In this blog post I am focusing on changing your relationship with your boss so that it benefits you and improves your overall attitude towards work. We’ll look at an example and I’ll share with you my process for improving communication with your boss.
Why is my relationship with my boss so tricky?
When we analyse what is going wrong in a relationship, there will always be a problem with the communication. Good communication seems to be the panacea of all conflicts but somehow we still don’t get the ‘how’ of it. There are so many nuances, emotions, thoughts, behaviours and consequences involved (both short and long term), that it is not that easy. Sometimes, we feel like victims and we don’t know what happened or how we ended up where we are now in the relationship.
As businesses try to recover from the pandemic, what we need most is everyone rowing in the same direction. We need to face whatever comes with focus, intention and goodwill and, above all, with emotional intelligence.
In these times, uncertainty permeates everything you do. We don’t know the rules of the game, or what will happen tomorrow, and we can only do the best we can today, in this moment. We come from having lived months of chaos, insecurity, uncertainty and this has had a huge impact. Our character traits (positive and negative) have been magnified. So, if you had communication problems or specific issues with your boss before the current situation, it is highly likely they will have become more apparent and palpable in these times.
Frank’s story: The potential consequences of a bad relationship with your boss
Before we delve deeper into why having a good relationship with your boss is essential and share our process to improve your relationship with your boss, let’s look at an example:
Frank is a senior executive. He is held in high regard by the owner of the company (his boss’s boss), gets along extremely well with his direct team (as he says: “they love me!”) and his peers. However, his relationship with his boss – let’s call him Greg -is not great.
Greg sometimes doesn’t show up to calls or meetings with Frank, or to team events, even when he’s previously confirmed his attendance. This makes Frank feel that Greg does not value him, his work nor his team. Through these actions and attitudes (microaggressions as he describes them) Frank feels threatened and resentful of Greg, and this is damaging the relationship.
As the going gets tough in the business due to the pandemic, Frank is wary about the relationship because he doesn’t want to lose his job, so improving this relationship has become one of his key priorities. But as Frank says, “I am 54 years old, I am very successful at what I do, and I am not ready to be the apple polisher. I’ve done that and I will not do it again!” So what can he do? Obviously, something needs to be done. Frank is likely to suffer most if the relationship continues to deteriorate, he needs to take the initiative and make some changes if he wants the relationship to improve. More importantly, the reality is that it is the only thing that is in his control. He cannot change Greg or force him to behave in a certain way.
5 Reasons to have a great working relationship with your boss
Let’s analyse first why having good communication (and thus a good relationship) with your boss is key:
Bad communication breeds uncertainty.
Where there is uncertainty it is really easy for distrust to thrive. Where there is distrust you end up having a toxic environment where nobody feels comfortable or psychologically safe. A psychologically safe workplace is one where people are not full of fear, and not trying to cover their tracks to avoid being embarrassed or punished. “When we are psychologically safe at work we’re willing to accept that we can be ignorant about some things and very smart about others…Psychologically safe employees are more interested in learning, excellence, and genuinely connecting with others than in looking good.” This will of course have an effect on business results in the short term and in the long term.
Bad communication leaves you with an overall bad feeling.
It is like having a pebble in your shoe. Once you have one it is the only thing you think about and it hinders everything you do. It limits your ability to perform at your best, to enjoy other aspects at work or to focus on what is really important for the business, your career or your team.
More energy where it matters most.
By improving communication with your boss you will be able to invest all your energy and time in aspects that truly contribute to and benefit your career, your team and the overall business.
The power of collaboration.
You will be unleashing the power of your team. It is much better to have everyone’s input (above and below you). Remember that having someone to challenge and question your ideas is a gift. So allowing the trust that enables accepting ideas contrary to yours will help you grow.
Personal interaction at work (even if it is not that comfortable) is great to act as a mirror that will allow you to develop yourself as a leader and improve your leadership traits and skills.
But how to do this? We’ve developed a process that can help you to improve your communication in any specific situation . We will use Frank’s situation as an example.
A 5-Step process to improve communication in any situation
Our Goal: Improving your relationship with your Boss.
This is our basic EVECA process:
Greg sometimes doesn’t show up to calls or meetings even when he’s previously confirmed his attendance.
Due to the pandemic and economic situation Frank is more stressed and fearful of losing his job and Greg has power above him.
Behaviours-Frank is acting as if he does not need his boss, a bit of haughtiness. Emotions: Frank is feeling anger, fear, anxiety and resentment. Thoughts: “Will I lose my job?” “Greg does not understand the business” “He is jealous because I have a better education and background.”
Short term: Frank’s overall frustration with his job. Long term: Frank and his team not being able to benefit from Greg being part of the team and having his input. Frank potentially losing his job.
As a result of this process Frank discovered that his thoughts and self-talk were affecting the relationship. I advised Frank to observe every time he was having these thoughts and immediately change them for a positive one and to give himself a reward when he did this.
This changed his attitude towards his boss. He became more patient, less condescending and he realized how his beliefs and prejudices were affecting his relationship.
After consistently doing this he started improving the communication with his boss and thus having a better relationship that benefited him and his team.
When we have communication issues at work, they often impact heavily on our attitude towards our work and can permeate so many different areas that emotionally affect us in a direct way – not least our personal and professional growth, our sense of belonging and enjoyment, and even our meaning and purpose. Poor communication directly affects our Emotional Salary, the emotional or non-financial benefits we all get from work that motivate us. If you’d like to find out more about your Emotional Salary and get a personalised report or talk about how we can help your organisation build a people-centric culture with high Emotional Salary, please get in touch today.