Let’s be honest, we’ve all worked for a difficult boss; so we know what a pain in the ass they can be. But fear not friends! There is something you can do about it… coach your boss. You read that right folks, coach your boss! Here are a few steps to help you get you started so you don’t wind up getting canned:
- Give your boss the benefit of the doubt. Assume he doesn’t realize how his actions, tone of voice, briskness, rushing about, changing meetings at the last minute, (insert your biggest qualm here) affect you and your team. Chances are your boss isn’t waking up in the morning with new and improved ideas on how to ruin your day.
- Plan your conversation. In other words, don’t go into this meeting on a whim. Pick a topic ahead of time, allow yourself time to practice what you want to say and how you want to say it. If you’re angry or upset, allow yourself enough time to cool off. Helpful tip: Offering a genuine compliment is a good way to start a difficult conversation. But beware: it must be authentic. Otherwise, it will feel (and look) like manipulation.
- Check the timing. Even though it doesn’t always feel like it, bosses are people, too. They have families, pay bills, and struggle with the same things you do. They probably have a boss as well. They have good days and bad. And, sometimes they are more receptive to input than others. Find a time when the boss is not in a bad mood or distracted by other things.
- Ask for permission. You might say something like, “hey (boss) I’d like to discuss something with you that I think would be helpful to both of us; may I speak openly?” Wait for your boss to give you permission before you go on. It’s difficult for a boss to take offense if he or she has given you permission to proceed.
- Put it in context. Help your boss understand how his behavior is keeping him from accomplishing his goals. For example, “I love how team-oriented you are but when you cut me off mid-sentence, it makes me want to withdraw and not participate.” Or, “You have always encouraged me to set high goals and believe in myself, but when you snap at me, I feel disengaged and want to give up.”
- Be humble. Don’t correct your boss out of anger. Don’t correct her out of pride. Instead, acknowledge that both of you are human and you both have shortcomings. The point is, you’re on the same team and you need each other to succeed, all the more reason to help each other.
- Take the risk. Speaking out definitely takes courage. But keep in mind, you will never grow into the leader you were meant to be if you’re not willing to take a risk and speak up from time to time. Being a yes man (unless you’re Jim Carrey) won’t get you promoted, but being courageous will eventually work in your favor (as long as it’s done from the heart).