Edited Transcript Below:
Your Boss Doesnt care about you!
Welcome to the corporate middle I am your host Donald Meador my goal on this show is to give you actual adivce you can put into action as a middle manager.
Working for another human being is terrible. Simply for the fact that they are another human being. They can be irrational, illogical, and prone to terrible ideas. The worst part of it is that they directly hold the key to your success. How hard you work, How great your results are dont matter that much if your boss doesn’t like you. This is not a fun concept to write. Good News! All hope is not lost. There are things you can do to mitigate the damage caused by your boss and you can do that by understanding their most base motivations. We are going to talk about those today and how you can use those to your advantage.
To manage your boss effecitvely you need to understand their most base motivations. The truth your boss is a very simple person. Your boss ultimately only cares about one thing. Themselves. You know this instinctly but we like the concept of our boss caring about us and our career. Thats great and there are some good bosses out there. But when it comes down to it the boss is there to get paid just like you are so they will always protect themself over you. “The instinct of self-preservation is the first law of nature; your strongest instinct is the most potent of all.” (Murphy, J. (1963). The Power of the Subconscious Mind). Self-preservation is human nature, nothing wrong with that. The people on your team want to look good for you, your boss wants to look good to their boss and so on. It is a never ending hierarchy of everyone trying to impress the person above them becuase their paychecks depend on that. In order to understand your boss you must understand their primary motivation. Self-preservation. They may be nice and friendly and ‘care’ about you but I promise if they are told they need to fire you they will do it in a second. Don’t overplay your value to the company. Monster poll, 72 percent of respondents said they do not feel like their manager or supervisor is interested in their job growth. You know why they feel that way? Becuase they DONT!!!!
I had a one on one meeting with an executive director and I was talking about my current role and where I wanted to go, and he stopped me and said listen the first thing you need to understand is no one cares about your career but you” I was a bit shocked becuase it stood in the but it is so true… Say it with me now: No one cares about your career but you! It is actually kind of freeing when you think about it. You need to understand and embrace reality so that you can move forward. Sitting around waiting for a hug from your boss isn’t going to help things. Besides if your boss hugs
Now that we know our boss’s primary motivation what do we do with it? Your boss cares about how they look to their boss. So you need to find out what they are measured on. How do you know what your bosses goals are? You ask for them. What does his boss want from him/her? I have seen countless times where that mismatch had led to a surprise. For some reason, bosses can be a bit cryptic with this information. One of the ways to get around this is to list all of the current things you are working on. Then setup a meeting to review them. The purpose of this meeting is to let your boss prioritize everything you and your team are working on. “Here is a list of everything I have currently, where do you feel I should be focusing the majority of my time?” This meeting is not for you to talk, you are there to listen. In doing so you will uncover exactly which project or task your boss really cares about. I had multiple major projects I was working on concurrently but only one of them was actually in my performance agreement for the year. I remember distinctly asking my boss this exact question and he picked the different projects that I should be working on! Had I not had that conversation I would have made the wrong assumption about which one mattered the most. Understanding expectations is a huge part of making everyone around you successful.
We had a new directive come down where it was decided we needed to combine multiple teams into one. This new team was going to fall under me, I was going to go from managing 8 people to 19. My scope of responsibility and workload was going to triple. Thankfully it came with a promotion and a pay raise. Ha! Just kidding. I called up my director and let him know that this was going to be a challenge to handle that many people and still deliver on the number of projects we had. I barely got the words out of mouth before he said “well this is just the nature of the business and you should make the best of it” I was candid about the issues this new team would face, but where I went wrong was I went immediately to my opinion instead of seeking out his first. Realizing my error a week or two later we had the opportunity to chat again and I asked him what opportunities he saw for this new large team.. He immediately starting launching into the fact that with a bigger team we could take on bigger more ambitious projects. Bingo. That was the right question. The boss wanted to get noticed through my team. Even though it was done for “efficiency” the real problem my boss wanted me to solve was his own visibility. He didn’t care about saving money… He wanted something big and flashy. This is a great illustration how the stated motive for a change and what is actually wanted by your boss may be two completely
- What oportunities do you see with this change?
- What do you see as the primary benefit of this?
- I think we could see some value from this what do you think?
The results of these questions will be a fantastic indicator of exactly what the expectations your boss has for this project/decision. Using this information you can then determine next how to proceed.
