get friggin good at it! It will be the best career development you EVER do! The feedback bit is easy with a bit of practice…
Firstly check in that you have the right intent – are you doing this to get something off your chest and have a go or to genuinely help this person and your relationship get better. If it’s the latter, great, it might be useful to state your intent to the other person. If not, turn around, walk away and go and have a word with yourself till your intent is good.
Then share the observable behaviour, what you actually saw and heard (not what you thought of it or interpreted it as – this is also not a character assassination!)
Share the impact that behaviour had – state the change/improvement that would help the situation.
Then ask them what they think and bloody LISTEN! Then talk it through.
Final point on this one – get over yourself with the hierarchy, everyone needs feedback and coaching and it’s ok to come from all directions.
5. Last one – as Cialdini so adeptly put it in the vastly popular Influence, reciprocity is one of the most powerful forces of influence. Perhaps as a legacy to our tribal natures, humans are very motivated to pay back any favors done to them. Or consider it karma – what comes around goes around. So I suggest to you, go out of your way to role model the behaviour and actions you would like to see – actions speak louder than words – they might rub off more than you would think!
So there you have it… 5 ways to handle your boss being a dick. Maybe he/she isn’t a dick after all? (Ok, ok, there are a few out there I’m sure!)
There’s so much more I could share!
Get in touch with your personal dilemmas and challenges on this topic, I’d love to have a stab at helping you to resolve them. Just drop me a message through any of our social media channels. (Hey – idea …..I might set up a Facebook problem page! What do you reckon?)
If this topic is of interest, do comment and let me have your thoughts. If it’s hot right now then I’ll blog again next week with some more hints and tips on growing your credibility and influence – would be fab to have some case studies and stories to work with (totes anonymous obvs!)
Love ya bye