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Dealing With the Boss (Reader's Digest)

Dealing With the Boss (Reader's Digest)

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Published by: Dr. Stanislaus Veiga on Nov 09, 2008
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05/09/2014

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Dealing withthe Boss
THE BOSS wants to see you – these can be ominous words, and, no matter how clear your conscience, tend to produce anything from mild uneasiness to serious anxiety.This chapter considers the difficulties that sometimes occur when dealing with the boss,and discusses ways of overcoming them – not just by reducing nervousness, but bylearning to deal more creatively and more effectively with the boss, the most important person in one’s working life.Remember also the larger perspective as you read this chapter. You are, after all,employed by your boss or your company to do a job of work, not just to further your owncareer and general well-being. Learning to work well with your boss will benefit notonly you, but your boss as well, and the organization as a whole.
THE ORIGINS OF THE PROBLEM
Why should a meeting with the boss make you uneasy? There are many possible reasons.You can never forget that the boss has power over you and your daily life. He or she canassign you interesting and pleasant work – or the most uninteresting and unpleasant work.Directly or indirectly the boss controls your salary and your perks. Ultimately, you futurelies in the boss’s hands.At one extreme, a boss may behave as little more than a senior colleague – coming roundto chat constantly, asking your advice, nudging you rather than giving orders. A friend inother words, hardly a boss at all. At the other extreme, a boss may act like a distant god – keeping out of sight, yet wielding power fiercely when the occasion arises. Rumoursemerge, from behind the closed door of that very private office, of fearful rows.The chances that your boss lies somewhere in between these two extremes – someoneyou have got to know quite well, and established reasonably friendly relations with, butstill your boss. And at certain times he or she will bring this home to you, throwing youoff balance and producing in you reactions that you have little control over.
Attitudes to the Boss
There are four basic attitudes that people can adopt towards authority: aggression,submission, and indirect aggression, which are all negative; and simple assertiveness,which is positive.
 
Being aggressive
. Some people cover up their anxiety by adopting an aggressive,combative front. They will not listen to ideas and suggestions, they regard reasonableinstructions as harsh orders, and they automatically deny responsibility if criticized.They may even reject positive encouragement, imagining it to be part of some involved plot to get the better of them. In these circumstances, all dealings with the boss becomeantagonistic, and all interactions are seen as battles to be won or lost.
Being submissive
. Other people find that any encounter with the boss wafts themstraight back to childhood, when they were dependent on the powerful peoplesurrounding them. Everything the boss says must clearly be right, all criticism must bevalid, any mistake must be of their making.Even when the boss invites their opinion, they feel unable to give it. If they ever have anidea, they assume that it is too simple-minded to mention. So they keep quiet atmeetings, keep their heads down, and avoid their boss at all costs.
Being indirectly aggressive.
Some employees react inwardly rather than outwardly.They seethe with resentment or discontent, but seldom give open expression to such afeeling. They will not seek a confrontation with the boss, but neither will they avoid oneif it arises. They may be clever and witty, but in a sarcastic, cynical, or bitter way.Indirectly aggressive employees are rarely honest about their feelings and views, so their relationship with the boss might look reasonable well balanced. But it is not. They are better at criticizing than proposing. They may say one thing to the boss, and another totheir colleagues. Their energies disperse in negative and carping comments.
The positive approach
. As a subordinate, you can adopt a positive approach to authoritythat allows you to be yourself, to accept praise for your strengths, and to learn frommistakes. This approach is usually called assertiveness.A word of warning: don’t be put off by the word
assertive
. Assertiveness, in this contextat least, is not a matter of stamping your foot and shouting. That is aggressiveness.Assertiveness means being firm but polite, determined yet flexible. The truly assertive person can be quiet, almost unnoticed – yet supremely effective in pursuing a rationalcourse of action.When you act assertively in this sense, you take the positive elements from aggressionand submission aggression in dealing with unnecessary obstacles, submission inaccepting necessary limitations and in exercising self-control.Assertiveness essentially means approaching situations expecting to negotiate with othersas an equal; being aware of your own rights, but also being prepared to listen and respondto other people sympathetically. The result should be an easier, more productive, and lessstressful life.
 
The power of assertiveness lies above all in this – that by changing your behaviour insmall ways you can change the way that people respond to you. Positive behaviour onyour part makes your relations with others more positive. And this makes your feelingsabout yourself more positive. A cycle of benefit gets under way.
Your Rights, Choices, and Goals
Acting assertively at work involves, first of all, approaching your boss in a positive spirit.On the one hand, this means remembering that you are both part of the same team,working towards the same goal: the prosperity of your company or organization. Youwill, in other words, have to work hard and efficiently at your job to play fair by the boss.On the other hand, you have to remember your own rights – and so does your boss. Thatis playing fair by you. You have the right to:
Be treated with respect
Express you feelings and wishes
Ask for what you want
Say No without feeling guilty
Make mistakes
Ask for information
Change you mindDepending on you particular relationship with the boss, you may want to add some other important rights to the list. If you often have to work late, for example, what about your right to be given sufficient notice of when overtime is likely? Or if you feel that you arenot allowed sufficient initiative, what about your right to make suggestions?But knowing your own rights is only one element in the equation. It is just as importantfor you to be aware of, and to respect, the rights of others. So while you have the right toask for what you want, your boss has an equal right to say No to you. You may feel thatyou deserve a pay rise or a promotion, and you may put your case assertively. But youmay not get what you want, and you must accept this without bearing a grudge.Assertiveness does not mean getting you way every time.
ASSERTING YOURSELF
The assertive approach is direct, but not blunt. It is honest, open, and responsive. Totake a simple example: the boss summons you at 4.30 and says There’s a backlog of urgent work, so can you work late tonight, please?’ But this is the night of your eveningclass, and you really should not miss it. An aggressive response would be to say “Noway!’ – and then to feel angry and guilty at one and the same time. A submissiveresponse would be to say ‘Yes’.

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