How to deal with a boss

Start learning from your boss, and soon you may enjoy even more responsibilities at work

How to deal with a boss

Ever feel like you just can’t stand your boss—but you need the money, so you’re stuck?

You probably won’t find a class that teaches you how to work with a boss, but it’s probably one of the largest factors in your career success!

Here are three ways to help you succeed with your boss and your job.

Level 1: See your boss as a teacher

When you start a new job, let your boss teach you what they know. Don’t start off with a know-it-all attitude! 

Let’s say you are working at a local department store for the summer. Your job is to keep all the toys freshly stocked each day after all the visiting kids have tossed them around the aisles. Your new boss explains where the toys are stored, how many you need to stock, and how to organize the displays. The worst thing you can do on the first day is say, “Oh I know how to do this—don’t worry!”

Maybe you do know what to do, but the odds are you don’t. Take the time to ask questions, learn from past experience, and then apply what you learned.


Level 2: See your boss as a partner

As your boss sees your willingness to listen and perform your role well, you’ll see an increased level of trust and communication. There is still much to learn, but you spend less time being taught and more time becoming an expert on your tasks. 

“I know how to stock things! The toy sale coming up is no problem,” you say to yourself. Then the day of the sale begins. Within 30 minutes, the place looks like a disaster. Just then your boss walks by. You want to hide.

In this step, it is better to be a true partner, and seek out further advice on special circumstances. A partnership with your boss requires ongoing discussions of situations, challenges and successes.


Level 3: See your boss as a coach

Once you have proven your ability to learn from your boss, and to partner together in special circumstances, you earn the privilege of allowing your boss to become a coach. 

Your boss knows you have the potential for further growth as you take greater responsibility for your actions. But now it’s up to you to generate great results!

You now run the floor of toys—daily stocking, ordering the most popular toys, and reporting each day’s sales to the store’s top manager. You hear that the corporate toy manager is coming to your store to find out how things are going. Rumor has it that this person is tough on rookies. You plan out the day in your head, prepare your floor area, and write down suggestions for increasing sales. You take a moment to check your ideas with your boss. Great move! It turns out that your boss has spent time with the corporate toy managers and knows just what to focus on for success!

Do you see how a coaching relationship works? You have demonstrated the ability to learn from your boss, to partner together, and now the ongoing humility to continue to be coached!

Your results will shine!

Jim Elliker is a human resources professional, a formal naval officer, a graduate of Miami University, the proud father of five and an ordained Deacon in the Greek Orthodox Church.

For this article, Jim gives a special shout out to colleague Jim Byron, who started this journey of staged team growth!


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