How To Train Your Boss

Editors Note: This is a fantastic guest post by Eduard Ezeanu of People Skills Decoded.

Imagine your boss like your pet. He may, unlike your pet, have the ability to think consciously, but like your pet, most of his decisions and actions are probably automatic ones, based on the stimuli he gets from the environment.

By managing these stimuli, especially the one you can manage the best (that would be…you), you can influence the way your are treated by your superiors in a way, you could say that you can train him. Thus, you can make an average boss a good one and a terrible boss a tolerable one, at least long enough for you to get another job or start your own business.

Coaching people into improving their communication skills and propelling their careers, I realized there are a couple of things you can do to train your superiors which work almost universally, and are worth applying by anyone. Here they are:

1. Choose an open-minded boss. Just like the right dog can be trained much easier than the wrong one, so can the right boss. This is why it’s important to start with the best foot forward, when you accept a job. And you do this by choosing the one where you have the most open-minded boss, which you have the best chances to influence.

Don’t hope for some exact science in identifying him; there isn’t any. The most important point is that during the interviewing process, you will also get at least one interview with your potential future manager. When you get this chance, don’t just answer his questions. Use it to ask him some of your own question, to challenge him, see how he thinks and how he reacts to opinions divergent from his own.

2. Make it clear what you want. Most bosses can’t support their employees even if they want to. Because they have no real idea what their employees want. And to a large extent, it’s the employees’ problem, because they do a lousy job at communicating what they want.

If you wish your superior to help you, you must get your wants across, and do it in a very clear way. “I want to be successful and enjoy my career” is NOT a clear want. You need to get much clearer than this, and communicate to them specific career paths you’re interested in, specific project you want to get involved in etc.

3. Reward them. When you want your dog to repeat a good deed, you reward him for it. Bosses work very much the same way. It’s important for your boss to see that certain positive behaviours towards you, like allowing you to leave early one day, will have a positive consequence, like you write a terrific report the next day, for which they can take credit.

And the consequence must not be positive for you in the first place, but for him as a manager. If it only stops at you, you’re going nowhere. Also, keep in mind that your manager may not see a certain positive thing as a consequence of specific behaviour of his. It’s your responsibility to point it the link, using either direct or more subtle methods.

4. Go above his head. This is a big no-no in most companies. But do you know why? Because it works! Going above your boss’s head is often a great way to get what you want and build some authority in his eyes. Sure, he might get pissed off initially, but he will understand you have power, and this is the most important thing.

So, if your manager will not support an idea you have but you know his boss might, go to his boos and talk to him about it. Then come back to your boss and tell him his boss supports the idea. Ideally, if you know you boss is likely to reject your idea, get the support of his boss first, then go talk to him.

With the right communication strategy, a lot of courage and good people skills, there is a lot you can influence in the workplace. And if your boss still seems just too hard to train, maybe it’s time to consider looking for a better one.

Eduard Ezeanu is a communication coach with an attitude-based approach. He helps others to improve people skills they find relevant and get top notch results. He also writes on his blog, People Skills Decoded. You can also follow him on Twitter.

27 Responses

  1. Baker says:

    Hello Amit and Eduard,
    This is a nicely done post. I think it is important to find a boss that has an open mind, and gives you some leway with what your work. Having a professional, yet open communication is the best choice to get clear on where you stand with the boss.

  2. Amit Sodha says:

    Hey Eduard,

    Thank you for submitting a fantastic guest post! I think you’ve touched on something which is really important. People often subordinate themselves to their superiors and often that put them in a mental state of being a lesser person or being. When you’re there you’re less effective at offering suggestions and really speaking your mind.

    Even though essentially your boss is your superior they should not be treated as anything less than an equal. When you take that approach there is a certain amount of mutual respect that is gained and then it’s easier to elicit repsonses you want or put forward ideas which will be accepted.

    Great work!

    • Thank you for the opportunity to guest post on your blog Amit,

      This is a subject I like to talk and write about a lot because like you say, many people have this false sense of inferiority in relation with their boss. And this tends to sabotage their careers. The boss is just another dog…aaa person 🙂

  3. Eduard,

    I have worked for some good and some not so good bosses in past. I think they are people too, but politics in the company makes worse out of the bosses or who want to move up.

    Best solution is, to be a good boss your self or good team member. If everything else fails, change department, jobs or career. Be at home 🙂 like me. ha ha just kidding. Tips are great.

    Amit, lot of new guest writer here, good I am getting to know more blogs. Thanks. Are you back to normal? lately we were sick, things are going around I think.

    • Amit Sodha says:

      Hey Zengirl, yep my back is better and I’m now at 100%! Sorry to hear you’re not well though, hope you and the hubby feel better soon! 🙂 x

  4. Cheryl Paris says:

    Hi Eduard,

    It is always fun to work with a good BOSS and I have enjoyed and have some great moments of appreciation when I was working. However, a transition at my work place left me with no choice to work with a Business Analyst who was highly frustrated and always thought she was right…Yeah…I am just glad I started my Life Coach work with full dedication and passion to have not go back and meet anyone like her again… She was a real pain… 🙂

    Cheers,
    Cheryl

    • Hey Cheryl,

      I think it’s great if you can avoid people who it’s hard to work with. But on the occasions when you do have to deal with them, at least for a while, it’s best to have the communication skills which allow you to do this as smoothly as possible.

  5. Roman Soluk says:

    Thanks for this interesting and helpful post. Well done!

  6. The first option is definitely the best way to go…choose a great boss. On job interviews, people often forget that it’s a time for screening the person you may (or may not) want to work for. Its not all about them–unless you let it become so.

    • Hey Nea,

      Yeah, you can save yourself a lot of trouble if you do some half decent screening before accepting a job offer. A lot of bad bosses are somewhat evident if you dig a little when you have the interview with them.

  7. I loved points 2 and 3 but number 4 made me shiver with excitement.

    I think if done correctly going over your bosses head could be incredibly valuable.

    Useful post. 🙂

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