We spend most of our waking hours at work, and if your relationship with your boss is a difficult one, it makes all those hours arduous.
Some people approach the situation by gritting their teeth and toughing it out, but it's hard to do good work under those circumstances.
Others engage in manipulation and games, but that turns out badly more often than not, and it takes an ethical toll.
Being the best we can be at work is largely a matter of successfully managing our relationships--including our relationship with the boss.
What it takes is smart habits and effective skills. Here are some smart nonmanipulative ways to effectively manage not only your boss but those you lead:
1. Be a problem solver, not a problem creator. Problems will always be with us, but sometimes the easiest way to solve a problem is to first stop participating in it. A good problem solver is someone who doesn't create drama or adds to the crisis. Work to never bring a problem to your boss without at least one good strategy for dealing with it. At the heart of great leadership and successful management is being the best problem-solver you can be.
2. Stay calm even when everything around you is in a state of chaos. When everything is falling apart and breaking down, the last thing you want to do is lose your cool. It is easy to be great when things are calm but if you truly want to stand out, the smart thing is to learn to be calm in the chaos. When everybody else is losing their temper or showing their irritation, the smartest thing to do is to keep your reaction level-headed and reasonable.
3. Don't blame others but always hold yourself accountable. Your life, your business, your reputation are all what you make them. Don't blame others if you mess up or fail. Instead, demonstrate your accountability with a summary of what you did wrong, what can be done to make it better, and how you will prevent it from happening again. Accountability is increasingly rare, which makes it even more valuable.
4. Set up healthy boundaries. It's easy to fall into the trap of thinking that your boss wants 100 percent of your every waking moment, but setting up rasonable boundaries shows that you're smart, you know how to take care of yourself, and you're willing to be assertive. Don't justify, rationalize, or apologize--just set your boundaries calmly, firmly and respectfully.
5. Never make excuses. It's normal to want to get yourself off the hook, but the fact is that excuses don't work and they make you look bad. At the end of the day, nobody cares about excuses. Minimize your damage by being responsible and owning your own problems as you work to do better.
6. Make your boss look good. No one has ever made themselves great by putting someone else down. Especially if your boss is doing badly, do what you can to help shore things up. When you make them look good, you invest in a critical relationship and make yourself look even better in the process.
7. Be a consistently positive force. Discipline yourself to seek the positive in every situation. Think, speak, and act with positivity. When everyone else is complaining about an unreasonable restriction, find the work-around. It makes you a valuable team member and sets you apart.
In short, treat your relationship with your boss as you would any other important relationship in your life. Invest time, energy, and creativity into making them happy, show your best self as much as possible, and create the habits in yourself that cultivate trust