Ask the Business Coach
Joyce K. Reynolds is an expert Business Coach who works with CEOs, Sr. Execs, entrepreneurs and countless others providing knowledge, solutions, motivation and support that assist her clientele in successfully meeting workplace challenges. Find out more about Joyce's coaching practice.
Question: What do I do with a boss who is never satisfied with what is done?
if I have 10 files, I finish 7, but he dwells on the three I haven't
completed. if I work on a large pile of papers all weekend until I can't see
straight, he wants to know why all the papers have not been completed. he
does not listen to anything, is completely subservient to his wife (who
doesn't work in our office, yet rules him from our office) and it's always
his way or no way. HELP
Working for a demanding, uncompromising boss can be really difficult. As unpleasant as it may be, it can also be a real learning experience depending on how you handle it. Remember that the managerial mandate includes setting high standards, making tough decisions and pushing the organization to higher levels. With that in mind, you want to establish who youíre actually working for Ė a perfectionist or a bully Ė and, then how best to manage that boss. In either event, there are a number of things you might try in an effort to smooth out your working relationship with what might just be an insecure, reactionary supervisor.
First, be certain you are presenting yourself and your work in a way that diminishes your bossís ability to take shots at you. Assess his patterns and identify what sets him off and either avoid those areas of conflict or get ahead of them. For example, if you know he will complain about the work that you didnít get done, consider providing a status report that will show deadlines for those items yet to be completed. Be sure he sees that before he can ask you about unfinished business. If you feel youíre being held to unattainable standards, find out what other managers expect of their subordinates. Once you have a balanced view, prepare a documented picture of what seems realistic to you. Ask your boss to meet on the topic so you can present your thinking.
Before you attempt any such discussion, you will want to address two other areas: your judgment of your boss and your own inner critic. If, for example, you have negative opinions of your boss based on how he allows his wife to treat him, you will be coming from a disrespectful place. That will seldom yield a positive result. On the other hand, you want to be clear of any self-blame so that you can simply address the issues of how you work and what is acceptable treatment on your job. This will require a clear, neutral mind and disciplined, unemotional focus on the issues.
Itís possible that your boss simply does not have the leadership or interpersonal skills needed to manage others. But, itís certainly your right to carefully articulate that you do not work well with anyone yelling at you or continually criticizing you. Stay solution-oriented as you voice your boundaries and concerns - e.g. ďItís really hard for me to concentrate when Iím being yelled at but I know I can improve if we discuss some positive suggestions about how I can do my job better.Ē Be ready Ė in your own words Ė with these kinds of boundary-setting statements. Even if your boss is unnerved by your candid, rational behavior and has no answer, you will have established a new style of communication with him. The big goal is to concentrate on changing the negative tone of any of your encounters and make a genuine attempt at establishing a respectful way of talking to and working with your boss.
If you can't seem to get your boss to listen, try changing how you get his attention. Determine if he seems to respond better in the morning or in a team meeting instead of one-on-one. Find out how he prefers to get information Ė from memos, e-mail, phone mail, in person. The most effective thing you can do is find out exactly what your boss expects and needs from you and determine how you can meet those expectations and needs. Be sure to work at developing a positive, nurturing support system as you go through this corrective process.
Ultimately, you have to face the fact that changing your boss is unlikely - that changing yourself is the easiest way to improve your relationship with him. Trial and error will help you develop strategies for effectively influencing your supervisor and, perhaps, find common ground upon which to build a more positive relationship.
Finally, if you determine that your boss is simply a bully who has you in his cross-hairs, the best strategy may be to plan your exit. In fact, determining to put into place a plan for leaving an unsatisfying job can often be a liberating experience. It can release a lot of built-up emotional pressure, change your day-to-day attitude, even allow you the perspective you need to solve problems that once seemed impossible. Keep your eye on the lessons that emerge from this experience and you will soon be in command of a whole new set of skills. You will have called on your own strengths to positively meet a difficult workplace challenge and, if required to do so, will walk away a much improved person.
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Disclaimer: The information in this column is intended to provide the reader with general ideas or concepts to be used as part of a broader base of knowledge they collect to determine their own best course of action and solutions most suitable for solving their workplace challenges. The information in this column is not guaranteed to be the appropriate solution for each individual.