I have recently been coaching a client, a senior VP who has been having difficulties with his boss, the CEO, and as he was explaining to me the problem, it began to follow an all too familiar pattern.
“My relationship with my boss is not good, and this is now starting to cause me stress and impact the quality of work I am doing, and I am at the point where I try to avoid meeting with him, it’s getting so bad I am thinking of leaving the company”.
When I ask what they think the cause of the problem is, again I tend to always get the same answers. “My boss is not a nice person, they’re rude, they never have time, they are impatient, they are this, they are that, etc., etc.”.
It’s amazing how often the poor relationship with the boss is the bosses fault, with my coaching clients I would say its close to 99% of the time, if not more.
There are two problems with this:
- as a mathematician, I know that the odds of it being the bosses fault 99% of the time, are just so astronomically high, that it’s just not believable.
- when we lay all the blame at the bosses door then we have made it impossible for us to fix the problem
So let me clear this up right now.
It’s not always the bosses fault, that’s a fact.
Also the only person we can easily change is ourselves.
Changing others is very difficult, and changing bosses practically impossible. So when we give them all the blame, there is very little we can do to improve the situation, because we need them to change to do this as it’s their fault and they are 100% to blame.
The result is we are stuck in a difficult situation, one we don’t believe we can change, so we only have two options to endure it or leave. Neither of these options is a real solution.
There is a third option, but most people don’t like this and usually don’t want to accept it or believe it.
That is, to assume that you are the problem, you are the cause the poor relationship.
Because when we do this we can now start to look for solutions we can implement, because if we have to change ourselves then we can make that happen.
When I suggested this to my client, he said, “but it’s not my fault, it’s the boss”.
So I said, “I know I get that, but let’s just assume for a moment it is your fault. If that were true what would you do to make things better”.
This is always a painful process, because we never like to admit our involvement in the problem, and it often takes time come up with ideas of what we could do to improve things. But we have to do that because we can really only change ourselves.
My client said he would go away and think about it.
In our next session he told me that, he had thought about what I had said and that – as his boss was often irritated when he went to see him, he would look to make sure he gave his boss was free, rather than just turning up, because maybe he was interrupting him whilst he was busy with something else. Just because he was in his office alone, didn’t mean he wasn’t busy.
He also said his boss was not a very social person, he never really spoke about his personal life, he tended to focus just on business, so maybe it would be a good idea to keep all discussion on a business only level.
I said that’s a good start.
In our last session my client told me that he couldn’t believe what had happened in such a small period of time. He said his Boss was much happier to see him when they now met, and in fact his boss had started to call him into his office to talk, something he had rarely done before.
He said even more surprising was that, by keeping things purely on a business footing, his boss had actually started to ask him about his personal life and had started to share things about his life too.
I said thats great.
He then said I can’t believe how much my boss had changed.
I just smiled, and said “it’s you that has changed. Your boss has just responded to that. Without your change this would not have happened. By taking ownership of the problem and assuming you were part of it, you have been able to do something to improve the situation”.
Now I don’t want to give the impression that all bosses are good, and that it’s always you that’s the problem, because I know thats not true.
But we can only change ourselves. By assuming that we are the problem, then we can start look to implement potential solutions, if not, things will never change, and we just have the two options, accept things as they are or leave.
So if you have a poor relationship with either your boss, or staff, what are the changes that you are going to make to improve the situation. I know that this is not easy and if you need support why not email me at email@example.com for a free 30 minute strategy session.