Your goal in life and how you will be successful is to fundamentally convince someone that doesn’t really care about you… That you are amazing. All boss’s are different and they have different wants and motivations and desires but I am going to tell you a few things that have worked for me over the years I have worked for some A-Holes and some great bosses and due to constant company re-orgs I worked for 5 different bosses in the span of 18 months. There are a
I am going to give you the top 3 ways I have found that work.
- Ask them for advice
Ask them for advice
You need to make your boss invested in your career, you have to make them feel like they will be apart of your success. You do this by asking them for advice. Alison Wood Brooks of Harvard business school talks about how we have it wrong about asking for advice. We worry that people won’t think we are competent if we have to ask for help but actually the opposite is true. “This is because being asked for advice is flattering, it feels good. They’re asking for my advice because they think I’m smart and I know the answer, and I think they’re smart because I’m actually going to tell them things that will be useful and help them do the task better.” [CITE]
Do you know who likes to feel smart? Everyone. Especially your boss they like to be thought of as a great leader. You don’t want to misuse this interaction but strategically placed questions will allow your boss to feel apart of your success. Then they will be happy if you do well because they feel like it reflects on their amazing leadership. Some great questions you can ask “I have learned so much in this job, what do you feel I should focus on next” or how about “There are some great opportunities in the company right now with all this growth, what do you think is the next big opportunity for us”. You give them a chance to talk about how smart they are and if you take action on any of their advice they get to feel like they directed it and are the cause. It is a
Even if they are a jerk you must protect your boss.
Do you think anyone gets very far pointing the finger at their boss? Nope. Why would I want to hire someone who just made their previous boss look bad? I remember very clearly interviewing a candidate for an open position I had. When I asked him the typical question “Why are you leaving your current job” He went into a long-winded explanation of how incompetent his boss was. Do you think that is someone I want on my team? Someone who comes and complains I was going to be his boss/ How long would it be till they did the same to me? It is important to keep as many of the variables pointing away from your boss as you can. When you build the lessons learned make sure nothing directly references the fact that they were directly responsible. Instead, you need to make sure that the causes or obstacles are due to unforeseen or unavoidable issues. Let run an example:
“The project is in jeopardy due to resource constraints”
The real story is your boss planned horribly.
“The deliverables for this project turned out to be larger than anticipated”
The boss overworked everyone.
I could go on and on but the key is to point out the issue without directly pointing out the party who is responsible. This can be irritating, but suck it up. If you protect your boss they are more apt to protect you. At some point you will make a bad decision and the failure will be your fault. You are hoping to get reciprocity when you make a mistake. Never throw your boss to the wolves it will only backfire.
Why do we have to do all this??? Because you need grace for this inevitable mistake. You are trying to execute a terrible decision that will not reflect well on you. If the boss likes you and you make their life easier they will cut you some slack and this will merely be a bump in the road. Star players get better treatment. You are a human shield. Use that to your advantage.
Share what you know.
Almost every bad decision is because of asymetrical information… Either the boss knows something that you don’t or You know something that they don’t. Your job is to make sure it is NEVER the latter. You need to prevent your boss from doing something stupid you have to protect them from that. A Candid relationship with your boss can do wonders for your career. Helping them to understand what the challenges your team actually faces is a big deal. I remember we had a new process come down about entering time every week, and I conveyed to my boss exactly the challenge this was going to be on our team. He understood but there wasn’t much he could do about it.
The most important person in your life is not your spouse or significant other. It is your boss. The truth is you are going to spend more time at work than at home. So you had better hope you have a good relationship with your boss or the frustration will leak into other areas of your life. Make the boss your ally through doing what we discussed above. When it comes down to it your boss is a simple person and wants the same thing everyone else wants. To protect their job. Keep your focus on making them successful and solving the problems that your team is intended to solve. If you make their life better they will in turn not make your life as awful. This is not an overnight solution as building this type of relationship will take time. However, if you lay the foundation not only will your boss be successful but you will be too. Make sure you ask them for advice so they feel smart and important. Share what you know and always protect them when things go south. Your boss and your career are not the same things. Who you are working for right now is not going to be your boss forever, there will be a re-org or they will leave or you will so don’t focus on your boss. Focus on your self make sure your work is top notch and understand every situation is an opportunity to learn from and do better next time.
Thanks for listening today.
I love answering your pressing middle management questions on how to get through your day. We are going to figure out what works and doesn’t work. If you have a question you want me to answer or just a crazy story you want me to share head over to the thecorporatemiddle.com or just send me an email firstname.lastname@example.org. Look forward to hearing from you and remember the reward for good work is just more work! See ya next time.