When your working relationship with your boss is challenging, it’s easy to lay the blame at their feet. Perhaps you have judged them to be ineffective, unethical, power-hungry, a bully, a narcissist, a perfectionist, a micro-managing control freak, or some other not so lovely adjective that defines how you see them.
They may be all that and more, or perhaps there’s more to it.
As I’ve written about before, we all have cognitive biases. One of those is an assumption that a person’s behaviour is based on the person’s character or personality, rather than on the situation and environment that can be influencing them. In psychology, this is classified as fundamental attribution error.
We tend to over-emphasise a person’s dispositional traits while under emphasising the context or situation. Writing for Harvard Business School, writer Patrick Healy suggests that “…you tend to cut yourself a break while holding others 100 per cent accountable for their actions”.
None of this is to discount the need for people to take accountability for their actions. It is, however, a reminder that when you are assessing a situation, it’s essential to challenge yourself and evaluate the part you are playing in the dynamic.
So, if your boss relationship is off the rails, what part might your behaviour contribute to the dynamic?
Here are seven bad habits that could be impacting your working relationship.
Are you firing on all cylinders?
Downtime and holidays are essential for your mental health and wellbeing. It’s the chance to reconnect with friends and family and reflect on life, where you are going, and what you want to do next.
If you frequently burn the candle at both ends — working late, taking work home and always working weekends — you will eventually burn out. When you aren’t in good shape, your work suffers, as does your ability to handle stressful situations.
Are you getting enough sleep?
When your brain is tired, you tend to take the path of least resistance, letting past expectations and assumptions drive your thoughts and actions, and you’ll decide the way you’ve always decided.
When you are rested, you’ll be far better equipped to deal with work pressures, manage a heavy workload and make well-reasoned decisions.
Are you a meeting junkie?
When you rush from meeting to meeting or event to event, you can get to the end of the working day exhausted yet have achieved little on your to-do list.
It’s essential to structure your day to get the most important things done first. Having daily intentions and a prioritised work schedule helps you stay on track, better enabling you to meet the commitments you’ve made to your boss. As well, allow time for regular breaks, during which you get away from your desk for at least 30 minutes.
Are you always late?
When you keep people waiting, you are effectively saying, ‘My time is more important than yours’, unconsciously implying that you regard yourself as more important.
When you miss deadlines, you show yourself to be unreliable and hard to work with. A regular pattern of tardiness does nothing to enhance your reputation. You’ll be known as the person who continually misses deadlines, and you’ll be letting your boss and colleagues down.
Are you setting the bar too high?
We are often told we need to set goals, but not just any goals — BIG HAIRY AUDACIOUS GOALS. Yet research shows that setting too high and too hard goals inhibits progress. You are far more likely to progress when you break projects and activities down into bite-size, manageable chunks.
It’s great to be ambitious and set stretch targets, but what’s more important to a boss is reliability and consistently good performance.
Do you avoid saying ‘no’?
There’s nothing worse than feeling like you are drowning in work and yet are unappreciated as more and more work comes your way. It’s easy to say ‘yes’ when a request comes in, yet there will be times when you need to say ‘no’.
It helps to set realistic boundaries around what you will and won’t do and how you will respond to requests outside standard working hours. If you don’t set limits that you are comfortable with, you’ll ultimately resent your boss.
Are you the office energy thief?
An energy thief saps you of energy, drains your focus, wastes your time and can throw you off track. They focus on their needs, show little or no interest in other people, and seek to drag others down with them. They expect people to do things for them, demanding attention and support, yet are not prepared to offer the same support to others.
Being seen as political, a gossip or an energy thief will do nothing to endear you to those around you. It can also consume a huge amount of your own time and energy.
One of my all-time favourite comments is that by Viktor Frankl. He was an Austrian neurologist, psychologist and Holocaust survivor who said, “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom”.
Getting you ready for tomorrow, today®
Michelle Gibbings is bringing back the happy to workplace culture. The award-winning author of three books, and a global keynote speaker, she’s on a mission to help leaders, teams and organisations create successful workplaces – where people thrive and progress is accelerated.