Choosing the Right Boss for Yourself

It’s a fact. We spend more time on work-related activities than we spend on any other part of our lives. It’s a scary thought but, if we’re not performing our daily round of work-related tasks, then we’re thinking about subjects connected to work.

For most of us, work involves reporting to someone higher up along the chain of command. That means most of us have a boss. Now, it might seem like an unusual topic to consider but have you ever thought about how much influence your boss is exerting on you right now? How does your manager’s personality and behaviour impact on you and on how you deal with your daily tasks and challenges? How far does your boss’s influence extend into other areas of your life? Particularly when you consider the critical areas of health and wellbeing.

 The greatest gift of leadership is a boss who wants you to be successful. – Jon Taffer

Let’s be brutally honest. Good managers might be much rarer than you might imagine. For a start, not everyone who gets into management has the skills, training and personality traits that are essential to be effective. So, there’s a distinct possibility that the person who’s holding the position of manager over you right now might not be as competent as you would hope. That should set off alarm bells right from the outset.

The problem starts – and probably ends – at the interview stage. No one tells us to take a close, critical and objective look at the person or people we’re going to work for. Doesn’t happen, does it? We’re so anxious about getting the job, we forget that we should also be interviewing and assessing the people we’re hoping to work for.

And why is this relevant?

Surely, the only important issue is to get the job offer, secure the salary and pursue your career goals? Well, there’s a lot more to getting a job than simply signing an employment contract. That’s just the starting point. We need to set aside our narrowly-defined need for an income-at-any-price and take a long, hard look at the true cost of our new employment opportunity.

Humans are social animals. We interact with each other all the time. So, there’s a very high probability that you’re going to adopt many of your manager’s habits and behaviours. Think about that for a moment. You might not even be aware that it’s happening. It’s subtle.

More than half of people who leave their jobs do so because of their relationship with their boss. Smart companies make certain their managers know how to balance being professional with being human. These are the bosses who celebrate an employee’s success, empathise with those going through hard times, and challenge people, even when it hurts. – Travis Bradberry

It’s often subliminal. We reflect words, gestures, expressions, emotional cues and behaviours in order to appear more like the group. It’s part of our evolutionary heritage. Blending in begins with subtle shifts in our external reactions. But it soon filters through into our internal behavioural framework. Gradually, these subtle shifts become the foundation for new habits and responses. We start to reflect our boss’s behaviours, without filtering the positive attributes from the less desirable qualities.

So, the simplest question to ask yourself when you meet your prospective new boss is:

Do I want to be like this person in five years’ time? Is this who I want to become?

It’s an incredibly important issue to consider because the changes are largely subliminal. You don’t notice them. Though your family and friends might well detect the changes and wonder what’s happening – even as you strenuously deny that you’ve changed in any way whatsoever. The adaptations to the new environment and the new relationship dynamics quickly take hold and then, one day, you look in the mirror – and see your boss staring right back at you.

If you ever catch a great boss, it’s just such a rare thing – and it’s amazing. – James L. Brooks

Imagine for a moment how inspiring it would be to work for someone who motivates and encourages you to fulfil your potential and achieve your goals. How would you feel if you worked in an environment where you were valued, recognised and rewarded for your successes? How amazing would it be to work for someone who cared about you, your welfare and your future? You see? It really is quite rare after all, isn’t it?

That’s why it’s so important to apply some critical analysis to whomever you might end up working for. In another time – when management principles were perhaps simpler – there was a simple aphorism that served to remind us to be careful about the people with whom we shared our lives. It applied as much to our work as it did to our social lives:

When you lie down with dogs, you get up with fleas!

It’s a simple reminder to exercise caution when it comes to committing a major portion of your life to sharing space with someone you don’t like or respect. Far better to find someone who can share their knowledge and wisdom and experience with you and help to make you stronger, fitter and more likely to succeed. Those are the practical, real-world advantages that outweigh most salaries.

Take a moment to think about the person you’re reporting to right now and ask yourself if you’d be comfortable if you were to become just like them in a few years’ time. It’s a tough but deeply revealing exercise and one that could lead you to think more carefully about your future career pathway.

And finally, in case you hadn’t noticed, being a boss has its own share of challenges:

 By working faithfully eight hours a day you may eventually get to be boss – and then work twelve hours a day! – Robert Frost