1) What's the evidence?
A former CEO of Sunbeam used to throw orange juice containers at his subordinates.
But it wasn't personal. That was just him.
Compare notes with your colleagues. Possible good news: your manager doesn't hate you, she hates everyone.
2) Has the relationship changed?
Maybe your boss used to give you considerable autonomy but now second-guesses everything.
Or, you're suddenly out of the loop: your boss no longer asks for input, keeps you informed, or invites you to meetings.
Another red flag: change in body language. She's not yet chasing you around the office with a tomahawk, but she's also not smiling. And she no longer looks you in the eye.
Ok, there's a problem.
3) What's your contribution to the problem?
Let's assume it's not you—I'm sure it's not. On the other hand, it's probably not 100% the boss, 0% you.
Imagine you're her. What are your priorities? Pressures?
Also (as the boss), what's your style? Do you prefer getting updates in writing, or face-to-face. Big picture or detail? Are you emotionally expressive or poker-faced?
Empathize with your manager.
4) Can you flex your style?
Suppose your boss is terse, you're not. Time to flex. Next time you talk, deliver your message in 30 seconds.
5) Is there a performance issue?
Let's find out.
Invite your boss for coffee and ask for feedback.
"On a 1-10 scale," you could ask, "how am I doing at meeting your expectations?" Or, "how could I make your life easier?"
These are good questions, even if everything is peachy.
Listen non-defensively, and thank the boss. Then, make some changes and check back.
6) What do you expect?
Part of managing your boss is managing your expectations.
Perhaps you expect too much reassurance and attention.
"Your Boss Is Not Your Mother" is the title of several books on Amazon. You probably don't need to read them all, just keep the title in mind.
7) Suppose the problem isn't fixable?
Bad situation. You can stick with it—bosses come and go, you may outlast yours.
But don't count on it. Activate your network. Activate your Plan B.
And fortify yourself. Stay healthy—with or without the orange juice.
© Copyright 2012 Paul Hellman. All rights reserved.
The author is solely responsible for the content.
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Meet the Jobs Docs
Patricia Hunt Sinacole is president of First Beacon Group LLC, a human resources consulting firm in Hopkinton. She works with clients across many industries including technology, biotech and medical devices, financial services, and healthcare, and has over 20 years of human resources experience.
Elaine Varelas is managing partner at Keystone Partners, a career management firm in Boston and serves on the board of Career Partners International.
Cindy Atoji Keene is a freelance journalist with more than 25 years experience. E-mail her directly here.
Peter Post is the author of "The Etiquette Advantage in Business." Email questions about business etiquette to him directly here.
Stu Coleman, a partner and general manager at WinterWyman, manages the firm's Financial Contracting division, and provides strategic staffing services to Boston-area organizations needing Accounting and Finance workforce solutions and contract talent.
Tracy Cashman is a partner and the general manager of the Information Technology search division at WinterWyman. She has 20 years of experience partnering with clients in the Boston area to conduct technology searches in a wide variety of industries and technology.
Paul Hellman is the founder of Express Potential, which specializes in executive communication skills. He consults and speaks internationally on how to capture attention & influence others. Email him directly here.