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01 October 2023

Get a grip on your boss

By Marcus Gomez

Having problems with a boss happens in almost every office the world over.

And according to research by management expert Chandra Louise, 80 per cent of employees who quit their jobs do so because of problems with their manager. It's no wonder many feel the need to resign at the end of every week.

The boss-worker relationship is one that requires constant nurturing, so these tips should bring you and your boss closer together.

1. Don't beat about the bush

If you think you're busy, then you're probably not ready to take your boss's place just yet. Remember that the higher up you are, the less you actually do with your hands. It's your mind that does the work. Therefore when you're going to see them about something, don't waste their time with niceties. Have a list of everything you want to discuss and tick them off as you go.

2. Don't get defensive

The inevitable friction that arises between boss and worker usually starts with the boss criticising the worker's performance. The natural response is to be defensive, but this means giving into emotional instincts when it is important to maintain an objective mindset. Listen again to everything your boss has said – is it warranted? Consider the possibility that maybe – just maybe – they are right.

3. Be diplomatic

Often, bosses want something done without having to spend money. Increasing workload without increasing salary is unfair, but must you come out and say it? It is better to politely explain that you have too much on your hands already and you don't think you would do a very good job with what they are proposing. Remember your boss probably has their own boss to deal with and they are passing on instructions.

4. Recognise your boss's strengths

Unless you work in a family-run business, your boss probably landed their job because they demonstrated skill. They may not be perfect but try to see their strengths anyway and appreciate them. Use them whenever you can and by doing so, you will not only give their ego a boost, but also learn from them.

5. Don't be pushy

One of the frequent complaints workers have about their boss is that they do not give them what they need to do their job better. But you have to understand that it costs the company money. Your boss might know things you don't – they could be planning an expansion for example, so although a reminder now and then is acceptable, it is important not to cross the line into being pushy.

6. Listen as much as you speak

It is very tempting to think that bosses do not know anything about the jobs of their staff but don't be foolish. If you think they have nothing better to do than criticise you, think again. It is easier to have you replaced so start listening and it could save a lot of trouble.

7.Resolve conflicts early and quietly

If disagreements are not resolved early, the wounds will fester and become scars. If there has been a conflict and some of the things you said were not justified, swallow your pride and admit your error. It is also important to make peace with the boss quietly as no one likes to be spoken of behind their backs so the less people know, the better.

8. Do not gossip

The "Office Gossip" is not a nice moniker to have, and among all types of employees, this is the type organisations need the least. Research by psychologist Brian DesRoches from Seattle, United States, found that such office pastimes as gossiping and backstabbing waste between 20 and 50 per cent of workers' time.

9. Don't be petty

One of the most annoying types of workers is the one that complains about everything. Nitpicking is petty and childish, and anyone who doesn't like things can always leave.

10. Your boss has needs, too

You're not the only one who has a job to do and bills to pay. Just as you need a sense of satisfaction at work, so does your boss so don't give them a hard time unless they deserve it.

Are you a bad boss?

According to leading research by Cyndi Maxey, author of Training from the Heart, you are if you:

1. Embarrass your workers in front of others

2. Don't follow up on your employees ideas

3. Withhold praise

4. Ignore professional growth

5. Demand unrealistic rules or set unreachable targets

6. Be vague and indirect

7. Show you don't care

8. Come across as a know-it-all

9. Ignore differences between individual staff members

10. Never apologise or admit your mistakes