In response to the posts regarding “Problems with the Boss,” a reader writes:

“We all have problems with our boss at times. I have worked for my current boss for almost three years. It has been a great three years. Even so, sometimes have been smoother than others (isn’t that true in all relationships?). But reading the blog and thinking has made me realize, it almost always depends on what I take to the conversation, on what I bring to the boss, on how I approach the topic and the questions that I ask.

Thinking back, we now have very different conversations when compared to what we discussed the first year. As you and your boss get to know each other you must realize that he or she(rightfully) expects you to modify around his style, meet his needs, shoulder more and more of his burden so he can focus on the things that only he can do. My advice is to take a look at the type of questions you are asking your boss or the topics you engage on. Is what you are asking really important, or just CYA, or just to make yourself feel important (that last one is hard to admit but sometimes that is really what we are doing).

So, if you’re not getting along with your boss just step back, re-evaluate, and take a new track that is more in line with what your boss needs at this moment. And rest assured that about the time you have it figured out, the situation, and thus your response, will have changed and you will get to start all over. It is like evolution. It just keeps changing.”

SC Response
Dead solid perfect! What you are describing is the concept of “managing up.” This is a critical career building skill, a skill that can be either self-serving or team serving. How you use it is determined by your own moral code and the legacy you want to leave. Essentially it is a question of “Honor.”

The expert at managing up can earn promotions and garner personal favors and prestige. Unfortunately, the more you are willing to compromise your principles, the more immediate the rewards can flow to you. The question becomes, “can you look yourself in the mirror in the morning?” Also, know that though you may reap material gains, those below and beside you (and often above you) will not hold you in high esteem and the legacy you leave behind will at best be a footnote.

On the other hand, manage up to serve your team and you will place your people in the optimum positions for achieving great things. I always worked to cultivate the idea that my teams could solve the unsolvable. As such, we generally received first shot at the difficult issues. Our successes brought more opportunities. Our failures brought additional respect for attempting to tackle the problems that no one else would touch. Because we defined our success in terms of student performance, our methods were above reproach.

So I circle back to the concept of a moral code and honor. I had a young principal ask me how I built up the courage to take on the “establishment.” I told him that it was two things. One, I never give up the moral “high ground.” I engage to ensure student success; I don’t have a hidden motive (which often confuses the other side). Two, I am the product of teachers, coaches and principals who took a chance on me. If I don’t pay that forward, the guy in the mirror is relentless.

Which brings us back to “Problems with the Boss,” if you have a problem with the boss it is your problem. You are either on the same page philosophically or you are not. If you are not, you either get in line with the organization, you manage up, you compromise your principles, or you leave. It’s your choice.

Think. Work. Achieve.

Your turn…