How to manage your Boss

Written by Abhay B. Joshi

December 2007


There are many four-letter words that are avoided in pleasant and civilized forums, and BOSS is one of them. People lead stressful lives and sometimes quit their jobs because of their boss. Once I had a boss who used to call me every evening and ask me to report how I spent the day. He had a low voice and an Indo-American accent, so I could barely understand his probing questions. Secondly, the line used to be so noisy (this was before mobile phones) that he would have trouble hearing me. You can easily understand if I told you that the only meal I could enjoy in those days was a late dinner!


But after living 20+ years in this working world, I have recently begun to understand the psychology of the Boss, and truly feel that all fear and hatred of this reviled species is somewhat unfounded, and (mostly) unnecessary. Having been a boss myself for a number of years, I also realize that all bosses were once one of us. It’s a bit like सास भी कभी बहू थी!!


Let’s take a quick look at the bosses or managers at a company like Aztecsoft. These fellows are usually pulled in 3 different directions: they have to accomplish the goals given by their own bosses (bosses of bosses are much worse!). Second, they have to meet our customers’ expectations. And third, they have to squeeze work out of lazy and fun-loving bums like us, while keeping us humored and happy. It is no wonder that they can sometimes appear to act a bit oddly under this trident of stresses.


Consider a few of the complaints that we have about our boss:

§         My boss is never happy with what I deliver.  She always pokes holes in what I’ve done, and points out what I’ve left undone.

§         My boss likes a few select folks, and dislikes the rest of us -- especially me.

§         My boss asks personal questions and doesn’t stick to professional matters.

§         My boss is incompetent in technical matters.

§         I don’t like my Boss’s decision-making style.

§         My boss doesn’t work very hard; she delegates most of the tasks.

§         My boss is disorganized, and as a result I get tasks without warning and with unrealistic deadlines.

§         My boss is illogical (a serious problem if true).


Complaining won’t improve our work-life. But we can adopt strategies – and I’ve learned a few -- for turning our observations into opportunities for improved communication and work environment:


§         Try to understand the boss’s psychology and situation. Empathize with her insecurity and pressures. Understand that she also wants you on her side so that she can achieve her goals. When she asked you that personal question, she simply wanted to build a bridge to you, not poke her nose in your affairs. Inversely, don’t misunderstand her friendly gesture and start asking for favors.

§         All of us have a lot to learn. Otherwise, where’s the fun in working in a technology company?   Sometimes when we disagree with the boss’s orders, chances are embarrassingly high that, because she knows more than you do about the context for her instructions, she’s right.  So, instead of arguing, just comply with her request, unless of course you know that your compliance will create trouble later. Your boss’s ability to mentor you is directly proportional to your willingness to get mentored.

§         Bosses develop a liking for people who are hard working and sincere. Even if you are not as smart as others, hard work and sincerity will help you win your boss’s confidence.

§         Appreciate your own shortcomings and/or limitations. If you are newly married, or in love, you are not going to be able to put in your 100% at work. If you have a health issue, it may affect your productivity. All this will affect your boss’s appreciation of your work, and she may criticize. But isn’t that criticism well-founded? Explain the situation to your boss, but don’t expect her to give you good remarks and a nice bonus anyway.

§         Communicate with your boss. She is sometimes completely unaware of that spurious word or phrase that ended up hurting your feelings. When she asked you to keep quiet in that conference call, it wasn’t because you are a poor communicator, but because she was running out of time. So go and pour out your heart to your boss; you will probably see positive results. The misunderstanding will be sorted out. Or, she will get a chance to explain her point of view to you.   One problem with us, especially when we are relatively new employees, is that we try to stay away from our boss, and talk with her only when she approaches us. That’s a bad idea. Meet her yourself occasionally even if there is no specific need.

§         Every boss has her own decision-making style. Some go by gut-feeling or what they call intuition, and some take a lot of time analyzing a lot of data. Neither style is wrong as long as one gets the job done. Understand from your boss how she makes decisions so that you can adapt to her style.

§         Some bosses do have a tendency to delegate and keep very little or easy stuff for themselves. My personal strategy for this issue is to not think about it. I am not hired to ensure my boss is busy. I know she is going to lose out eventually due to her laziness and unwillingness to learn. So be it.

§         Some bosses are disorganized and because of their lack of planning they push tasks on us without warning and give unrealistic deadlines. My suggestion on this is simple: be organized yourself, and tell your boss clearly how much you can realistically achieve even after putting in extra hours.

§         All employee-friendly companies like Aztecsoft collect feedback about bosses and pass it along to their bosses. You need to take this process seriously, and not fill up the feedback form casually, or worse, give false remarks. The bosses have their own improvement programs for which this sort of feedback is invaluable. You don’t even have to wait for this form to come to you. You can simply walk up to your boss’s boss and have a chat. But make sure you are not rushing to judgment.

§         Never ever leave your job because you hate your boss. A single person, even if it is the CEO, never represents the whole company. You should talk to as many people as possible before you decide to cut the knot. In some cases, your boss actually has a problem, but has somehow escaped notice. You must give the company, which is your real employer, a fair chance before you come to any conclusions.

§         And finally, understand that bosses are transient, especially in the IT world. You will work for a number of bosses, so your current boss is not your permanent mother-in-law. You will surely get a new one soon. Just be patient, put your head down and focus on results.