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You Don't Know MY Boss!

I was executive coach for a guy a while back who hated his boss. Despised him. He was so emotional about the situation that it had started to affect his performance and other relationships he had at work.

Ever been there? What did you do? How did you handle the tension and stress that's often associated with a relationship that's so important and yet so broken?

Most of us -- sometime in our careers -- end up working for someone whose values or style or goals clash with ours. I've had dozens of bosses over the years. Working for a few of those was like tolerating fingernails on a blackboard every day we were in the office at the same time. It's critical to know how to not only survive but to learn from experiences like that -- and not to let it derail our careers.

Here are some of the things I did to continue to be productive and to make the situation as tolerable as possible -- for both my boss and me. (Because let's face it: when the chemistry between two people is toxic, both know it.)

1. Manage the relationship. Take responsibility for making it work between you. Don't fall into the trap of feeling like a victim. Focus on meeting the responsibilities associated with your role. Make sure you are meeting expectations and getting the results you're supposed to be getting. Focusing on doing your job to the best of your ability gives you less time for focusing on why you dislike your boss so much. And that's a good thing.

2. Try to see the boss as a person with strengths and weaknesses, just like you. Objectify the situation. Identify the things that trouble you the most and for each one, develop a strategy for dealing with those things. In confidence, seek the help of someone else if needed . Ideally, this should not be a coworker. (It's important, as employees, to give bosses our support and loyalty, unless there are ethical or integrity issues involved.) Ask the advice of a mentor or of someone in HR.

3.Think about what role you might have played in the relationship going sour. Are there things you could have done differently early on that would have made a difference? So what can you learn from this situation? And what will you do next time when you see the first signs of trouble?

You don't ever have to invite your boss to your home, but you do have to deal with this person as your boss. Remember, bosses come and go. This too shall pass. Either he/she will move on or you will. Learn everything you can from this situation -- about yourself, about "managing up," about the dynamics of relationship building. Your career will continue past this boss and you want to be the better for it.


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Great insight. I usually treat my employer as a partner and friend. No restriction at all.

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