David Sturt and Todd Nordstrom: How to get your boss off your back

By David Sturt and Todd Nordstrom

For the Deseret News

Published: Monday, May 12 2014 12:20 p.m. MDT

In this photo provided by Twentieth Century Fox , Meryl Streep's character in "The Devil Wears Prada" flips through racks of designer clothes.

Associated Press

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This article originally appeared on Forbes.com.

She’s demanding. He’s overbearing. She’s unpredictable. He plays favorites.

We’ve all had leaders at some point in our career who spring to mind from at least one of those descriptions. The memories can make your stomach churn still today. For many people, however, the churning isn’t a memory — they’re dealing with one of those bosses right now.

As we interview people from all over the world about their work and careers, the topic of difficult bosses somehow creeps into the conversation along with references to Mr. Burns or Miranda Priestly.

Are bosses all that bad?

A 2013 survey of 2,000 employees, conducted by Harris Interactive in conjunction with career website Glassdoor, revealed that 20 percent feel their boss had hurt their career and another 30 percent say their bosses didn’t have any impact (which might be as sad as having a negative impact).

Meanwhile, a study of 1,100 workers from various industries and professions was carried out at the Université Francois Rabelais and published in the Journal of Business and Psychology. This study suggests that bad bosses also impact your personal relationships and your health. Yep, your bad boss could increase your risk of heart disease.

So, how do you get your boss off your back?

Data collected by the O.C. Tanner Institute from 1.7 million cases of award-winning work shows there is something you can do to hush your unreasonable boss. And, the solution is actually much more simple than stroking their ego or changing your personality. This study found that employees who get appreciated for their work are the ones who create a difference people love.

How do you know if you’re making a difference your boss will love?

1. Ask, “Who are they trying to make a difference for?” We’re all accountable to someone, and so is your boss. Is your boss trying to deliver value for board members, shareholders, customers or their boss? Think deeper. Are they trying to impact the market, a peer group or their results on the next management report? Megan, a manager of a large day-care center, told us that she couldn’t understand why her boss, the regional director, was giving her such a hard time at work. “I had cut operating costs significantly. I implemented all kinds of new procedures for the staff. But it wasn’t until I realized that my boss was totally focused on increasing interaction time between the staff and the children that I could improve something that he cared about.”

2. Go and see. Listen for their common complaints and actually go look for differences you can make. Anil, an IT manager who felt underappreciated by his boss, told us that it wasn’t until he walked into the sales department and asked reps why they weren’t using a new program that he understood his boss’s frustration. The programs Anil developed were fantastic, but no one was using them because they did not know about them. He went to the marketing department and asked them to help him inform and educate people on the new program. When fellow employees began using the program, Anil got instant respect from his boss.

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