“The Boss wants to see you…” – Shitio Shitiri, Head of Department, Political Science

Are you ever really the boss? The sad or fortunate fact of life is that everyone has a boss. Even a prime minister is ultimately answerable to parliament and the people who elect him. If you are in business then in one way or the other the customer sort of becomes your boss. A business owner needs to be at least mindful of the wants and desires of customers if they plan on staying in business for any length of time. Upward management is critical to surviving and progressing and one of them is knowing what your boss might want to say when you hear the words…
“The Boss wants to see you…”
Learning from experience of being managed, the ‘Boss wants to see you’- these can be ominous words, and, no matter how clear your conscience tends to produce anything from mild uneasiness to serious anxiety. Why should meeting with the boss make you uneasy? There are many possible reasons. You can never forget the boss has power over you. He or she can assign you interesting and pleasant work or the most uninteresting and unpleasant work.
At one extreme, a boss may behave a little more than a senior colleague-coming round to chat, asking your advice, nudging you rather than giving orders. At the other extreme, a boss may act like a distant god- keeping out of sight, yet wielding power fiercely when the occasion arises. The chances are that your boss lies between these two extremes-someone you have to know quite well, and establish reasonably friendly relations with, but still your boss. Learning to work with your boss will benefit not only you, but your boss as well, and the organization as a whole.

There are basic attitudes people adopt towards authority: aggression, submission and indirect aggression, which are all negative and simple assertiveness, which is positive.

Being Aggressive: Some employees adopt aggressive attitudes in dealing with their bosses. They will not listen to ideas and suggestions, regard reasonable instructions as harsh orders, and automatically deny responsibility if criticized. In these circumstances, dealing with the boss becomes antagonistic, and all interactions are seen as a battle to be won or lost.

Being Submissive: Some employees adopt submissive attitude towards their boss. Everything the boss says must clearly be right, all criticism must be valid, and any mistake must be of their making. Even when the boss invites their opinion, they feel unable to give ideas. So they keep quiet at meetings, keep their heads down and avoid their boss at all costs.

Being Indirectly Aggressive: Some employees react inwardly rather than outwardly. They may be clever and witty, but in a sarcastic, cynical or bitter way. Indirectly, aggressive employees are rarely honest about their feelings and views. They may say one thing to the boss, and another to their colleagues. Their energies disperse in negative feelings and carping comments.

The Positive Approach: As a subordinate, you can adopt a positive attitude to authority that allows you to be yourself, to accept praise for your strengths, and to learn from your mistakes. Assertive approach means being firm but polite, determined yet flexible in pursuing a rational course of action. Acting assertively at work involves, first of all, approaching your boss in a positive spirit.

The assertive approach is direct, honest, open and responsive, but not blunt. The fact is, employees tend to remember few unpleasant encounters far more vividly than the usual humdrum exchanges. Here are a few tips on how to get on better with the boss:

Make the most of informal meetings: Informal meetings can benefit an employee’s relationship with the boss. They include accidental get-togethers in the canteen or in some work based sport or leisure activity. Such occasions allow you to learn more about the boss as a person. Equally in a relaxed informal meeting, you may more easily let your boss discover who you are as a person. Sometimes you may get the praise and encouragement that you don’t usually get at other times. 

Don’t be afraid to ask: To get a job done properly, you often ought to seek help and advice from others. Don’t be afraid to ask for things, your request indicates that you take your work seriously.

Be prepared to accept praise: Interestingly, bosses tend to feel that they are generous in giving praise and encouragement; subordinates tend to feel that they receive less praise and encouragement than their efforts. A factor behind this discrepancy may be that subordinates refuse to accept praise properly. An honest heartfelt ‘Thank you’ for the praise, accompanied by a gratified smile would be a far more positive response. Don’t forget that your boss needs encouragement just as you do.

Always be clear: Many problems between the bosses and their subordinates arise out of misunderstandings. Subordinates fail to grasp their instructions properly, go away, and do the wrong things. Make this yardstick clear to effectively accomplish specific tasks.

Organize yourself: An employee should formulate your work goals precisely, and not be afraid to be ambitious. When assessing how well you organize yourself, consider key questions your boss might have in mind: Do you have clear objectives? How efficiently do you manage your time? Are you able to measure your progress? Are you able to manage your problems?

Listen to Criticism:Many people who are deaf to praise turn out to have acute hearing for criticism. They regard any helpful suggestion as a form of criticism, and treat any criticism as a form of personal attack. Few people actually like to be criticized, particularly by their boss. But criticism is not necessarily destructive or demeaning; it can be a valuable form of feedback to improve your work in the future. Don’t remain silent in the face of vague criticism- ask for specific examples for your alleged shortcomings. Accept fair criticism in a positive and forward-looking spirit, and ask what you can do to improve matters. Listen carefully to criticism, and suppress any impulse to react unthinkingly.

Remember, you have the right to be treated with respect, express your feelings and wishes, ask for what you want, say no without feeling guilty, make mistakes, ask for information, change your mind and make suggestions. Depending on your particular relationship with the boss, you can add some other important rights to the list. Remember, positive behaviour on your part makes your relation with your boss more positive.

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