Over the past 15 years, I’ve held Q&A sessions with over a million people at more than a thousand events around the world. In all but a handful of these events, people bring up their bosses—and vent about them. Dealing with a difficult boss comes up without fail, no matter where I am, or what industry or company I’m speaking to.
The troubles range from, “My difficult boss is too demanding” to “My boss doesn’t really care about me, it’s all about her” to “I’ve been busting my butt and my difficult boss just doesn’t recognize my performance—he feels that everyone is equally wonderful” to “There’s no focus on how much you do, it’s who you know.” I can’t think of a lament I haven’t heard.
The basic question around a difficult boss is the same…
People want to know what they should do in these situations.
“I just can’t stand it. Do I quit? Do I ask for a transfer?”
“Do I go above the boss to his or her boss?”
“Am I just plain stuck with this guy?”
For years, I’ve tried to give advice ranging from, “Stick it out with a set of goals for a defined period of time before you jump” to “Going to the boss’s boss is almost always a fast way to lose” to “Try to open up a good, candid but non-incriminating conversation with your boss . . . Coming in from the side—not head on.” Despite having offered just about every possible answer for relief, more often than not, I haven’t satisfied the unhappy employee.
Several months ago, I came up with what I think is the better answer, as far as career development is concerned. I’ve turned the question back on the questioner, by asking a new question that might prove helpful, not only in their current situation but going forward—a question, I hope, will help more people become better bosses in the process:
WOULD YOU WANT TO WORK FOR . . . YOU?
Yes, it takes a certain threshold of self-awareness to recognize your flaws, but you should see the look on people’s faces when they stop to honestly think through their own leadership characteristics. The self-confident, self-aware person, upon reflection, seems to really respond to this question. The follow-up reception I have received has been incredibly positive, demonstrated by the emails and letters from people in the audiences who found this exercise really useful. Many of them had taken the chance to spend some quiet time reflecting on both their strengths and their flaws—and, from their notes, appeared open to dealing with their weaknesses to become stronger, more effective leaders. Leaders who people want to follow.
I was hoping that maybe the LinkedIn audience would benefit from wrestling with that same introspective question.
“WOULD YOU WANT TO WORK FOR . . . YOU?”
If not, why not, and what are you going to do about it?
Source: This article was originally published on LinkedIn.