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Posts Tagged: people

Help! My Boss Is a Jerk

I’m not naming names but I’ve worked for some pretty difficult people in my life. Oh, who am I kidding? They were jerks. It’s probably just the nature of the professional world. Some people are cut out for management and some aren’t. But what do you do when you’re stuck with a boss who’s a real pain in the you-know-what? Below, I’ve listed a few of my recommendations. For those of you who have experience with this sort of thing (and I know you’re out there), please add your own advice (anonymously or otherwise) in the comments below.

Get an Outside Perspective

I know you’ll hate hearing this but maybe—just maybe—you’re not giving your boss a fair shot. It’s possible. So why not share the facts with an objective third party? Take your emotions out of it and explain exactly what’s going on. Maybe this other person will see something you’re missing. Maybe you’ll hear yourself and realize things have been blown out of proportion. Or perhaps you’ll be reassured that yes, your boss is indeed a jerk. Regardless, it’s helpful to get outside of your own head. Keeping it all bottled up will only escalate your emotions.

Please note that I said “objective” third party. This does not mean a co-worker who hates your boss just as much as you do. And it doesn’t mean your mom or your husband—they’re automatically on your side. You’re looking for someone who cares about you but won’t be afraid to challenge you if needed. A coach is often a great resource for this kind of discussion.

Design the Alliance

This is a skill I learned when I became a coach. The whole idea revolves around the fact that all relationships are more productive when there’s an open dialog about HOW the relationship will work. Of course, in our daily lives, we don’t normally address these things until there’s a problem. But the more proactive you can be, the better. So, even if things are just fine right now, this is still a great exercise.

The process is simple: Sit down with your boss (schedule an appointment if needed) and discuss exactly how you work best. At the same time, invite your boss to share his or her work preferences with you. Some of the information won’t be surprising. You probably already know quite a bit about one another. But once you really start digging in, you’ll probably discover some minor changes you can make that will greatly improve your relationship. Likewise, you’ll probably be able to identify some small things your boss can do for you that will have a dramatic impact. Together, you can design a working relationship that is productive and positive for both of you.

Here are a few examples of the types of questions you can ask (and the information you can share about yourself) to get things started:

  • How do you prefer to communicate? (Do you like email, phone or in-person conversation best?)
  • How often do you like to communicate? (Every day, once a week, etc.)
  • What drives you insane?
  • How do you prefer to address challenges?
  • How do you like to be rewarded?
  • How do you like to receive feedback?
  • What are your biggest weaknesses and how can I help compensate for them?

Ask for What You Want

A big piece of “designing the alliance” is simply asking for what you want and need from your boss. Don’t be coy. If you’re having a hard time working together, tell him or her exactly what the problem is and ask for what you need to resolve the situation. The ASK is the biggest piece. It’s not just about stating the problem. It’s also about offering the solution in very precise terms.

Let’s be honest: Your boss isn’t thinking about this. He or she doesn’t have the time or desire to commit to fixing the situation. Acting like a jerk is easy and, until you point out exactly what the alternatives are (and make them just as easy), your boss will continue this behavior.

By demonstrating all the work you’ve done and the thought you’ve put into this, your boss will want to help. You’ll show just how much you care about your job and about doing the very best you can.

So be direct and ask for help. Clearly outline what needs to happen to improve your relationship and define exactly how this will impact you, your boss, your team and the actual work you’re both doing. Be professional but honest.

Most people find it useful to put their thoughts on paper first. This helps keep you focused on solutions and moving forward rather than placing blame or rehashing past frustrations.

Go Around or Over

After you’ve exhausted the options for dealing with this on your own, you may want to get assistance from someone else. Find a supporter who is on the same level as your boss or higher. Ask this person to help mediate or simply provide some confidential advice.

Of course, this should go without saying but please choose your ally wisely. This is not a gossip fest or a vent session. You need someone who will listen with compassion but also remain professional and be your mentor. Do not go into the conversation looking for someone to simply agree or sympathize with you. Instead, you want someone who can help improve the situation in some way.

Forget It or Get Gone

At some point, you may have to just let it go. Your boss is a jerk. You’ve done your best but there’s nothing you can do to change it. Either learn to live with it or move on. Don’t be rash about it. This shouldn’t be an emotional decision. Think it through.

Ask yourself, “How much does my boss impact my day-to-day work?” Is there anything you can do to minimize that? Maybe you can telecommute a few days a week. Sometimes, a little break makes a world of difference.

Also ask yourself: “How much will my boss impact my future career?” Is this jerk going to prevent you from moving forward in this company? Is he going to damage your reputation? Or is it possible he’ll leave soon and you’ll end up with a new (better) boss??

