Managing The Boss Is Essential To Career Success

Your boss is the gatekeeper of your career. Unless you are able to manage a positive relationship with him at each step in your career you will fall short of your potential.

Like it or not, never forget he is the portal through which you connect with the rest of the organization and its resources. Your boss is the one who can pass you along for promotions, or he can stop you dead in your tracks. He is the first hurdle you must get over to get more responsibility and more money. Your plans and budgets must gain his approval, says Ramon Greenwood, head of CommonSenseAtWork.com.

Bosses are not abstract boxes on organization charts. Bosses are human beings, not much different from you and me.

On any given day, bosses can appear as a parent who is respected, feared or barely tolerated. They can be mean, insecure, domineering, and even crazy in varying degrees. They can be competitors and roadblocks or they can be enablers who will help you to advance your career. They are people with whom you will have conflicts, that is if you are pushing to the limits of your abilities and ambitions.

There are seven rules of the road that lead to a positive boss relationship.

(1) The first rule is an especially hard one to accept: everybody has a boss, like it or not. Few achievers like the notion of having a master. Accepting authority is basically at odds with many of the attributes required for success.

Managers report to department heads. Vice Presidents are responsible to executive vice presidents. Presidents report to chairmen of the board who report to directors who report to shareholders. "Mom and Pop" running neighborhood quick-shop markets have some of the toughest bosses in the world, their customers.

Many years ago a Danish zoologists proved that even in the barnyard chickens work within the reality of a strong hierarchy. There is always a top chicken. It can peck other chicken in the yard to show who is boss. The second level chicken can peck those at the lower levels, and so goes the "pecking order."

(2) Always respect the hierarchy. Make the extra effort to respect your boss and his experience. You don't have to like the idea of having a boss. Just recognize reality.

(3) Work to make your boss look good in the eyes of his boss. Work diligently to get him or her promoted. Opportunities are created for you when your boss gets promoted.

(4) Never, never go around your boss. Work with and through him. You may believe your boss to be incompetent and a roadblock to all the great things you can do for the business. This may be true, but you put yourself in extreme danger if you elect to circumvent your boss. The hierarchy will close ranks to protect itself from such violations. It must do so to survive.

(5) Know that bosses make mistakes, too. When your boss errs do everything you can to cover his backside and help him to get back on track.

(6) Keep your connections with your boss on a strictly professional basis. Never rely on friendship with your boss. Diogenes, the Greek philosopher, had some good advice on this point: "A man should live with his superiors as he does with his fire; not too near, lest he burn; not too far, lest he freeze."

(7) Develop a relationship of mutual dependency between yourself and your boss. You depend on him for support and endorsement. He depends on you for the hard work and talent that help him succeed.

If, after all is said and done, you still can't get along with your boss and the existing hierarchy; find another position in another organization. But remember, wherever you go, you will always have a boss.

Ramon Greenwood is former senior VP of American Express; a professional director, American Express International, financial institutions and consumer goods companies; Senior Career Counselor, http://CommonSenseAtWork.com; consultant to a wide variety of businesses; author of How To Make The World Of Work Work For You and a syndicated column, Common Sense At Work.

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