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Managing Upward: Creating Working Partnerships
By Patti Hathaway   Printer Friendly Version

Research indicates that 85% of employees terminate due to conflicts in the boss-employee relationship and in a Robert Half International survey, executives were found to spend a month per year dealing with personality conflicts. This may explain why employers place more value on the candidate's personality than any other factor during the hiring process. Since the boss-employee relationship is such a tenuous one, how can we best manage that relationship?

Samuel Culbert and John McDonough wrote the book Radical Management: Power Politics and The Pursuit of Trust. They found that trust is the key to managing politics in an organization and that the way to develop trust is by building respect for individual differences. In a trust relationship a person can relate to another's interests even when they disagree. The relationship is based on mutual understanding instead of mutual dependency.

We need to recognize the boss-employee relationship is not like the parent-child relationship in that the burden of managing the relationship does not fall entirely on the boss. In managing this relationship as employees, we have three basic choices: to change our boss, change our environment, or change ourselves. We have the most control over ourselves, yet seem to search for ways to change or blame our boss or the environment. It's important to recognize we can rarely change our boss, and if we are not willing to change our environment, the most likely option we have is to change ourselves.

One key to understanding and managing the relationship with our boss is to try and understand what makes our boss "tick". What are the boss's pet peeves? How do you know they are angry? satisfied? In presenting your ideas to your boss, are they interested in all the details or just the bottom-line? Do they prefer competition or cooperation?

Often, we present ourselves and our ideas as we would like them to be presented to us, when in fact, the key to managing someone is to try and best meet their needs not ours. A suggestion might be to observe someone who really seems to get along with your boss -- what does that person do that makes them so successful? Often, we are too close to the relationship to be objective and by observing someone else we gain ideas we can use in the relationship.

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