No matter what, don’t let anyone else make your career decisions for you. Whether you stay or leave, the choice is yours. Jerk bosses exist all over the world. If you run away from one, you may run right into another. Do what’s right for you and do your best. When all is said and done, you want to look back on the situation and know that you didn’t just give in to a bully. You tried to make things work but life had other plans for you.

Photo Credit: wstera2 (Flickr)

How Your Weaknesses Can Make You Strong

Let’s talk about your weaknesses, shall we?

Yes, I’m looking at you. Take a seat. Get comfortable. I know it hurts to hear, but you’re not perfect. Don’t worry. No one expects you to be.

We all have weaknesses because (surprise!) we’re human. Knowing them—and effectively addressing them—can be a powerful tool in the professional world. Pretending like they don’t exist, on the other hand, can have tragic consequences.

So today, I’m encouraging you to take a good, hard look at your weaknesses. Yes, that’s plural. More than one. Make a list my friends. Need help? Ask your co-workers for some brutal (but productive) honesty. They’ll have some thoughts, I’m sure.

Be honest with yourself, but not overly harsh. What gets you into trouble? What is a constant struggle for you? What holds you back? Go on. No one else is looking. The truth shall set you free.

Knowing Is Growing

The point of this exercise isn’t to make you feel bad about yourself. It’s actually quite empowering to take ownership of your imperfections. In the workplace, it’s also respected. This, of course, doesn’t mean that you’re just giving up. Recognizing your weakness is not the same as accepting this thing will always be your weakness. In fact, you can only improve once you know what needs to be improved. If you’re too afraid to look it in the eye, you’ll never be able to change it.

This is one of the big reasons prospective employers often ask you to identify your own weaknesses. Most interviewees freak out and try to find something that sounds like a weakness but really can be turned into a strength. That’s the oldest trick in the book and most employers see right through it. A far more compelling answer is an honest one that indicates a real weakness and the real steps you’re taking to grow and get better.

Seek Complementary Skills

Another benefit of understanding your weaknesses is that you can look for people who have what you don’t and get them on your team. Since no one is perfect, we all have gaps that need to be filled by others. A strong team has a diverse group of people whose skills are complementary. Where one person is weak, another soars. It’s funny how few professionals really understand this.

Ask any successful leader who surrounds himself with a great team, and he’ll probably be able to quickly pinpoint his own weaknesses and the specific people on the team who have what he doesn’t. By honestly assessing your weaknesses, you can more easily identify the team where you’ll fit best—the one that fills your gaps and the one where you fill the gaps of others.

Get Real

When you can clearly state your weaknesses, without justifying them or making excuses, others know you’re real. They know you aren’t trying to fake anything. The worst answer to the question, “What’s your biggest weakness?” is “I can’t think of one.” That just shows that you’re either (a) in denial (b) too scared to admit reality (c) completely unaware of the fact that you’re human or (d) you really think you’re perfect…which is both sad and kind of terrifying.

So who do you want to be? Step up and let your weaknesses make you stronger.

Photo Credit: Windsordi (Flickr)

How to Work With Humans

A little while back, I wrote an article called How to Work For (or With) a Perfectionist. And it got me thinking…I could probably write a whole series of these. I could substitute perfectionist for almost anything: control freak, micro-manager, procrastinator…the list could be endless.

We’re surrounded by flawed individuals in everything we do. That’s what it is to be human. Working with humans requires patience.  It’s an art form, you might say.

Here are a few helpful hints I’ve discovered in my time on Earth.

Let It Go

People are, by nature, imperfect. It’s not something they do intentionally and it’s not personal. Spend a significant amount of time with anyone and, sooner or later, the faulty wiring will show. Don’t dwell on it. This person isn’t just trying to get under your skin, no matter how it might feel.

Normalize It

Every human being is completely unique. And yet, they are all so inescapably HUMAN. You’ll never find a workplace that isn’t full of them, so get used to it. The stuff you deal with on a daily basis happens all over the world. It’s the unavoidable reality of life on Earth.

Know What You Control

The most wonderful—and most irritating—thing about humans is that they don’t come with any kind of control panel. You can’t punch in a code and make them behave in a certain way. The only one you can control is you. Take advantage of it. Don’t relinquish that control to someone else. If your boss is having a bad day, it’s his issue, not yours. You can’t control his mood and his mood doesn’t have to control you. That’s the beauty of free will.

Remember Your Own Humanity

It’s easy to point the finger at others. But we’re all in the same boat, my friend. Right now, a co-worker of yours is reading this thinking about all of your imperfections. That’s cool. You’re human. You’re allowed to be flawed. There’s no manufacturer’s guarantee on your back. And, in fact, those are the things that make you beautiful. If we were all the same, the workplace would be incredibly boring. Life as a human—and with humans—is full of surprises and frustrations. But I assure you, it’s better than the alternative.

Photo Credit: Tim Cummins (Flickr)

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