Good boss / bad boss
Good boss / bad boss
I know that some people can seem pretty infuriating at times, but I’m sure that very few people wake up each morning and set their intent on making life difficult for others. Many people will not agree with me I’m sure, but if you find that your boss is more of the bad variety than the good, what can you do about it other than leaving and working for a good boss? Try this 5 step approach.
- Stop reacting
Chances are that if you have tended to react to your boss in ways that create negative emotions of frustration or anxiety, this reaction could now be a habit, and breaking the habit may be hard, but break it you must. It will certainly be easier to change your reaction than to change your boss’s behaviour. Whenever you feel the reaction coming on, take a deep breath, relax your shoulders and imagine your boss as an unfortunate helpless soul who only knows bad ways of managing. He probably feels insecure, knowing that he lacks communication skills, and he behaves a certain way to block this from his mind. When you have done this move on to step 2.
- Flip your perspective
However you have been thinking about your bad boss, flip it over and think the opposite. Everyone has something going for them, even your boss, but you may not notice any good behaviour if you are always expecting to get the bad. Once the mind forms a perception about a person it tends to seek evidence to support the perception and it’s this effect that will hide any good behaviour from you. How rosy a picture can you create around your boss? What does he do well? What are good aspects of his character? Keep building this picture whilst remembering that your boss is a human being like anyone else and has both good and bad character traits. The first step to changing a relationship is to make a change, but whilst most people go about trying to change the other person, the smart way is to change yourself. If you change your attitude towards the other person they will notice and act differently towards you. Next go to step 3.
- Reframe your meanings
One way of keeping the bad boss perception alive is to attach negative meanings to the behaviour. So you call the boss intimidating, heartless, demonic, dominating or maybe a bully. These terms are ways of describing the bad boss, but they also anchor the reactive feelings you get when you are interacting with each other. Now, it’s important to remember that we are not dealing with the boss’s behaviour here, but your reaction to it. Dealing with a true bully is a topic for a different article. Here we are concentrating on giving you the freedom to not react negatively, regardless of what the boss says or does. So take your description of the boss’s behaviour and reframe it, so that ‘intimidating me’ becomes ‘the boss doesn’t mean to intimidate me, it’s just that he is unaware of the effect they have on others and seems unable to change their behaviour’. Bullying becomes ‘when the boss speaks to me in that way it’s the same whoever she is speaking with – so it’s not about me, but her’. After you have successfully reframed your meanings go to the final step.
- See the joke in it all
Laughter is the most effective form of therapy and change. When you can stand back and look at the interaction between you and your bad boss, you will notice how ridiculous it all seems. How come 2 intelligent mature adults have been acting in this way? Keep looking for the absurdity in the behaviour until you fall over laughing at the both of you. This will diminish any remaining negative feelings leaving you feeling free from the cause/effect you had locked yourself into.
- Mirror the boss’s style
So now you have stopped reacting, it’s time to build some strong rapport. When you have rapport with your boss you will be able to influence her. A quick way of building rapport is to match or mirror certain aspects of her behaviour, including body posture, speed of talking, and various other aspects of her communication style. This is a skill you can learn, and once mastered will give you the ability to build rapport and have productive relationships with just about anyone, especially the bad boss. This is possible because even bad bosses want to feel understood and building a strong foundation of rapport will give the boss this perception – that you understand them. When you mirror another person’s physiology, including their breathing, very deep rapport can be established. From this foundation you can build understanding, and then you can begin to lead the boss with your ideas.
For more tools and techniques to help you manage difficult relationships, join us on our unique Real Personal Effectiveness programme.
David Molden, FCIPD