Do love your job, but hate your boss? You’ve found a great job, it pays well and is something you can get excited about, the only problem is… your boss sucks. I’ve had my share of crappy bosses and it never ceases to amaze me how often the wrong person becomes “the boss”.
How does this happen? I’ve haven’t done the research but it seems many people still equate leadership with power and authority, and not with inclusion and empowerment. As a result, many of you are frustrated and left feeling undervalued, unappreciated, and disrespected. Unfortunately, some people in a leadership position don’t recognize these as consequences. And their own frustration is exacerbated (making them worse overtime) when their leadership doesn’t produce the behaviors their seeking; hard work, commitment, and enthusiasm.
You want to work hard, be committed and enthusiastic but it’s hard when your boss doesn’t communicate effectively, offer support and guidance, and/or provide the training and mentoring you need to fully succeed and appreciate your job.
What can you do? First, understand there are some generational differences which have given Gen Y’s a bad reputation. Some of what you’re experience may be plain old discrimination or a true misunderstanding of the qualities you bring to the table.
Rule 1: Understand the misconceptions, and recognize they’re obstacles you must overcome.
Generally speaking, Millennials, you have mastered the life and work balance, and you’ll select quality of life over financial rewards. Former generations identify themselves more by their jobs and the number of hours they put in. As a result, there are plenty of complaints that your generation just doesn’t want to work hard! Now I know it’s not true, but understand this is a perception others have, and there is an expectation that professional commitments will take priority over personal ones. When they don’t, older folks may think you lack commitment for the job or organization.
Your generation is also very achievement oriented, and you come with plenty of confidence and ambition. You’ve learned to expect a lot from yourselves and others, and you’re not afraid to question the status quo or authority. I recognize this as a critical asset since I believe it leads to employees who are self-directed and self-motivated, who can work well with others, and require little direction and supervision. Unfortunately, this can be perceived by others as “youthful arrogance”.
It doesn’t mean you have to be more like them, but if you can recognize how people are interpreting your behavior it’s opportunity to find new strategies to debunk these negative perceptions.
Another explanation is that some people just aren’t meant to be leaders or don’t have the training or skills to lead effectively. When this is the case, the common default is to be authoritative and domineering, following the old corporate model or TV version of a boss.
An effective leader will foster growth, learning and development. They’ll encourage and empower their team, and foster goodwill. If this isn’t happening for you, and quitting your job isn’t’ an option, here are some things you can try:
Rule 2: Communicate honesty and integrity!
It is important to communicate your experience, feelings, wants and needs to your supervisor. This should be done in way which is respectful to their position, and honestly represents you. There are different communication tools like using “I” statements, active listening, the Non-Violent communication Model , and/or the Awareness Wheel you can use. I prefer the awareness wheel, but each allow you to state the facts, own your experience, and communicate your needs. But remember, they’re not magic wands, but tools which require practice and may not always produce the behavior you want in others. However, they’ll allow you to maintain your authenticity and professionalism.
It is also important to NOT gossip, and perpetuate negative perceptions of your boss. They always have an informant somewhere, and it’ll come back to bite you on the “you know what” so be above it.
Rule 3: Be your own boss when you can!
If your boss is someone who creates obstacles for you, then don’t put them on your path if it isn’t necessary. If there are tasks and/or projects which do not require their supervision or approval, take initiative, be self-directed, and be your own boss. Too often we want to include our boss in or get their input on our work, and when you have a boss who sucks this can backfire. So if you boss has proven to be someone who doesn’t back you and your ideas, then don’t rely on their support. Get feedback from team members or an alternate supervisor or mentor.
Don’t go over their head or ignore their authority (they are your boss so when the job requires it, you should respect their position, even if you don’t respect them), but very often much of our jobs doesn’t require their “approval” so don’t seek it out unless it is necessary.
Rule 4: Build a strong team!
Surround yourself with people who can empower you and support you, and vice versa. Just because you’re not the boss doesn’t mean you can’t be a leader. You can turn this around and empower those you work with by being a support and resource for them. As a result you can foster the type of work environment your seeking, develop your own skills as a leader and mentor, build a network of support and creativity, and position yourself to advance within this organization or another.
Far too often, we accept misery at work. After all, it’s a job! Most of us spend upwards of 40 hours at work so it seems it should be a place where we want to be and can be at our best. So if you are feeling undervalued, unappreciated, and disrespected there is something you can do. Take control of your situation, empower yourself to make the situation work for you. People can only effectively take away your power you when you let them.