I Want My Life Back! How to Deal With an Impossible Boss
Your boss assigned you a project. You’ve put your heart and soul into it, and deliver what you think is a great work product.
Barely stopping long enough read the first paragraph of your report, your boss says, “That’s not quite what I wanted. Make this change and that change, and bring it back to me.”
Are you kidding!? Why didn’t he tell you that up front? It would have saved you a ton of extra work.
Are you tired of trying to meet your boss’s unrealistic, unclear, and constantly changing performance expectations? It’s as if he’s trying to hold you hostage and never give you the satisfaction of doing a good job.
The solution may be as simple as asking for input from your boss earlier and more often.
“And invite even more criticism?” you may be thinking. “Do you think I’m a glutton for punishment?”
Beneath the surface most bosses who are difficult to satisfy unconsciously wish their perspective would be solicited more often. Your boss might be just as worn out as you are from sharing unsolicited advice. Down deep she doesn’t want to be a buzz-kill. She would prefer to be helpful and experience your sincere gratitude. Unsolicited feedback usually stems from a noble, but poorly executed, desire to achieve high quality. How your boss goes about it isn’t helping though.
Most of the time unsolicited feedback comes across as critical or negative. And, if bosses withhold important information that would have been helpful, it only makes things worse. In our experience this isn’t always purposeful, so don’t assume that they just want to make your life difficult. They may be unaware of how best to help you and only notice what they don’t like.
Here are three strategies to take back control over your relationship with your boss, get better feedback, and begin doing your best work instead of feeling frustrated. Use these strategies and I predict your boss will be happier with you as well.
Actively solicit your boss’s opinions from the very beginning with questions like,
“What do you believe are the most important aspects of this project?”
“Based on your experience, what are the things you want me to focus on?”
“What will you be looking for in the finished product?”
Commit random acts of solicitation
Solicit your boss’s input on other things. Just because. Drop in unexpectedly, or catch him in passing with questions like,
“I was working on the Johnson file and wanted to ask you, what’s your opinion on whether it’s best to be firm, or give them some slack?”
“Would you be willing to share your candid perspective on this brochure I am working on?”
“What do you believe marketing should do with the proposal?”
Validate positive intentions
Bosses want pats on the back too. Worry less about stroking your boss’s ego or defending yourself, and more on validating what could be his or her noble intentions. Use statements such as,
“I appreciate your commitment to quality.”
“Thanks for your dedication to helping me do great work.”
“I know you’re keeping your eye on the big picture.
Being proactive, soliciting feedback, and validating positive intentions can help your boss be a better leader and make your life less stressful.
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