Getting Your Boss to Understand You

October 21, 2014

by Beverly Flaxington

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Beverly Flaxington is a practice management consultant. She answers questions from advisors facing human resource issues. To submit yours, email us here.

Advisor Perspectives welcomes guest contributions. The views presented here do not necessarily represent those of Advisor Perspectives.

Dear Bev,

I am in a difficult situation with a boss who does not understand me. Every time he asks me to do something, he then criticizes my work. Everything I submit is “wrong” and needs to be redone. I’m pulling my hair out (and I didn’t have much to start with). How do I get him to see what I am doing in a positive light?

Paul M.

Dear Paul,

You say that he doesn’t understand you but did you consider at all that maybe he thinks you don’t understand him? This is a classic example of a communication and behavioral disconnect. Your boss is seeking something from you that, for whatever reason, you are clearly not giving him. You are frustrated, so you probably act out (even if you think you hide it) some of this frustration. Then he thinks you are not on the team and you think he is unfair.

I’ve seen this unfold enough times that I believe it is close to what’s happening here.

My simple advice: Seek to understand him. Spend a bit less time being reactive and more time trying to understand what he needs. Being “triggered” means we are put off by something someone else does and react to it consciously or subconsciously. If I think my daughter is disrespectful to me, I will be “triggered” every time she speaks in a rude tone to me. I will react negatively and think what a difficult kid she is. It’s a common process, but most people are unaware it is happening and don’t know how to stop the cycle.

Examine what bothers you about his actions and reactions. You don’t have to do psychoanalysis, but identify objectively what makes you most upset. See if you can refrain from being triggered by him. For example, next time he tells you there was a problem with your work, instead of becoming irritated, ask him for more information. Ask if you could, calmly, take a minute to explain why you did what you did. Or, simply take the work and say, “I’m happy to fix it.”

We let other people – especially bosses – get to us and negatively affect our emotions, which then negatively affects our actions.

See if you can be the one to break the cycle and approach him differently. He may want something from you that isn’t in your natural communication style to give. You may not be able to connect with him and enjoy working for him, but it’s worth a try.

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