Thinking about quitting your job?
You are not alone! In 2013, more than 2 million Americans voluntarily left their jobs every month. This despite a rough economy and high unemployment rate. And now in 2022, they talk about the “Great Resignation”. This trend is similar in the rest of the world. So why is it that so many people want to quit their jobs?
Usually, the answer is a Bad Boss.
A 2015 Gallup study sheds new light on worker-manager relationships, finding that about 50% of the 7,200 adults surveyed left a job “to get away from their manager.”
Knowing that this is probably not your first or your last Bad Boss, you might have to consider the fact that you are the common denominator here. But don’t fret, this is good news!! It means you might be able to do something about this! As difficult as it is to accept that you might be contributing to the problem, the sooner you can see that the sooner you can shift your behavior and attitude toward your boss and hopefully improve your relationship.
This series of articles is here to give you tips on how to get along with any boss better, and hopefully, increase your job satisfaction in the meantime.
Remember the expression, ‘The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.’? This is often true of our imagination about working for a different company. So why not make your best effort to deal with your current situation?
Tip #1 Assume good intent – fresh start every day.
This one is harder than it sounds. If your boss (Let’s call him/her Pat) has said/done many things over the months and years that have rubbed you the wrong way, it is as if Pat has been continuously withdrawing from the emotional bank account that exists between the two of you. Now there is a huge deficit of goodwill, so every small negative action ticks you off much more than it should. On the other hand, think of another person with whom you have a great relationship, let’s call him/her Andrea. You and Andrea probably have a well-padded surplus in the emotional bank account. Let’s say Andrea made a joke at your expense at lunch recently. You could probably easily forgive Andrea. If Pat did the exact same thing, it could easily throw you into a tizzy for days.
That kind of situation is not particularly good for your health, mood, productivity, or well-being.
What if you could change that horrible feeling that follows the next attack from Pat? You can! Perception is reality. We see the world through our frame of reference. If Pat is a nasty character with bad intentions in your frame of reference, you will see every action as a reason to prove that theory.
If on the other hand, you CHOOSE to believe that Pat struggles just like everyone else. And choose to believe that his/her weaknesses happen to really bother you, but probably deep down he/she is a good person, all of a sudden you can make a shift. It becomes possible to see Pat’s actions in a whole new light.
Make an assumption that Pat actually has good intentions. Do your best to make a fresh start every day and set the emotional bank account to zero. See what happens if you are the first one to make a positive deposit into that bank account in the morning.
Tip #2 Check your values – what is bothering you here?
Last time I had a work situation where I didn’t like my boss, I realised it was because there was a fundamental difference in values.
I have a very strong value around self-improvement and continuous education and training. As a leadership development trainer, I also feel that is part of walking the talk for my clients. My boss did not share this value, or at least didn’t seem to.
He called himself a coach yet had not ever done any of the intense personal work involved in getting certified as a coach. I had also never heard of him doing any sort of professional training in the years that we worked together.
This difference helped me understand what was important to me and crystallise my value of learning and improvement.
It was a gift, because knowing your values is a fundamental step on the path to happiness. Only then can youmake the conscious choice to honor them and bring more of that into your life.
I also realised that those were my values, not his. So suddenly it stopped bothering me so much that he wasn’t living up to them for himself.
Tip #3 Focus on the good – what are you grateful for?
We are learning more and more about the science behind gratitude. Neuroscientists (Alex Korb Ph.D., to name one) have let us know that feelings of gratitude release hormones like dopamine and serotonin into your system that make you feel happier.
There have got to be some things about work that you enjoy, even if you have a Horrible Boss.
Look around and push yourself to find three new things each day that you are thankful for. Keep a running tab, make a list, draw a picture for each one, carve notches in your desk (just kidding), whatever it takes to focus on the good.
Spread the positivity – do the exercise with a buddy in the office. Wouldn’t it be better to infect each other with gratitude rather than having your usual venting session around the water cooler? Sometimes venting is good, but when it is done too often, it forms a cloud of negativity over your head.
Tip #4 Learn to give feedback impeccably
“Can I give you some feedback?”
That sentence can raise the hairs on the back of your neck. And there is evidence that your brain sometimes actually causes your body to respond in that situation as if you were being physically threatened.
Why is that? Well… most people are pretty bad at giving feedback. The receiver often walks away feeling judged, criticised, and less than good.
Most people think that giving feedback is fairly simple. It is simple. But not easy.
If you are giving feedback well, chances are your receiver will thank you (genuinely) and your relationship will actually be strengthened.
That happens because you are going out on a limb for their sake; making yourself vulnerable by having the courage to give them the feedback, so he/she isn’t the only one who is exposed.
Oh, and there is a specific format and sequence that makes it all run much more smoothly (see more in my blog post about feedback: https://coachingwithoutborders.com/four-steps-to-giving-effective-feedback/)
Tip #5 Look in the mirror
There is a philosophy that I subscribe to:
The things that drive you most crazy in others are the things that you have not accepted in yourself.
I usually get a lot of pushback from my clients about this one.
Let’s take the example of the boss never making time for an employee. Often if I ask clients, “where do you do that in your life?’, they say they don’t. “I would never be so aloof.”
However, digging deeper and looking not just at the work context but also at other areas of their life, they can usually find an example of how they engage in the very same behaviour.
For example, the employee might say, “Well, I do not make time for my brother when he calls.” Then, they can ask themselves ‘Why do I do that?’. “He always calls at inconvenient times, I wish he would remember that I like to talk on Sundays, not during the week!”
The answer to that question can usually somehow apply to their boss as well. In this case, the employee’s insight was to ask her boss when, where and how would be the best way to communicate.
Now she has an action to improve the relationship with her boss. It may or may not be enough, but it is a step in the right direction. Finding the behavior in ourselves makes it makes it much easier to have compassion for and tolerance of the irritating behavior in others.
For more information about this process, see my blog post “Look in the Mirror”.
Tip #6 Make sure your “upstairs brain” is engaged
As much as we would like other people to change, we cannot force them to. My clients often tell me long tales of how controlling/unfair/absent/unappreciative their bosses are, and ask me how to get them to change. I stop their tirade to remind them that unfortunately, I cannot coach him or her since he/she is not here. “But I can coach you on your response to this person.” In fact, our response to other people is the only thing we really have control over.
Normally we react to Bad Bosses, stressful situations, unexpected challenges. That is when we say/do things we don’t mean, or things we regret later. It is when the limbic system in the brain becomes more dominant because it thinks there is a threat to deal with. Unfortunately, our limbic system is not rational, hence the regrettable reactions we sometimes have when the heat is on.
However, we can learn to respond rather than react. Once we feel the signs that our limbic system is becoming more dominant, (elevated pulse and blood pressure, sweaty palms, shaky hands, dry mouth), we can STOP and take a few breaths before we react. We can re-engage our rational brain by counting 7 seconds before we talk.
How do you currently react to Pat? How would you rather be with him? What are some words to describe the way you would like to be with him? Cool, calm and collected? Confident, savvy, and positive? What is a metaphor for the way you would like to be with him? Like the eagle who soars above the situation? Like water off a duck’s back? Like a curious anthropologist who takes nothing personally?
As you prepare for your next encounter with Pat, don’t just get your PowerPoint slides ready, take a few minutes to ground yourself with a few deep breaths and focus on the words or metaphor you chose. This will help you stay composed and think clearly.
Still not convinced?
Reach out to us for individual coaching to discover how you may be accidentally sabotaging your own success and happiness.