"I Shouldn't Be Telling You This..."

In recently reading Kate White’s book of the same title, I was struck by her tips for “masterfully managing your boss.” Who doesn’t want to know how to do that? And, as a boss, I realize that it may not be such a bad thing to be masterfully managed.

Many places have a 60 or 90-day performance review when a new person steps into a position; I recommend this. People need feedback; they also need to show that they are meeting expectations (and you need to know that your expectations have been made clear!). Take the time to make this happen. It will be good for you, your organization, and the new person on the block!

With that being said, it only takes days of starting to work with someone to have a pretty good sense of whether that person is a good boss or a bad one. If you’ve snagged a good one – good for you! If you’ve snagged a bad one – the situation still has potential! Of course, if your boss is really incompetent or is creating a toxic environment, then starting working on your exit strategy. Otherwise, make sure that your boss sees your strengths so that he or she can turn over various projects that will lead to the advancement of your skills, reputation and goals. With opportunities and credit you can shoot for the stars!

Let’s get to Kate’s tips, shall we?

  • Your boss has both sweet spots and hot spots, and you need to determine what they are. A really good suggestion is that you play scientist – make your office a lab and your boss the focus of your experiment. One key is to listen; listen to the gossip around your workplace about your boss (make sure to listen between the lines as well); also, listen to comments that your boss makes about others; and, finally, make an effort to pay special attention to when your boss is pleased and displeased. What are the triggers? Once you’ve found the sweet spots and hot spots, base your behavior on what you’ve observed. Always remember, your boss isn’t you and no two bosses are the same. You can’t deal with your boss the way that you would want things to go or the way that you dealt with your previous boss – it takes effort to get ahead!
  • Bosses really want to be heard. Bosses want to know that you are on board with their mission and that you are willing to execute what they ask. Again, listen. Take notes. Seem enthusiastic (genuinely though!). Follow up on suggestions that your boss makes. Reply with a thank you note when your boss does something nice for you. When you disagree, ask yourself if you think there is really a chance that you can change your boss’s mind – if not, maybe it’s not worth the effort or the potential hot spot you might find yourself in! Choose your words carefully; don’t be blunt in saying that you disagree or suggesting that your boss is wrong. That won’t get you far – bosses are human and get defensive just as much as everyone else. 
  • Bosses want your loyalty. Don’t gossip about your boss to co-workers; don’t even look like your gossiping as your boss may make assumptions (remember -human!). Never go around your boss or over your boss’s head. That will cause distrust and discontent and may very well affect your future even months or years down the road. Do not, under any circumstances, violate a confidence. Don’t think you won’t get caught; people always get caught sooner or later! 
  • Bosses like to have their butts kissed. What? It’s true. Let your boss know that you like his or her ideas, that you appreciate the support you’re given and that you’re happy (and excited!) to be in the presence of your boss. Remember, you can always learn something – even from bad bosses. Be sincere! Superficial comments and being disingenuous are noticed just as much as sincerity and positivity. 

Bonus time! Listen up because this is SO IMPORTANT.

“Employees sometimes make the mistake of thinking that since they’re already established in the company, the new boss is the one who has to prove herself [or himself], and that they’re fairly well protected. Wrong. New bosses frequently have carte blanche to overhaul the department and get rid of anyone who doesn’t appear to be on board.” Be on board people! Let your boss know that you are excited about the possibilities he or she brings, that you are willing to do what you are asked, that you are thoughtful and that you are more than happy to take a lead role during transition/change. Above all, remember, it takes effort to get ahead (or even to stay where you are!).

Dina Bailey - @NURFCdina

Director of Museum Experiences

National Underground Railroad Freedom Center