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Use Boss Psychology to Build a Winning Partnership

The relationship you have with your boss is the most important you have in the workplace. The trouble is, you have more limited opportunities to get it right than in all your other relationships at work. When you choose the right moment and the right approach and it works, both you and your boss benefit. When you choose the wrong moment and the wrong approach and it doesn't work, both you and your boss suffer a setback that may take a long time to heal. Here are 3 crucial tips based on boss psychology that will help you tell your boss what's on your mind as well as build your relationship with them.

Boss Psychology #1: Put Yourself in their Shoes

Realise that we all tend to look at the boss differently from the way we look at ourselves. For example, when your boss behaves in a way that you don't like, you're most likely to put it down to the way they are as a person. For example, if they change work rotas without consultation, you're most likely to say, "there she goes again; she's no idea how to manage". However, when you do something just as bad, such as making a poor decision, you're more likely to blame others, the circumstances or the situation, rather than yourself. So, step one is, put yourself in their shoes, and don't treat them like a tyrant every time they slip up.

Boss Psychology #2: Ask Clarifying Questions Instead of Giving Your Opinions

I remember a lady on one of our Upward Communication courses who complained that she worked for an impossible boss who was always riding roughshod over his staff. When I asked what action she'd taken to put matters right, she turned her eyes upwards and said, "I'm always telling him. But nothing ever changes." It's odd that we think that bosses should be treated in a different way from the way we would want to be treated ourselves. As responsible adults trying to do difficult jobs, most of us recoil when given a telling-off and it's the same with your boss. When you tell them what you think, they're simply not listening. Instead of taking the position of knowing better than them, why not ask for clarification instead?

For example, if your boss issues new rules that seem to you to contravene established practices, don't respond by saying, "You can't do that! It's against company policy!". Instead, ask questions in a calm voice such as, "Can you tell us when these new systems were agreed? Is there anything in writing that we can look at? Can we see the detail first?" It's possible you're boss was legitimately testing the ground for an important change that could benefit the whole team. If so, your questions will either help them to explain things further or make them think again. Either way, they'll listen more to your questions than your views.

Boss Psychology #3: Manage Your Approach

If you want your boss to take your ideas seriously, you need to manage every aspect of approaching them and what you say. The first rule is to pick the right time and place. Don't go with new ideas when they are about to go to an important meeting or trying to meet a crucial deadline. They simply won't be listening. Secondly, don't raise something they're unprepared for in front of others. Remember, the boss always has more status power than you and while you may think it clever to put them on the spot in front of others, it's not. It's much better to build an ongoing relationship with them through regular small talk or more professional discussions. All relationships improve the more you get to know each other. The third rule is to lead with the value to them. All of us respond to the WIIFM theory of motivation, in other words, "What's In It For Me?". If you want to change how your boss is doing something, show them how your way will benefit them. For example, you may say to your boss, "I know this project is important and that you would like it to succeed. I have a few thoughts on how we can improve it further. When's a good time to have a chat?".

Don't under-estimate the value of your relationship with your boss. They are the most important person in how you feel about your job. By understanding and using a bit of boss psychology, you can oil the wheels of the relationship so that both of you come out on top.