Most of my messages are directed towards the leader… Today I am talking to you about the leader you report to – your boss.

Do you have a tricky relationship with your boss? While you both come to work to do a good job, something is getting lost in the translation.

Is it their entire fault? Not quite! It’s time for you to step up too.

Five reasons why your manager may appear difficult

  1. They are behaving ‘badly’. Behaviour is external; it’s what we see. Intentions—the inside drivers for external behaviours—are hidden. Are you judging behaviour without considering their intention?
  1. They don’t provide constructive feedback. Your manager is probably more uncomfortable giving you critical feedback than you are at receiving it. They may be concerned about how their feedback will heard, worrying they might offend or upset you, or perhaps damage the relationship. They may also fear a strong emotional response.
  1. They don’t know it’s their job to develop you. As a junior, success is about growing yourself. As a people-leader, success is about growing others. Not all managers understand this, nor have they been supported to make this transition.
  1. They’re under pressure. When leaders are under pressure—stressed, time-short—they have less mental bandwidth. Managing staff well can often fall into the ‘non-essential’ category and so the focus is lost.
  1. They’re not perfect. Just like you, they are a work-in-progress, and lack certain skills.

So how can you help them to help you?

  1. Look for the positive intention behind the behaviour. It may not be obvious, and you may need to ask. Soften your attitude and make it easier for them to be a better manager.
  1. Move from judgement to curiosity. Get curious about what’s going on for them. If they feel judged, they will be defensive. It won’t help either of you if you continue to think that as the manager, ‘they should know better’.
  1. Speak up. Stop whingin Instead talk to someone who can help—yes, your manager. A. Offer helpful feedback, being sure to make your intention clear. B. Ask for assertive feedback in return. C. Stipulate you want the good and the ugly, as this will help you develop.

Difficult managers aren’t fun. What are you willing to do to shift the working relationship?

Go fearlessly


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