Few people think about their supervisors’ jobs or work styles. Asking yourself a few questions about your boss might clarify the best ways to work with her or what you might expect from her. The better you know someone, the easier to work with that person. Can you confidently answer the following questions about your boss?
- What are your boss’s highest priorities? “Sure,” you might answer, “just the other day she stated this is our highest concern.” But is that the highest priority? Formal priorities and informal priorities may not be the same. What are the pressures on your boss from above? How can you help your boss achieve the results that really matter?
- Is your boss a listener or a reader? Some bosses drop by your workplace or call people into their offices. They ask questions about issues, bounce ideas, and form positions, just from talking and listening. Other bosses want the same type of information but want it in writing. These bosses prefer to read, digest, and form their positions from what they read. Most of us have a preferred style, whether we realize it or not. Your preferred style may or may not match up with your supervisor. Can you adjust?
- Does your boss compartmentalize work and home? People differ in their preferences for separating their work life from their life away from the job. Some managers eat, live, and breathe their jobs. They may stay late at the office or continue working into the evening at home. Others leave the office and the work behind to focus on other parts of their lives. If you and your boss are mismatched, there may be occasional work-related issues, such as not enough time to meet your boss's expectations or not having enough time to have your questions answered.
- What are your boss’s greatest strengths and weaknesses? All of us have strengths and weaknesses. You probably know some of your boss’s strengths and weaknesses, but do you know which are greatest? Where does your boss really excel? Could your boss use those strengths to support you better? On the other hand, what can you do to help your boss in areas where the boss may be weak? How can you compensate for these weaknesses when it affects your performance?
- Does your boss trust you and others? This may be complicated. Creating a culture of trust starts at the top. Your manager may be trustworthy and honest but still not be trusting of you, or some others, for a variety of reasons. When people are not trusted, this can affect performance and lower productivity. Is your boss unnecessarily a micromanager? Are there deficiencies in the work of other employees that need to be addressed? It is sometimes said that trust is earned. The best managers will grow their people as necessary to ensure that any issues of trust are resolved.
- Is your boss a people-person or task-driven? Most likely you know the answer. Some bosses are very task-oriented and may or may not have strong people skills. Others thrive better where relational skills are most important. They get the job done working with people. The best managers are both, using the style most appropriate to the situation. If you find yourself working with a boss toward one extreme or the other, think through how that might affect your work and how you may need to adjust.
Modified from my original article published online, February 18, 2015, in the American Management Association's Playbook.
Image, "Executive-business woman", by geralt. Obtained from https://pixabay.com/illustrations/executive-businesswoman-2001849/ Free to use.
© John Ballard, PhD, 2019. All rights reserved.
Decoding the Workplace “deals with principles and practices that are timeless . . . Is this a must-have for managers and would-be managers? Yes.” Academy of Management Learning & Education, June, 2018.