One of the toughest challenges you can face at work is tension with your manager. Part of the problem is a deep-seated belief that those in positions of power should have their act together. Maybe it’s parental? We look up to those who have influence over us expecting them to be role models of competency, intelligence, maturity, and fairness. When that’s not the case, we feel it’s unjust. “After all,” we think, ”they’re making all that money. They have all the power. They should know what they’re doing”. If you’re courageous, you’ll initiate a conversation with your manager about what’s bothering you. If you’re lucky, you can express your critique in a 360 assessment, keeping your fingers crossed that the feedback will serve as a wake-up call. Sometimes these efforts are successful. And when they are, you breathe a sigh of relief and go about your business.
But what if these efforts don’t work? Because often times… they don’t. What if your attempts to wake up your manager and change their behavior have no impact?
The next step– look inside. Yes, look inside. Self-reflect. It’s time to stop making it about your boss and start reflecting on your own assumptions, expectations and behavior. After all they’re the only thing you have any actual control over.
- Check your assumptions. Are they realistic? It’s important to look at your assumption that the boss have their act together and be a role model for the virtues you prize.
- Don’t overvalue positional power. Consider the idea that there is no direct relationship between a person’s position and their sense empowerment, capacity to act, and ultimately to lead effectively. Just because someone is in a position of authority doesn’t mean they feel powerful.
- Own your power. Don’t just look up- look within. Own the power you do have. Just because you are not in the position of power relative to your manager doesn’t mean you don’t have power. Everyone can develop their personal power. Personal power is a sense of inner confidence; trust in your perceptions, and the dignity with which you treat yourself. When you are grounded in your personal power, you communicate with confidence and generosity, and treat others with dignity and respect. When you are connected to your personal power, you do not take things personally and this helps you to stay clear-headed, curious and constructive.
- Appreciate different strengths. Consider that the tension between you and your boss relates to the different strengths you each possess. Appreciate both your boss and yourself for your strengths, work styles, values, goals and ways of accomplishing them. View your differences from the perspective of diversity.
- Help your manager be successful. Figure out how to be a genuine source of help. Use your understanding of the different strengths—and weaknesses—your boss has to be an ally. Strive to leverage the best in both of you to keep your attention on what needs to be accomplished in order for both of you to be effective and successful.
The key is remembering your power. When you are connected to your personal power, you realize it’s not about position or your ideal of how people in power should behave. The most successful rule for making your relationship with your boss is this: she who has the most awareness must take the leadership for improving the situation and the relationship.