Why can’t I get along with my supervisor? No matter what I do, the person seems to constantly degrade and criticize my attitude, my work and my overall performance. I can’t seem to do anything right.
Sound familiar? Unfortunately, it is too familiar for many employees.
Dean Gualco, author of The Good Manager: A Guide for the Twenty-First Century Manager, is convinced that at some point in your professional life, you’ll be placed in just such a situation. You’ll work for a supervisor or manager who you feel is condescending, critical or simply evil. What to do? There are really no simple answers, and even fewer approaches or strategies that Gualco believes resolve an unhealthy, contentious relationship with a manager or a supervisor.
Strategies That Fail
Gualco says the most common strategy to address such a strained relationship is to “talk with your supervisor,” as if reason and logic is the panacea in a fractured relationship. However, this isn't often successful. Seldom will the supervisor say, in all honesty, “I’m jealous of your success,” or, “I’m intimidated by your ambitions,” or simply, “I just don’t like you.” But the approach sounds good, anyway
Another strategy is to inform higher management of your difficulties in working with your supervisor. Your probability for success using this approach is even less encouraging. Why? For two reasons: first, because high-level management, in all likelihood, was responsible for promoting that supervisor and may be hesitant to admit to a promotional mistake. Second, your supervisor has, again in all likelihood, already informed his or her manager about the difficultly in working with you and, thus, your reputation has been established.
Ultimately, both strategies fail because they ignore a truism about conflict: A rational approach (such as conversation, logic, etc.) to resolve an irrational situation (such as conflict with a supervisor, friend, etc.) is rarely worth the time and effort. A healthy relationship requires both individuals to be willing and able to address the inevitable challenges; if one person is unable or uninterested in do so, it is an exercise in futility and disappointment.
The Ideal Boss
Gualco believes that the one attribute that will most likely determine your success or failure as a manager is the ability to be a good person, one who is incredibly kindhearted, controls the most destructive human emotions, tells the truth, does what’s right and always looks for the good along the road of life. That manager makes work fun and is convinced that people yearn for fun in their life - for a time and place where they feel comfortable and are welcomed regardless of their challenges and difficulties. If that place can be where they work, where their manager instills a sense of adventure and excitement in what they do and who they do it for, Gualco believes the repercussions for such a work environment will lead to a level of loyalty, commitment, and productivity rarely seen in an organization.
What Might Work
For employees who don't have that dream boss, Gualco offers three approaches to consider when working for, or with, a vindictive or even evil manager.
First, you must be absolutely competent in your profession. This requires considerable time and is stressful, but it does not give your supervisor an opportunity to highlight your errors and mistakes. Force your supervisor to lie about your competence, with the hope that the truth will see the light.
Second, endeavor to establish a reputation beyond your supervisor. Avoid allowing your supervisor to define your reputation; it certainly won’t be good. Instead, interact and cultivate with a wide array of contacts, including customers, fellow employees and other supervisors. In this way, you may establish a positive performance reputation regardless of the misguided attempts by your own supervisor.
Finally, prepare for your next job. It is a rarity when an employee bests a supervisor, mainly because of the influence and power that a supervisor commands within most organizations. Prepare your resume, broaden your network of contacts and begin your job search. With some luck, your work situation will improve, and your job search would have been premature; in all likelihood, your job search will be a good investment for a better future.
The quest for goodness in your personal and professional life is an exhilarating quest, one that is attainable to those with the drive and desire to live a good and decent life. As you search for the perfect job in the perfect career, look first for a manager who is a kind and generous person. As organizations search for the most talented employees, look first for a decent and honorable manager who has only the purest and noblest intentions for the employees. Inevitably, Gualco believes that our happiness or unhappiness in the workplace depends on finding that good person. Never settle until you find such a person to work with; never stop until you become one yourself, Gualco says.