When the boss gets in the way of you doing a good job


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  • Saturday, 11 Jul 2020

It is worthwhile to keep an eye on the dynamics between manager and employees. — Christin Klose/dpa

What does a dream boss look like? Maybe someone that identifies and promotes your individual skills, who is fair, with whom you can exchange views freely, and who grant freedoms but who at the same time is always there to take control.

However, reality often looks very different, career coach Bernd Slaghuis knows. In his experience, many employees from many industries are dissatisfied with their superiors. “My boss doesn’t let me do anything” or “My boss can never commit to anything” are typical complaints.

But are these comments completely justified? “The perception of what makes a good or bad boss is very different to each employee and their own expectations, ” says mediator and coach Maxi Weiss.

Things are complicated as a manager, but that’s no excuse.

Slaghuis also points out that not every boss’s management style fits into every company. In addition, judgments made of a good or bad boss is often dependent on the generation of employees.

For example, younger generations expect superiors to allow for more options and freedom, while older generations of employees expect more structure and security. “Bosses should develop an awareness of what is important to each individual employee in the job and manage it individually.”

This is no easy task. But it is worthwhile to keep an eye on the dynamics between manager and employees. If employees consider their boss to be incompetent, this can have far-reaching consequences: bullying is then often encouraged, while team spirit and motivation suffer. This sometimes manifests itself as a high level of sick leave.

Sorting out the issues

Before anything gets too bad, you should ask for a one-on-one conversation with your boss, mediator Weiss advises. It is better to discuss your dissatisfaction before it becomes blatantly obvious to your boss.

“Superiors are not clairvoyants, ” emphasises Slaghuis.

In the conversation you should be careful not to express your criticism as a reproach.

“Employees should try and describe how they understand the leadership duties of their boss and what they want more or less of.”

One way to do this in a subtle way: discussing your experiences in the next employee performance review. “These interviews often consist of questions such as: How is the employee doing with their tasks? Do requirements and skills match? Is something else expected in the future?”

The answers you give to your boss’ questions are a great opportunity to express how your expectations are or are not being met.

You can best develop your approach to this discussion by understanding how your boss works. For example, if you have a boss who controls every step of the way, you should make it clear to your supervisor what effect this has on you – for example: it puts me under unhelpful pressure, it scares me or the lack of trust frustrates me.

Only when you find that nothing works with your boss, should you take things to the next level. This often requires a conversation with Human Resources or the next higher level. This will undoubtedly affect your relationship with your boss.

Only as a last resort

Sometimes, the only option in these difficult situations is change. But this doesn’t mean you need to leave your job today and look for something else. Rather a change in one’s own attitude towards your boss can make all the difference.

Slaghuis recommends taking a different look at the boss. “We constantly interpret the behaviour of others without questioning why people do what they do.”

In new situations, we often don’t take a look closely, but only judge according to the patterns people are seemingly “stuck” in. Instead, try and take a step back and try to imagine yourself in the leadership position.

“Employees should get out of the fight mode because bosses are also colleagues who are interested in good cooperation.” – dpa/Elena Zelle

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