How To Talk With Your Boss (Dummy’s Guide to Conversation #11)
3 Realizations that Change Everything
It would seem this person controls my future, given that she signs off on my paycheck every two weeks. And she is the barrier between me and climbing the ladder. And all that baggage swirls around my head every time I talk with her. But there are a few fundamental realizations that can help power useful conversation.
- Talk is and always will be human to human. No matter what power levels come into play, the bottom line is that conversation is about two humans uttering words. And humans have equal value. So reject power-plays and the assumed rights and privileges of authority to talk over or down to you. How to do that? Persist in your questions and answers—all the while being respectful. If Marty Buber were in the next cubicle, I’m not sure what he would say about power distance, but he would maintain (maybe in his affected tone) that I-Thou relationships are to be honored from employee to boss, even if the boss thinks of you as a tool. Marty might argue that you not throw your bosses’ low opinion back at her. Instead, respect that she is a human of equal value, and try not to put too much weight on her biweekly signing of your pay stub.
- She does not control your destiny. She is only your boss at this job. And this job is not everything, even in a down and down-turning economy, you have choices. As anyone who has been laid off or changed jobs knows, change may have immediate negative effects but unseen positives gradually resolve—positives you would never have guessed at.
- Be the person you are meant to be. This is more than saying “I’m OK. You’re OK.” And this is also more than saying “Be yourself,” though I generally agree with both (with caveats). This is about garnering a vision for the person you want to be at work and having the balls and hope to respond that way right now, even though you haven’t achieved it.
Look: jobs come and go. But let each job and the people you interact with help shape you into the person who can do the work only you can do.
Postscript: I was blessed to have three terrific bosses during my tenure at Medtronic: David Laursen, Julie Foster and Noreen Thompson. Each of them encouraged the three points above and were/are simply delightful people who saw potential at every step. So—no sour grapes here.