We all want to enjoy work. After all, we spend a huge slice of our waking hours in our workplace and our jobs become intrinsic parts of our personalities and future plans. If you’ve ever had a tough time with a difficult boss, you will recognise that an unhappy boss is a sure fire way to a miserable life, with workplace woes seeping into personal affairs almost instantly.
In one of my first jobs I was unlucky enough to have a particularly difficult boss among my managers. Miserable as the day was long, she would instantly sour the atmosphere in the office, and you knew if you were in her favour that day by whether or not she bothered to say hello to you in the morning. The highlight of my time in that role was when she was incapacitated for two weeks as a result of root canal surgery. Hardly a recipe for a happy life for any of the team.
The cost of unhappy workplaces is huge. A survey taken over two years by Gallup found that as many as 70% of workers in the US were disengaged at work. This low morale costs in terms of higher absenteeism, excessive staff turnover and low productivity. The good news, though, is that the opposite is also true. A happy boss can mean a happy life for you - both at work and at home.
Keeping the management happy is a good strategy for ensuring you have a happy life - and if you are the boss, recognising the impact your emotions have on your team is equally important. Read on for why - and how - to keep your boss sweet.
The Shadow of the Leader
The fact that a happy boss makes for a happy employees will be of no surprise to people who have worked in unhappy workplaces. Frequently the cause of an unhappy team lies with an unhappy boss. This is because the shadow a leader casts over their team is larger than they are. Imagine how a shadow can grow in the late afternoon light. Similarly, the broad impact of a boss cannot be underestimated, spreading and growing throughout a team either like an infection or a warm glow. Think of how one miserable supervisor can sour the atmosphere for the whole team, and scale up from there to organisations where the very top rungs of management have been the source of issues throughout the entire business. On the other hand, happy teams tend to have bosses who have a degree of balance, empathy and humour. This is not limited to their immediate team, but it spreads throughout the wider organisation.
Bosses, they say, can act as an umbrella or a funnel, either deflecting the worst organisational madness from their team, or channelling it right on down. Needless to say, a happy boss is far more likely to act as an umbrella than a disenchanted one!
How to Keep Your Boss Sweet
So keeping your boss happy can be the secret to making your own life easier. But how?
All managers have their foibles, the human qualities that make them occasionally difficult, and equally occasionally brilliant. A sure fire way to make them happy is to make them feel good about themselves. One way to do this is to remember that your role - whatever your job title says - should be in part to make your boss look good. The payoff for this is that your boss will feel a responsibility to help you along the career ladder in return.
Relationships between management and employees often become unnecessarily fraught when this simple fact is forgotten - the office should never become a battle field!
Bosses are people, too. It’s not hard to figure out the particular buttons that make your own individual boss either grinning with excitement or steaming with rage. Just watch and learn. Treat your colleagues as test subjects and use their actions and the boss’ reaction to them as your study material. Learn to replicate some of the behaviour that works for them and avoid the places where they crash and burn.
Some general pointers to keep your boss a happy camper include:
- Never over promise and under deliver. Don’t agree in even vague terms to things you can’t carry through on.
- Don’t undermine your boss. If you disagree with their opinion, make your feelings clear in private, but in public try to present a united front. This is especially important if you lead a team yourself.
- Respect boundaries. Colleagues and bosses (and indeed customers) don’t always make the best of friends.
- Avoid surprises. Breaking bad news to your boss is not easy but it isn’t going to get any better if you just ignore the problem.
- Present solutions rather than just problems. Don’t come across as a moaner who simply complains when things go wrong, show you’ve given some thought to potential solutions too.
- Be honest. Don’t call in sick, or tell ’white lies’ to cover mistakes. They are seen through more often than not, and they can fundamentally damage the working relationship you have with your boss and broader management team.
And if you ARE the Boss?
Of course this is a two way street. It is said that people quit bosses - not jobs. This can feel like a pressure, but it is really an opportunity.
Key to keeping yourself happy is keeping a degree of balance in your work and private life. If you’re the boss you have a responsibility to build and own the culture of your team. Looking after your own health and wellbeing is a big part of that. It may often be the last thing on your to do list - and feel like an indulgence - but investing time in yourself is best for you and your team.
- Take regular breaks. You don’t win any prizes for being chained to your desk, and this can set an impossible example for your team to follow.
- Do not be a martyr. Working excessive overtime, cancelling holidays and being the first in and last out of the office every day does not make you a better person. And it certainly does not make you a better boss.
- Delegate. You build trusting relations with your team, as well as lightening your own load.
- Figure out your own best way for managing your energy and your emotions - don’t use your team to vent
- Offer your team learning and development opportunities - this will help them grow and support you also.
- Learn to say no. If you can do it, so can your team - and this helps create a much healthier working atmosphere.
See also: Are You a Bad Boss?
There is no doubt that a happy workplace is a successful one, and a happy management leads to a happy team. Given how many of our finite hours are spent in the office, going some way to help that happy working environment develop is a good investment.
Try these ideas to keep your boss happy, and this will not only help you on the way to a happy workplace and private life, but you might also find that it helps you on the road to career success too.