Surviving Your Boss
Cold, hard facts you need to hear
Cold, hard fact #1: You work for your boss, not the other way around. Your boss has a boss, too, and I can promise you that your boss values his boss’s opinion far more than he does yours.
Don’t take it personally because that’s the way it should work. Understand the office hierarchy and your position in it. Your work-life gets easier once you recognize that information flows both up and down the corporate ladder.
Cold, hard fact #2: Your boss’s job is harder than yours. What, you don’t think so?
If your boss is middle management, he’s walking a line every day to answer to people above him and below him, trying mightily not to piss anyone off. It’s a fine line with hard consequences on either side.
If you’ve never had to walk that line, don’t pretend you can.
Cold, hard fact #3: Most employees are average. Including you. Before you get all butt-hurt, understand there’s nothing wrong with that. Average is acceptable, expected. Your boss hired you because she thought you had the skills and talent required for a particular job. But simply doing your job won’t earn you a promotion. It probably won’t even earn you a “job well done” compliment from your boss.
Cold, hard fact #4: Your boss’s agenda is not the same as yours. They may intersect, and your boss may have assigned your agenda, but they’re not the same.
Cold, hard fact #5: Your boss doesn’t give a shit about your career. Their focus is not on you. Stop expecting them to take interest in your life and your ambitions. You’re an adult, not a child, so act like one.
Cold, hard fact #6: Your boss probably (if not already) takes credit for your work. Like a lot.
I’m not going to tell you that doesn’t suck, but it’s how things work in the business world. If your boss always gives you one hundred percent credit for every idea and project you create, you’re either the owner, the boss, or a very fortunate employee.
Being stuck in your cube at the mercy of an apathetic boss doesn’t mean you have zero chance of getting noticed for your work. It’s a tough lesson, but if your boss ignores you, there’s not much you can do. You’ll either have to find a work-around or find another job.
You have no control over other people.
You depend on your boss for reviews, salary increases, promotions, and other HR-related issues, so if you’re not getting attention for those, push for a meeting, seek another supervisor, or contact Human Resources.
Even if your boss would choke on his tongue before he said so, you fit and you are important to your company’s success.
Recognize your own value, even if your boss doesn’t, and improve upon that value every chance you get:
- Speak Up. You may think your work speaks for itself, but don’t count on the right people to hear it. Keep track of your efforts and don’t be afraid to tell your boss when your project picked up a new client or your idea saved the company money. If your boss isn’t listening, tell another supervisor. Find a convenient way for you to keep track of these accomplishments and be ready to share them with bosses and Human Resources. Learn to get comfortable promoting yourself.
- Be Confident. Male, female, it doesn’t matter. Confidence is contagious, and it’s attractive, too. People like being around co-workers who are secure in their job and with their duties. They find comfort knowing that if the boss is not communicating, they can count on someone on the cube farm to lend a hand. You know what you know and chances are good that no one does their job as well as you, so take the initiative to take on tasks that no one else wants and offer your help wherever it’s needed. Use your job description as the starting point, not your final destination.
- Build relationships. Jump in and help anyone who asks for help and share your knowledge. Encourage cube mates to participate in group meetings, compliment others when you notice they did a great job. Thank them sincerely when they do you a favor. Come into the office with coffee and donuts every once in a while. Treating your colleagues the way you want to be treated won’t go unnoticed, so spread that around liberally.
- Embrace opportunity. Elevate your effort. Hustle. Be creative. Offer to help with projects, answer phones when they’re ringing off the hook, run errands when they come up. Promote yourself. Show up early and work harder. Take the broad view of the office that your boss takes.
- Support Change. Change happens whether or not you want it to, so recognize it, accept it, and use it to your advantage. Change brings fresh perspective to old routines and provides ample opportunity to improve workflow and time management. Don’t be the negative employee who crabs about breaking routines. Teach yourself to embrace change when you see it.
In short, your key to success is being the best employee you can be. Your boss may not recognize your contributions, but that’s okay. Once you know your value, you can use it to leverage other opportunities. Like a new position in the same company or a new position in a new company.
Help your boss when you can, but if your boss shows zero care or confidence or offers no opinions on your performance, it’s time to move on.
And that’s okay. The stigma of job-hopping from days of lore no longer applies. In fact, you’ll likely see more harm than benefit by being loyal-like-a-dog to a company where you never moved up, and you never left for greener pastures.
Remember, you are your own best advocate. Go forward with confidence. But for heaven’s sake, go forward.
Old enough to consider the condition of her liver and young enough to still throw caution to the wind for a worthy cause, SterlingPage is a freelance writer finding freedom with every word. Writing about the office she's suffered for 20+ years or about the art of writing anything, she brings a fresh perspective to old topics. From non-fiction to fiction, life is an adventure, and she's writing it all down.