Face Up. Your Boss is Human Too!


All too often, we start a new position full of enthusiasm only to find as the weeks have gone on that the boss you were so excited to work for has turned out to offer less promise than you’d hoped.

I’ve noticed that my clients who are most successful in moving through this disappointment are those that take the following steps:

1. Face Up. Your Boss is Human Too

2. Have a Discussion About Mutual Expectations

3. Decide if the Gap Is Workable. Move On… or Not.

In this article…we’ll look at Step 1.

Face Up. Your Boss is Human Too

Once you’ve recognized that you are indeed working for a human being who is bound to have foibles, bad days and development needs of his or her own, you need to figure out what cost to you is your boss’ humanity.

News alert!  Perhaps at some point in the future, we will all report directly to an avatar, but in the meantime…reality is that you will ALWAYS work for a human boss (unless of course you start your own business and then the clients become your human bosses).

So, you need to decide rationally… Is the situation with your boss so extreme as to be intolerable?  For example, ethical issues, harassment, discrimination, undermining behavior (If so, move directly to Step 3).  Or, is it simply less than an ideal relationship and thus ripe for ample opportunity for learning for you?

As I often coach my clients… try to flip the situation upside down.

How is THIS boss as THIS time with THESE flaws actually perfect for your own development and progress as leader? The Center for Creative Leadership has long identified having a difficult boss as being one of the developmental experiences that contributes most powerfully to growth of successful executives. What can you gain from this relationship?

How can you get over yourself?  So, the dream of the ideal boss hasn’t been fully realized…now what?  You’ve made the move, you’re in the role.  How do you make the best out of the situation?

How can you lighten up about your boss’ flaws?  In relationship coaching we are taught that focusing on the positivity in the relationship is the best way to nurture a relationship.  It’s all too easy to train our eyes to see what’s missing or what is different that what we’d prefer. What if you were to be deliberate about taking the time to notice your boss’s strengths and how you could benefit from being around these strengths?

I recently coached a client (I’ll call her Sam) who acknowledged that she had been so blinded by how impossibly hard-driving a previous boss had been that she literally couldn’t see any of the “good” in him. She failed to learn from him how to “pre-sell” ideas through one-on-one conversations prior to major presentations for executive team approval. Sam’s boss was an absolute master at this art of influence and it is now a skill that my client is working hard at developing. How much further ahead might she be now, had she not turned ignored the leadership lessons her previous boss COULD have offered?

Please know that I am NOT in any way shape or form advocating tolerating working for someone who compromises your personal ethics, disrespects you, bullies you, harasses you or in any way deliberately undermines your sense of self.  But… If they are simply a human who is flawed and “less than” what you’d hoped, I challenge you to shake off your disappointment and see what learning there is for you in this relationship.

Future posts will address steps 2 and 3.  I welcome your comments!

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