For difficult boss the best advice is: Handle with care

WORKING WOMAN

August 07, 1994|By Niki Scott | Niki Scott,Universal Press Syndicate Universal Press Syndicate

LuAnn's boss has a loud voice, a domineering personality and manners that can be charitably described as nonexistent.

"People ask me how in the world I manage to get along with such a person," she said, "and the truth is, on one level it's not easy, but on another it's simple: I understand her.

"I'm the latest in a long string of her personal assistants, and I'm proud to say that I've not only hung in longer than any of them, but she's told me I'm the only one who's ever understood what she wants."

Here are 11 steps you can take to improve your relationship with any boss -- especially one who's about as much fun to work for as a wounded wart hog:

* Learn something about her life outside of work.

Is she married? Does she have children? What are some of her interests and hobbies? If you can't see your boss as a whole person, you'll never figure out what makes her tick -- what's likely to please and displease her.

* Notice what sets her off.

We all have quirks and pet peeves, but some have more than most. If you don't know what sets your boss off, you run the risk of stepping on her toes without ever knowing what you've done.

If punctuality is her passion, get to work on time every day, despite the fact that you can't imagine why five minutes one way or the other should make a difference. If she's a neatness nut, keep your desk clear. If she hates interruptions, see that she isn't interrupted.

* Figure out what she wants from you.

Most of us know what we want from our bosses, but knowing what they want from us is far more important to our careers in the long run.

* Put yourself in her place.

Take into account her difficulties and the environment in which she works. If you know the pressures with which she copes and the times and circumstances when she's most likely to be frazzled, you'll know when to be most available and helpful.

* Study her style.

Is she a manager who likes to be kept informed about projects on a daily basis, or is she the type who prefers her employees to operate independently and come to her only when a project is completed?

Does she prefer face-to-face contact, or is she a memo-in-triplicate type? Does she like regular meetings with her staff, or would she rather have root canal work?

* Pick your issues.

Show me an employee who turns every disagreement into a battle and every battle into World War III, and I'll show you one who's shortly going to be unemployed.

Show me an employee who lets the small stuff slide by and takes a stand only when to not do so would damage her self-esteem and self-respect, and I'll show you an employee who's mature and savvy enough to keep her perspective and priorities clear -- and who'll likely be around for as long as she wants to be.

* Never budge on the important boundaries, on the other hand.

It's never OK for a boss -- or anyone else -- to verbally, physically or sexually abuse you in any way. Never!

* Don't bring her home with you.

If you spend your precious time off brooding over every slight or rehashing her latest stupid trick and your response to it, you allow her to dominate your personal life as well as your work life, thereby giving her more power over you.

* Keep it to yourself.

No matter how tempting it is to compare notes with co-workers about the boss, resist! What you say could get back to her, and in any case, she'll sense her staff is ganging up on her, which will only make her more defensive and difficult.

* Stay an adult.

Difficult bosses bring out the child in us. Sometimes this child is timid, sometimes rebellious, sometimes far too afraid of authority figures to cope. It's important to keep one's emotions (childish and otherwise) at a low level when we work for these people, so we can be the calm, mature, reasonable, competent, adult employees that we need to be.

* Finally, know when to leave.

If you constantly feel stressed out, if your work brings you no satisfaction at all, or if, despite your best efforts, your self-esteem and self-confidence are being eroded, leave now -- before your physical and emotional health are jeopardized further.

Questions and comments for Niki Scott should be addressed Working Woman, Features Department, The Sun, Baltimore 21278.

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