At the root of every tantrum and power struggle are unmet needs. – Marshall Rosenberg
It’s said that people don’t leave jobs, they leave bosses.
There’s an art and science of being a good boss, but yours somehow didn’t get that memo, did they?
Your boss is technically competent but really doesn’t have a clue how to work with people: unaware, rude, egotistical. Completely out to lunch.
Having a difficult relationship with your supervisor can be draining, frustrating and down-right depressing at times.
I’ve seen so many do-gooder people in this exact situation, but before you completely throw in the towel, here’s the good news:
You actually don’t have to like your boss to work effectively with them.
What to do when your boss drives you bonkers:
On one piece of paper, write down what about their behavior bugs you. This is just for you, so get it all out (preferably outside of work, on your own time, in your own notebook or journal at home). Take your own position strongly.
What you’re uncovering are values of yours: beliefs you stand for. This is important because it holds an important clue to how you want to show up in the world as a leader. Underneath your complaints are legitimate needs and requests: note them. As strange as it might seem, mentally thank your boss for showing you a part of yourself and your leadership skills through their less than skillful behavior!
Now, take out a second piece of paper, and imagine what’s it like to be in your boss’s shoes. Step out of your perspective and slip into theirs. Imagine you could be them for just a minute: how would they describe their experience? Note: this is not what you wish they thought, but how you imagine things really are for them. See if you can get a sense of what life is really like over there in their experience. Write it down: What drives them? What’s important to them? What do they really care about?
Now, take a third piece of paper. Read over the two previous pages, and imagine that you’re standing on a balcony, and you can see the two of you from a slight distance, each with your own positions. As you observe the scene, what needs, desires or beliefs do the two of you share? It may not be much, but there’s probably something. It might be as simple as: “We are sick of this conflict”. Write down on this third piece of paper what the two of you share. This represents your alignment – and acting from here can give you some possibility or options.
Put it into action: Instead of trying to convince your boss of the rightness of your position (or conversely, how wrong they might be), trying approaching your boss by focusing your interactions from what you align around: what you two share, instead of what you don’t.
Your turn! In the Comments below, I’d love to hear from you!
How could these steps be helpful for you?
Also tell me about your experience: what else has worked for you when you’ve been stuck in conflict with someone who supervises you?
And if you’re sick of the drama at work, contact me about my Power of Two sessions. Get unstuck, find new ways of working together better, and get back to doing the work you’re passionate about.
Lisa McLoughlin says
great post. I so could have done with this perspective before I left my last job….Although I planned to leave anyway, the transition would have been easier and I may have avoided being (or allowing myself) to be bullied …
Hanna Cooper says
Lisa, thanks for commenting – and glad if it was helpful even if retrospect!
Hi Hanna, first-I love the new website design! It is concise, has a great layout and things are easy to find.
Regarding the post, this is a great activity and is a powerful way to find common ground. Thank you for sharing it in the blog.
Hanna Cooper says
Hey Librada! Great to hear from you. Thanks for the feedback and glad if the post was helpful to you!!