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Manage Your Boss’ Perceptions

Mini Case Study:

The ability to manage the boss’ perceptions is essential for your success in an organization. Sometimes it is easy to do so, especially if you and your boss have similar styles. But when you don’t have a similar style to your boss, then it is essential to manage those perceptions. Consider this story:

Jeremy is a human resources manager. Jeremy has spent time getting to know others in the company and has built strong relationships. His co-workers note that he does an excellent job acknowledging people’s feelings when difficult news needs to be communicated; in fact many in the department rely on him to deliver difficult news.

Jeremy seems to be able to reflect how others are feeling and adapts his communication style to help others. He is a very outgoing person and seems to be able to identify with everyone. Jeremy is a great listener and many employees stop by his office just to get his thoughts on any number of matters – both personal and professional. Jeremy is inspiring!

Jeremy’s manager, Beth, however, feels differently. Beth perceives Jeremy as spending way too much time focusing on others’ feelings and not enough time managing issues that need to be managed in their department.

Jeremy had a problem. On the one hand, Jeremy was great at his job! He is a great listener and helps employees solve problems. In fact, Jeremy can tell you that a number of his interactions with employees have actually ensured that the right decisions were made, conflicts were diffused early and, in a number of cases, top talent was retained. On the other hand, Jeremy’s boss, Beth, feels he is not productive enough and is not accomplishing goals.

Jeremy doesn’t want to change how he works with employees; he knows that his ability to listen and help others is invaluable. He just needs to help his boss, Beth, see the value. Jeremy asks to meet with Beth to better understand her concerns and also to share the value of the work he is doing.

Preparing for the Meeting with Beth

In preparation for the meeting with Beth, Jeremy prepared a number of documents to share:

  • The projects he had completed over the last year
  • His progress toward completing long-term goals and objectives
  • An analysis of savings realized, talent retained and other successes from his work with employees

The Meeting with Beth

During the meeting with Beth, Jeremy said he was concerned that he was not meeting Beth’s expectations and wanted to talk further about how he might change how he is working to better meet her expectations. He also shared with her the work he has done and what was in progress. He also said that, while he knew she was concerned with the time he spent with employees, he wanted to share with her the value of his work with employees. He did acknowledge that at times he did help employees with personal issues, and understood that could at times cut into his daily work. He wanted to propose that he would limit that time on employee personal issues to lunch hours and before or after work.

Beth, however, didn’t want him to stop the work he was doing with employees on either personal or professional issues. She did realize the benefits of that time he spent; she was concerned though about balance and that Jeremy may be spread too thin.

After further discussions, Beth and Jeremy settled on the following:

  • Bi-weekly one-on-one meetings so that Jeremy can check in with Beth on progress toward key goals and objectives
  • Jeremy will meet with employees who are interested in discussing personal (not work related) issues early morning (such as for coffee), at lunch or after work

Beth was also intrigued by Jeremy’s analysis of savings realized, talent retained and other successes from his work with employees. She asked him to pull together additional information about that as she was interested in sharing that with executives.

In Summary

By regularly engaging his boss in bi-weekly one-on-ones and sharing information, Jeremy can help Beth understand his productivity levels as well as how he helps employees on all levels – personally and professionally. By being a sounding board for employees, the organization is likely to contribute to employee retention as well as to enable for healthier and happier employees overall.

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