So your boss is driving you mad! (and how to cope…)

The recruitment experience is a great opportunity isn’t it?  From both perspectives.  Done well, it allows an organisation’s management to carefully decide if you have what they want and can deliver it in the way that they need it delivered – AND – it gives you a chance to decide whether you are going to sell your hard earned knowledge and skills to this outfit, whether it is the right place for you and, crucially, whether you will gel with your (prospective) new boss.

Sounds completely balanced doesn’t it – a real ‘win / win’ potential.  However, how often in reality does the latter come into play?  Maybe around the fringes when we are first deciding whether to submit an application or not.  I have heard many friends and acquaintances say ‘I’m past just jumping for the money now – it’s the values and relationships that are important..’.

And then the inevitable happens, you get offered the job and you are swept along on a tidal wave of ego (yep, I’ve still got it), pride (they chose meee!), ambition (C suite a little closer) and just a teeny bit of greed (must advertise for a cleaner).

Any instinctive, cautionary heckles that were raised during the process about the interviewer (and person who will become your most important stakeholder) fade into the background.  Didn’t s/he talk a lot at the interview? Meh, it will be fine.  Didn’t s/he sound a little out of date? Well, you’ll be able to help with that, right? Didn’t s/he seem overly focussed on process rather than ideas? That was probably just the interview and what was on his/her mind at the time……etc etc

So you’re in.  Honeymoon period is over, you have made a lot of contacts and are confident you can deliver what is required of you.  Only one problem – the boss.  Here are just a few difficulties that can crop up when your boss isn’t all that you had hoped and some suggestions on how to cope…

1. Your boss is out of date and is holding you back.  This can be incredibly frustrating and can arise due to any number of reasons.  Your boss has almost certainly succeeded at some point in the past, but has failed to keep up to date with contemporary developments and begins to hold on to what has worked in the past.  If this happens to you, a good strategy can be to offer to be the team learning coordinator, collecting case studies and information on new ways of working that can be shared and discussed with the team as a whole.  By offering to help and including your boss in the debates, you are all learning together and ideas of how to implement some of the ideas will come to the fore.  Focus on the business benefits of any suggested changes.

2. You are being micro-managed.  Ouch – this can be an incredibly painful scenario.  People who micro-manage can be driven to do so by a broad range of concerns, from the need to assert power (bad intent) to a desire to help others to learn and to improve standards (good intent).    Both cause problems, but if you are faced with the former, run for the hills – if you are faced with the latter, then there could be hope.  Try to establish exactly what your boss’s concerns and expectations are, then find opportunities to demonstrate that you are striving to alleviate one and meet the other.  If you can focus on how much you stand to learn from the experience, then it could just be worth hanging on to this boss’s coat-tails for a while.

Somewhere in between the two extremes of course are those control freaks whose main driver is anxiety, which exists because of their own fear of failure.  These bosses can be the most tricky to deal with because there could be genuinely good intent, particularly in terms of how the person presents themselves, but their fear of failure has the potential for so many negative repercussions in respect of trust, learning and team effectiveness.  Finding tactful ways to provide feedback, for example through an established 360 feedback tool, and showing that you want to help them to succeed can help.

3. Your boss is taking credit for your work.  Well, how very dare they?  After all that hard work, you deserve the credit, right?  Well, there’s no getting away from it, you’re going to have to have a conversation with them.  There’s no need for it to be an angry conversation – after all there could be a genuine misunderstanding and your boss deserves an opportunity to explain.  So, as part of one of your regular catch ups, just explain calmly to your boss what is on your mind, how hard you worked on ‘project X’ and how you felt when you didn’t appear to get the credit for it.  Have the discussion and try to end the meeting on a different, more positive issue.  If your boss isn’t terribly receptive, then for your own sanity, start sharing your ideas and successes more widely than just with your boss and document your work and achievements yourself.

4. You don’t get enough direction.  Whilst freedom to act and having plenty of scope for trying new ideas is absolutely great, for some a lack of direction can leave them feeling up the creek without a paddle.  Not knowing where to start or which direction to head off in can result in no progress at all – decision paralysis.  If this happens to you, try drafting up what you believe the direction, objectives and success measures are, whether this is for a specific project or for more general team goal setting, and ask to discuss them with your boss.  You can always explain that you really appreciate the freedom, but just want to sense check that you are aiming for the right target.

Ultimately though it’s important to remember that your boss is the boss – the company has put them there for a reason and if you have tried coping strategies and talking to them about how you feel, but are still finding managing the relationship stressful, then you may need to think about finding an organisation that is a better cultural fit for you.  Whatever your situation, you still have choices.