From time to time, workers find themselves at odds with the boss, be it a supervisor, manager, director, or higher. Conversely, the boss may feel uncomfortable around his workers and no longer trusts their ability to successfully complete their work. Before either party jumps to conclusions and starts pointing fingers as to fault, it would be wise to try walking in the shoes of the other person. Workers typically do not know the pressures the boss is under, such as changing business conditions, making quota, or the need to deliver projects on time and within budget. Senior management and customers can exert considerable pressure in this regards. Likewise, the boss should be cognizant of the pressures a worker can be under, such as conquering a technical problem, financial woes, sickness, problems at home, divorce, a death or crippling accident in the family, or possibly tension and division between employees in the work place. If we are going to ask workers to become sensitive to the problems of the boss, it is reasonable to assume the boss should be sensitive to the problems of the workers.
As human beings we act on our perceptions, right or wrong. First, let’s consider how the boss perceives the workers:
Worker’s Intelligence level – Key to this is the boss’ perception of the worker’s ability to learn, grow, and adapt. This is difficult to quantify with any precision. Instead the boss is looking at the worker’s ability to grasp instruction, his attentiveness, and not make too many mistakes. If a worker wants to improve himself in this area, begin by paying more attention when receiving instruction, ask questions (be inquisitive), and demonstrate some self-initiation to master the job assignment.
Worker’s Output – Both your quality and quantity of work is important to the boss as it is a reflection of your craftsmanship. Happy customers, fewer complaints or returns, are indicators the Boss is constantly reviewing. Also, try to get to work early, and do not be too quick to leave at night. It is noticed.
Worker’s sense of professionalism – In addition to craftsmanship, the boss evaluates your judgement in terms of how you conduct yourself in the work place. Are you the “Go-to” guy for getting a job done or do you go to someone yourself? This speaks volumes of how people perceive you in the workplace. Another area is your appearance and general conduct. Do you dress appropriately for the work to be performed or do you put forth minimal effort? In terms of conduct, are you the company clown or do you conduct yourself as a professional? In the boss’ eyes, your sense of professionalism determines whether you can be trusted to do what is right.
Next, let’s consider how the workers perceive the boss:
Management competency – Like it or not, the decisions made by the boss are constantly undergoing scrutiny by the workers. It is quite common for workers to question if management knows what they are doing and what direction the company is headed They will understand and accept some decisions, others they will resist. This is why it is important the boss clearly articulate his decisions and encourage everyone to row on the same oar. If there is no buy-in, beware of a mutiny. Clear and open communications can go a long way for building trust in this area.
Treatment – Workers want to know they are being treated fairly by the Boss and the company overall. This includes a fair salary and benefits. A preferential treatment of another worker is quickly recognized by all concerned and can potentially cause problems of morale. Unless a worker is exhibiting really outstanding performance, be careful of heaping accolades. With rare exception, workers want to be treated like professionals as opposed to slaves. Workers notice if their input is being sought or if they have to be constantly supervised, e.g., “micromanagement.” Whereas the former suggests they are being treated like professionals, the latter means they are not.
Representing the worker’s interests – Workers constantly worry whether the boss maintains their best interests or if they are only being used by the company. Talk is cheap. From time to time it is important the manager demonstrate some form of allegiance to his workers, such as a party, a perk, or some other gesture. By doing so, the boss is expressing his confidence and trust in the workers who, in turn, will express more allegiance to the boss and company overall.
Obviously this requires improvements in our socialization and communications skills, particularly by the boss who is at the center of the storm. This should begin by maintaining an open-door policy with the workers. By doing so, the boss is expressing his openness to his workers and inviting their thoughts and ideas, something uncommon in this day and age of “micromanagement.”
The bond between the boss and the workers is an important one and something to be cultivated by both sides, not just one. It all begins with understanding the perceptions of the other side. Without such consideration, the workers will be at odds with the boss which, of course, spells disaster for improving productivity. Before you become too critical of the other party, try walking in their shoes first. A little understanding can greatly improve the bond between workers and the boss.