Monday, May 21, 2012

There Are No Bad Bosses?

This is one of those articles for you who feel like you are dragging yourselves to work on Monday morning. In most working environments, there is usually a group of complainers. They drag themselves out of bed every day, go to work begrudgingly and find every opportunity possible, be it lunch break, tea breaks, etc., to complain about the company and their bosses, and sometimes, even their co-workers. They talk about how their hard work is not being appreciated, or how one particular colleague is a constant brownnoser etc. Does this sound familiar?

I call such complainers “Us Against The World” people. They seemingly believe that they can do no wrong while other people around them, especially “the management” are the biggest idiots in the world. These people emit so much negativity that it is like a black hole sucking whatever little ounces of motivation you have for work. It is always very easy to sit back and criticize others and be supported by a group of like-minded people. This generally creates a self-reinforcing vicious cycle until one day, some of these people can’t take it anymore and decide to leave the company.  A few months back, I shared a bunch of stories about staying positive in a negative environment. Perhaps it is worth a re-read. 

But today, as the title suggest, is about managing bosses. I must again reiterate the awesomeness of Penelope Trunk's blog. Her article here talks about how to manage your relationship with your boss to make your working environment a lot more conducive for learning:
I could have spent my time complaining. There was a lot to complain about. Instead I always approached him with empathy (“I'm sorry she dumped you”), and I always knew my boundaries (“We can't fire her. It's illegal”). Even when he was at his worst, I never took what he said personally (“When you are done yelling, I'd be happy to talk to you”).

Aside from cutting a deal, he didn't have a lot of management skills, and this gap left more room for me to shine. My solid interpersonal skills helped fill in what he was missing and helped me to get what I wanted: A (reluctant and difficult but ultimately) very useful mentor.

So take another look at the boss you call bad. Think about what motivates him: What is he scared about that you can make easier? What is he lacking that you can compensate for? What does he wish you would do that you don't? Once you start managing this relationship more skillfully, you will be able to get more from your boss in terms of coaching and support: You'll be able to tip the scales from the bad boss side to the learning opportunity side.

In fact, you should always hope for a little incompetence on your boss's part. The hole in his list of talents provides a place for you to shine. The point, after all, is for you to shine, and no one shines when they're complaining.