One of the main reasons people cite for leaving a job is not getting along with their boss. They complain the boss is "too this" and "not enough that." They change jobs just to get away from a specific person, perhaps sacrificing a potential promotion or career growth. Has that happened to you? Consider this example:
Philip has been a midlevel manager at a construction company for 10 years. He and his former boss, Keith, had a great relationship during those years, and he really enjoyed his work. He liked Keith’s hands-off management style, which he described this way: "Keith basically left me alone to do my job, but gave me support when I needed it. He was great about using his influence to eliminate obstacles and make my job easier." However, for the past six months, Philip has had a new boss, Sharon. Here’s what he says about her: "It was a shock when Keith left and Sharon took over. She couldn’t be more different from Keith. She constantly interrupts me and adds unnecessary complication to my work. Then, to make it worse, she gets on my case for not getting it done fast enough!"
Philip’s experience mirrors that of most workers. In most cases, whether you have a good or a bad boss depends solely on whether you and your boss share similar personality styles or whether your styles clash. For example, do you sometimes feel your boss plays favorites? If so, consider this: what you see as favoritism could be an example of people with shared work styles operating on the same wavelength. It might just be that your boss finds it easier to work with a particular employee because the two of them see eye to eye on many issues.
To get along with any boss, remember this: You can’t change others; you can only change yourself. Rather than get frustrated at your boss’s behavior, be willing to flex to your boss’s style. When you change your approach, you are likely to find that your boss’s response changes as well. Listed below are some common work issues that are a result of personality style differences. Think about your own style and your boss’s style, and try adjusting your natural style to more closely match your boss’s preference, and see how your working relationship improves.
Talks a lot versus talk little. This one is simple -- if your boss likes to talk, talk back. If your boss doesn’t like to talk, don’t annoy him or her with excessive chit-chat.
Organized versus disorganized. If your boss is disorganized, that doesn’t mean you have to be too. In fact, you can help your boss become more organized. Just don’t force a structure on him or her that will never be maintained -- you’ll just frustrate both of you.
High need for control versus hands-off approach. If your boss has a high need for control, deliver summaries and information frequently to head off micromanaging. If your boss has a hands-off approach and you need direction, keep a list of items, schedule a meeting and go over the items you need guidance on all at once so you don’t need to constantly interrupt your boss.
Information: Complete analysis versus bottom-line summary. If your boss prefers to receive lots of data before making a decision, provide it. On the other hand, many bosses prefer to see just the highlights or summary and not get bogged down in data and analysis.
Before jumping ship because of a rocky relationship, think about the following questions:
- In what ways is your boss’s style most different from yours?
- In what situations is that difference most evident?
- In what circumstances does the relationship run the most smoothly?
- What can you do to minimize friction and maximize compatibility?