Great Jobs, Difficult Bosses

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At first, you think you’ve landed a dream job: It has great pay, challenging work and a nonexistent commute. What more could an IT professional want? You can’t think of a thing—that is, until your relationship with your boss becomes so strained that all other benefits of the position seem less appealing.

Even at the best of times, an IT environment can be a breeding ground for miscommunication on the job—it’s a high-stress, competitive and fast-paced environment. And with flat budgets, fewer employees, additional responsibilities and increased accountability—all common themes in companies today—it’s easy to see how workplace relationships can be compromised.

Before you switch jobs in hopes of working with a better boss, try to first improve your interactions with your current supervisor:

Accept the Boss You Have
It doesn’t help to compare your manager to your favorite one of the past; you have to address the relationship with the boss you have now. Instead of trying to change your supervisor, change how you interact with him.

Do You Contribute to the Problem?
Relationships are a two-way street, and it’s important to be honest with yourself about what’s causing the friction. Do you respond professionally to constructive criticism and meet all of your deadlines? Do you respect her authority or subtly try to undermine it? Examine your own behavior and see if there’s anything you’re doing that feeds into the communication gap. Changing how you behave in certain situations is much easier than trying to change your manager. Just as a good supervisor looks out for his employees’ needs and interests, you should give your boss the same consideration.

Make the First Move
While it’s not always an easy thing to do, you should request a meeting with your manager to get feedback on your work. If the input is favorable and your boss points out all the good work you’ve done as a LAN administrator, address your concerns diplomatically. Emphasize that you’d like to enhance your performance. Ask your supervisor what form of communication she prefers and when it’s best to ask questions. If the feedback on your performance isn’t favorable, offer to do whatever you can to improve as long as the comments are reasonable. Be professional and courteous if you disagree with any of your manager’s opinions.

Know What’s Expected
Sometimes issues with a boss can be the result of different expectations. Maybe you were hired to oversee an overhaul of the company’s external Web site, but now because of a budget crunch, the project is on hold and your expertise is needed elsewhere. Review your current responsibilities with your manager; if they are not what you had anticipated, ask if you can add some additional ones in your areas of interest. Or maybe your boss will assure you that you can return to the project you were initially hired to do in the near future.

Are You in ‘Style’?
Aligning your work style to your supervisor’s can help alleviate conflict. Maybe you prefer a hands-off, independent work environment while your boss is a micromanager. You can put your manager at ease by thoroughly documenting your projects, producing thorough notes and outlines of completed goals and tasks and checking in on a daily or weekly basis. Adjusting your behavior to fit his style of management can build trust.

Take the Initiative
Don’t wait until small problems become big ones. If you encounter difficulties with a project that could jeopardize a deadline—maybe you don’t have enough people on your team to get a network up and running on time—tell your manager right away. And when you deliver the bad news, offer a solution. This will demonstrate that you’re conscientious and motivated.

Establish a Network
If you don’t feel adequate career and project guidance is available from your manager, consider finding a mentor or trusted advisor outside of your company. He or she may be able to offer insight you hadn’t previously considered and also can provide a sounding board for your ideas and concerns.

If at any time your manager’s behavior becomes abusive, discriminatory or in any other way unethical, speak with someone in human resources immediately.

Often a little more communication and a different approach can significantly improve the relationship with your boss. In the process, you’ll also enhance your own interpersonal skills.

Katherine Spencer Lee is executive director of Robert Half Technology, a leading provider of IT professionals for initiatives ranging from e-business development and multi-platform systems integration to network engineering and technical support. Robert Half Technology has more than 100 locations in the North America and Europe and offers online job search services at


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