No matter how much you love your job activities, colleagues, or work setting, a bad experience with a boss can still make you want to quit. Most people look forward to a collaborative, respectful relationship with their supervisor, but even if it starts that way, nice bosses can leave without warning and make room for others that don’t mesh with you. If your job is high quality and worth keeping, but you and your supervisor are a poor fit, how can you protect yourself and sustain your morale?
Be Relevant, or Suffer
Rather than look for a magic countermeasure to neutralize all the ways a boss can hurt you, think about practicing relevance–learning what makes your supervisor tick, and delivering what he or she values. Never mind if what he values is completely off-base, or if all she cares about is exerting authority.
If you don’t throw your boss a bone, s/he will either bite you or chase you out of the yard. At that point, no amount of talent or idealism you bring to the organization will matter.
Chicken or Beef Flavored?
Supervisors have their own unique preferences, so you have to discover those and play to their tastes as precisely as possible. Throwing a generic or factory-processed bone won’t save you. To help you get started, here are some flavors bosses like:
- Doing what they want, and helping them clarify what they want if they don’t exactly know
- Outwardly showing that you respect their authority
- Helping them get credit, recognition, or a positive perception, especially from their supervisor
- Saving money or generating revenue, donations, enrollment, publicity, testimonials, etc.
- Providing a detailed account of your activities (a tasty morsel for micro-managers)
- Demonstrating enthusiasm and initiative for projects they consider important (even if you don’t)
The best part about throwing your boss a bone is that he has to lie down and take time to gnaw on it. In other words, he feels satisfied and stays out of your yard, giving you more freedom to pursue what’s really important (to you, anyway). Even if you work for a supervisor you respect, who has her priorities straight, makes good decisions, and maintains good relationships, you can still throw her a bone now and then to make life at work even better.