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Getting in Sync with Your Boss

An engineer noticed his boss become restless and impatient during meetings.

He realized this behavior usually came whenever he digressed from his report to provide background details.

Recognizing that his habit of providing extra data didn’t match his boss’s short-and-to-the-point style, the engineer experimented with more concise explanations. His boss remained more focused during the next meeting.

Then the engineer decided to use agendas to track his progress through more complicated discussions. If he felt a digression was needed, he would first explain why before delivering more detail.

These small adjustments ultimately resulted in more pleasant and productive meetings not only for the boss but also for the engineer.

To succeed in the American workplace, you need to be aware of style differences between your boss and yourself. In pursuit of your career goals, it benefits you to learn how to adjust your own style to accommodate theirs.

Why Manage My Boss?

We use the term, “managing your boss,” to mean building a stronger and more positive relationship with your boss that benefits you, your boss, and your company.

Here, we address the importance of identifying your boss's preferred work style and then adjusting your style accordingly, as the engineer did.

As the engineer experienced, having similar work styles fosters easier, more successful relationships.

What is Style?

Differences in style are often the root cause of relationship problems between the boss and an employee.

Style refers to the way we communicate and work with others.

You can establish a good working relationship with your boss by accommodating their style differences.

We all have individual style differences as well as culturally conditioned differences as a result of growing up in a particular culture.

An example of a culturally conditioned difference is delegating decision-making authority.

American managers may delegate a great deal of authority to their staff, whereas managers in more traditional Asian countries may prefer not to delegate this authority.

In terms of individual style differences, one example is how your boss prefers to receive information.

Some bosses, for example, like to short emails. Others prefer face-to-face meetings.

What Style Differences Should I Notice?

To get you started in observing style differences, here are questions to consider:

Does your manager:

  • Avoid disagreements or encourage disagreements?

  • Want you to alert them to problems or want you to solve problems?

  • Allow you to make important decisions or want to be involved in decisions?

  • Give mainly positive feedback or give mainly negative feedback?

  • Tend to focus on the larger picture or tend to focus on details?

  • Allow you latitude to make and learn from mistakes or don’t allow much latitude?

  • Share credit with you for successes or prefer to take sole credit?

What’s Next?

Spend some time to observe important differences between you and your boss. Then experiment with adjusting your behavior in small increments to accommodate your boss’s preferences and see what happens.

You can also observe your colleagues’ behavior and determine their actions that promote harmonious relationships.

In summary, it is within your control to influence how things go between you and your boss.

Style flexing is an important tool in your efforts to get your next promotion.

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