So, you don't like your boss. Is that the kiss of death to any career dreams you have? Should you start looking for a new job?
No, not necessarily, says Christopher Hegarty, a 46-year-old Novato, Calif., consultant who teaches bosses and their subordinates across the country how to get along better.
In fact, he says, "There are a lot of advantages in not having a personal relationship." For one, "You don't have to go home to the boss' for dinner." And for another, you avoid "double jeopardy" -- trying to "manage two relationships, professional and personal."
Says Hegarty: "It's okay for you not to like your boss, and it's okay for the boss not to like you." The important thing is:
You enjoy each other's "trust and respect."
How to achieve that is the subject of his new book, How to Manage Your Boss (Rawson, Wade; 312 pages, $12.95), written with Philip Goldberg. It's an insightful guide to improving your professional relationship with your boss, with -- or without--his or her help. It is as much the employe's responsibility as the boss', he says, "to create and maintain effective working relationships."
In so doing, "you bring more value to your organization, to your boss and, most importantly, to yourself. Your ability to establish a mutually valuable relationship with your boss is, and will continue to be, a major factor in determining your success or failure at work."
Hegarty, who says he gives management-training seminars to 250,000 employes and executives in business and government a year, is sharply critical of mid-level management in this country, blaming it in part for the crisis in productivity. "There are too many managers," he says, "with too narrow a scope. I think you'll see corporation failures compound as a direct result of management ignorance."
Toyota of Japan has achieved success in the world auto market, he notes, with only "five levels of management. Ford has 12." In the next decade, he sees this nation's businesses trimming their management force "by about 60 percent" to be able to compete.
"I see organizations made up of far fewer people with much, much broader scopes of responsibility." He also believes those that will "survive and thrive" in the '80s "will be those that learn to treat employes as whole people, that can motivate their workers to strive for excellence. . . . "
Hegarty describes himself as a "recovered workaholic" who was "hell bent for destruction" until, following a divorce, he realized he wasn't getting the satisfaction he expected from his work. Now, he says, he gives his family priority.
He also counsels managers to take time out simply to think, to be creative. For him, the perfect spot is his office, north of San Francisco, which opens onto a sundeck overlooking a bird sanctuary.
One of the most important steps to managing your boss, says Hegarty, is understanding him or her. Too often subordinates make the wrong assumption about their boss. In the office, "the single most frequent cause of stress is conflict between people of good intentions."
If you are having difficulty with your boss, he says, consider:
"The very real possibility that his or her boss is being unreasonable, and that you are only the recipient of a policy your boss can do little about."
That a boss' feelings can be hurt, too, if you go over his or her head with an idea or a grievance. "Treat your boss' feelings with care, and try to understand them."
That some bosses have a need to be liked, others a need to be disliked and still others a "need to be needed." Acquainting yourself with the boss' personality traits, says Hegarty, demystifies why he acts the way he does. It may also help you change him.
Being aware of your boss' leadership style is also important. You may be able to subtly guide him or her to overcome deficiencies. Hegarty classifies bosses in four types:
Drive leader: "A classic tyrant. A one-man band, the drive leader likes to have total control. He lets it be known that he is boss. He leads by punishing mistakes and is always looking for mistakes." Subordinates, says Hegarty, "don't try to excel; instead, they learn to survive."
Default leader: "He may provide goals and objectives, but they are often vague and ambiguous. He expects people to sink or swim on their own. Do the job or get out. He doesn't train, instruct, develop, support or encourage." Employes don't know they are in trouble until they get fired.
Draw leader: A more positive type of boss, they "manage in such a way as to draw out the best in people. . .they give precise feedback so that people are always aware of how they are doing." However, says Hegarty, they sometimes tend to "overmanage."
Develop leader: "He recognizes potential and develops it. He trains and develops subordinates to the point where they need him less and less." The real goal of a leader, says Hegarty, "is not to make decisions. It's to make decision-makers." With this kind of boss, workers move up the career ladder.
It is also important, Hegarty says, to "take a good look at yourself" to see if you are the one responsible for causing conflicts.
"Thousands of people who gripe about the way their boss treats them," he writes, "would discover--if they looked really closely at their feelings -- that they are really asking to be loved." They want the boss to treat them as a "pal or a buddy."
Others get their boss mixed up with their parents. They tell themselves, "I'm 35 years of age. I answered to my parents. Now I have to answer to the boss," resenting his or her authority.
To build trust and respect between yourself and your supervisor, Hegarty suggests a number of strategies:
Give your boss solutions to problems, not just the problem.
If your boss does something you like, let him or her know it. It is, he says, "a far more effective way to change his behavior than criticizing or complaining."
If your boss hates to give speeches or attend certain types of meetings, volunteer to substitute for him. "Zig where your boss zags." Done correctly, it can help in "winning the boss' trust."
Learn to say "no" without creating resentment. If the boss makes a request you can't respond to "acknowledge the importance of the issue" while suggesting alternatives.
Be an active listener. "In most offices, two people are listening against each other instead of to each other."
Beware of accepting responsibility for a project unless you also get the authority you need to complete it.
Recognize the danger of "playing it safe." If there's a crisis with the boss, you may tell yourself, "I don't want to rock the boat by bringing it up. So, I'll keep it quiet." In doing so, "You make a significant contribution to the disintegration of your relationship. By not rocking the boat, you create a Poseidon Adventure."
Says Hegarty: "You can rationalize all you want about what your boss has done to you," but how you handle it -- to flourish or to wither in your job -- "is up to you and up to nobody else."