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Got a difficult boss?

March 18, 2009

There are many things that are not taught in B-Schools but are much needed to manage work in companies. Two important things that they definitely don’t teach there are bossexecution (including the favourite F word of corporates – the proverbial “Follow ups”) and managing bosses.  In my first experience of working in companies I have ended up working with many different bosses and in one corporate stint ended up having to work with many different kinds of bosses at the same time. These experiences made me realise how managing bosses and different types of them is most important to survive in companies. 

Bosses have a very strong effect on whether you are going to stay in the company or not. This has been much publicised by Gallop through their research published in the book “First Break all the Rules.” Indeed, bosses can play a very important role in shaping your career. Unfortunately like parents, you can not choose your bosses and there isn’t much published about how does one manage bosses!

In his book “The 360 degree leader” John Maxwell has tried to identify different types of leaders (read bosses) whom no one wants to follow (read work with). He categorises leaders into the incompetent leader, the selfish leader, the chameleon leader, the political leader & the controlling leader. Each of the types of these bosses have their unique characteristics and drivers for their behaviour. Some leaders could be a combination of the above as well. Additionally they could be anywhere on the continuum of autocratic to laizzes faire. Working under any of these bosses can be quite painful and most people are often left with the other choice of taking up some other job elsewhere. With patience however you can work around these bosses. 
You know you are working for a difficult boss (and hence have to carefully work around him) when
a) you curse your luck at least once a week or fortnight for having landed up working with him
b) you hate his dominance or lethargy 
c) you feel under stress and its not about the workload
d) you feel frustrated with the incompetence of your boss
e) you feel you are being marginalised by him
f) you avoid having to have more conversations than absolutely necessary with him
g) his frequent micro management and lack of respect gives you feelings of a lack of self worth
h) you periodically dream about packing your boss off to Siberia
Maxwell has a six point prescription course for managing such bosses. I am just borrowing his words heavily here:- 
1. Develop a solid relationship with your leader
2. Identify and appreciate your leader’s strengths
3. Commit yourself to adding value to your leader’s strengths
4. Get permission to develop a game plan to complement your leader’s weaknesses
5. Expose your leader to good leadership resources
6. Publicly affirm your leader
Will try to elaborate each of these points based on what he has written in the book and some of my own experiences in my next post. But its possible to work with very difficult bosses and sail through. Exit is not the only option…

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