In the office where I work, my boss and I are roughly the same age. Even though she is more experienced, makes more money and has a better relationship with the heads of the company, I get the distinct impression that she is threatened by me. Normally, this wouldn’t bother me — I’m used to people feeling intimidated — but I don’t want to compete with this coworker, I want to learn from her. But since she sees me as a threat, she boxes me out of anything that could help me learn or progress. It’s very frustrating and makes for a hostile work environment plus isn’t the success and happiness of your team one of the key markers of a successful leader? Why doesn’t she get that? How can I improve our working relationship without feeling like I’m sucking up and without hiding my natural talents that I want to be noticed for around the office?
Dear AttitudeReflectLeadership Captain,
You’ve got a great opportunity here. You’re correct with your assessment of some of the qualities that make a successful boss. Now look at it from a different angle: What qualities make a successful team member? Or in other words, you know what kind of boss you want, what kind of team member do you think your boss wants you to be?
I’ve learned from playing sports (and also obsessing over the Olympics the past couple weeks — Go USA!) that in a team situation, everyone, regardless of their position, former accomplishments, seniority, etc., needs support.
Your boss is likely no different. If you feel she is threatened by you, stop being threatening. This doesn’t mean to hide your powerful (intimidating) light under her (possibly insecure) bushel, but it does mean that you can make a conscious effort to make her feel supported and uplifted by you — and by the rest of your team.
What are her goals for your team? What is she trying to accomplish? What skills do you have that you can lend to her efforts? How do you speak about her to others? Do you give praise? Do you say thank you? Are you gossiping? Are you complaining (about her)? These are good questions to ask yourself as you work to develop a positive relationship with your boss.
Because you’re capable, you may be tempted to compete and engage in this office conflict with her, but you are on the same team, and acting like teammates will be a much more pleasant and fruitful experience for the both of you.
So, in short, if you lift others — in this case your boss — and this is true in all aspects of life, you’ll lift yourself, too. You’ll learn all that you need to learn. People will notice you, trust you, respect you and love you.
Good luck, and we want to know what happens!
Readers: How have you dealt with work place disputes? What advice would you give to our friend?