Monday, March 5, 2012

Career Secret #1: Learn To Like Your Boss

Liking your boss is essential to moving your career forward.

Read the above sentence again, because it's true.  No matter what other support you have in the organization, if you are out of sync with your direct supervisor, it will derail your progression.  Rather than focusing on your strengths, other leaders will get stuck on the fact that you don't work well with your boss.  And important projects always go to the proven team players.

Yes, I know, I know.

'But my boss is an asshole.'
'My boss doesn't support/promote/encourage me.'
'My boss is out of touch/doesn't get it.'
'My boss is incompetent.'
'My boss doesn't really care about me.'

Maybe you're right.  But if your goal is to advance your career, it really doesn't matter.  Your boss doesn't exist to take the place of a parent or to be your friend or to ensure your career success, for that matter.  Her job is to move the organization forward, and she's always looking for help from a skilled employee. 

That should be you, since advancing your career quickly means constantly trolling for new opportunities. 

Once you have found something - anything, really - that you and your boss can agree on, offer to work with her to accomplish that goal.  This will reflect well on you, and if you truly engage in the process, it will be hard not to like her, at least a little.  Down the road, when you approach her with your next fabulous idea, she will be much more willing to help you make it happen.

Notice I haven't said 'love' your boss.  Loving your boss is dangerous to your career because it's easy for professional boundaries to become blurred (golfing together on weekends or meeting for a drink after work).  If you focus on this pseudo friendship over your own career, your boss will have too much control over how and when you advance.  Objectivity is key in staying open to opportunities.  You want a relationship of  simple, positive regard.  
Unforeseen challenge:  At any point in your career, it's wise to steer clear of conversations where staff members complain about leadership.  But it may surprise you when at least one colleague accuses you of sucking up because you no longer see your boss as the enemy.  The fact is, not everyone will be excited about your skilled alignment with leadership.  Stay cordial to your harshest critics and simply keep moving ahead.

All through your working life, you will have bosses that are great and bosses that suck - it just comes with the territory.  But you alone have the ability to ignite your career.  Just keep your eye on the goal and remember that finding a way to like your boss will get you there even faster.  

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  1. I have always, always gotten along with my managers. I used to think of this as luck -- I just got lucky with likable managers! But you've made me realize it isn't luck, it's a skill (or, as my ex used to say, "luck is a skill"). Because it's not like everyone I worked with got along with those same managers. Basically I have a good attitude when it comes to authority. I don't look at them and think "In how many and which ways are they out to get me?" I try to make them happy because I assume that's part of the job. In fact, making your manager happy is often the whole job.

  2. Hi Elisa - it doesn't surprise me at all that you have been skilled enough - and savvy enough - to figure out positive relationships with you bosses over time. I'm always shocked by the them/us imaginary war that lives in the minds of many employees. A good relationship with one's boss is such a huge asset to moving forward. However, I have to remind myself that not everyone wants to advance in their career, which is okay, too. From the little I know about you, it appears you have found success now and will continue to do so in the future. None of that is accidental. You go!



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