By: Rose Opengart
Many people seem to tell me they dislike their supervisor, for one reason or another, and that they believe they have no potential to advance in their organization. I always want to ask them, “so what are you doing to improve the situation?”
Relationships at work are important. Most people do not lose their jobs because of incompetence, but because of poor relationships. Work relationships can be with people who are at a higher level than you (bosses), at your level (peers), or at a lower level (subordinates). If any of these are poor, it can derail your career. On the other hand, your career can be greatly enhanced by learning how to communicate well with everyone, and much of your relationships and your potential for career advancement are under your control. And something to consider is this – if you don’t like someone at work, it’s likely that they don’t like you either! What can you do to improve things? First, let’s talk about your boss. Here are several approaches that can help:
- Exercise influence. Make an effort to improve your relationship with your boss rather than wishing he or she will one day see the light or leave the organization. There are a variety of actions you can take to influence a difficult relationship with your boss. The first should be to consider whether you are contributing to the situation. For example, do you react to your boss’s behavior in a way that is far out of proportion to the actual concern? Do you complain to the boss of your boss? Do you confront your boss negatively? Instead, try a more positive response. If you have a micro-managing boss who stops by for impromptu status reports several times a week, why not respond by saying, “I would like to keep you informed about the progress of our project team. Would updates at our weekly one-on-one meetings be OK, or would you prefer a detailed report at the monthly staff meeting?”
- Empower yourself. Stay focused on your goals. Make yourself aware of job options or stick with the company, knowing that it will pay off when another organization recognizes your talent.
- Express your needs. Work hard to keep the lines of communication open. To effectively communicate with the boss and establish shared expectations for each other, you need to be able to clarify your own needs and articulate those needs in a succinct, matter-of-fact manner. Keep your requests business-oriented rather than emotionally charged and be ready to explain the business rationale for what you need.
An authentic conversation about what both of you need from your relationship may help. By approaching that conversation with a problem-solving tone, you can maximize your odds of getting what you want. For example, “I have a few ideas on the budget issue I would like to get your input on.” Or, “What approaches have you used in situations such as this?” If you disagree with his suggestion, respond with, “I think there is a lot of merit to that approach. Here’s an alternative I’ve been thinking about.”
Now that you’ve improved things with your direct boss, what about other bosses, peers and subordinates? What about improving your potential for career advancement?
First you need to figure out who your “bosses” are. This means not only your immediate supervisor, but anyone senior to you that can influence your career. These are people with whom you want to make sure you have good relationships with, and utilize the “eight-word message.” Sum up the main idea you want to convey in about eight words using everyday opportunities to get out information about yourself. Manage the message your “bosses” get about you, and you have increased your advancement potential because now people know you and your worth.
To work on other relationships, make a chart of everyone in the organization with whom you have contact. You can check this chart quarterly and examine your relationship with each of them, what they think of you, and if what they think is not what they should think of you, make a plan. Make changes in yourself that need to be made and deliver the concise message you need to influence the impression people have of you. These actions will both improve your relationships with people at all levels and increase your chances of career advancement.
Dr. Rose Opengart is currently an Assistant Professor of Business with Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University-Worldwide in the Department of Management & Technology. She has worked in the human resources field in multiple environments including aerospace, manufacturing, non-profit, and academia. Dr. Opengart has published articles in numerous scholarly and industry journals and presented research at many scholarly conferences. She received her Ph.D. in Human Resources & Organizational Development from The University of Georgia. In her spare time she enjoys acting, and both ice and roller hockey.