I recently read an article entitled “The Value of Working for a Bad Boss” and posted it on Facebook and Twitter, asking for reactions. Not surprisingly, there were many thoughts—seems like this topic resonates with quite a few folks!
In Higher Education, I believe in a few general guiding principles when it comes to supervision.
1) The most challenging part of our jobs is leading and managing people: We do not sell insurance. We are not trading stocks. We are investing in students, navigating political environments and adding value to the communities in which we live. This requires more time and investment in people than in the corporate world. As we move up, our job scope may widen, thus limiting the time we can devote to supervision, however I encourage you to consider how this can always be at the center of our work. Investment in people has a trickle-down effect. Role model this for your staff. Make 1-1 meetings a priority, ask about their professional development goals and foster an environment that values their unique contribution.
2) Know What a “Bad Boss” Looks Like for You: Although there may be some universal concerns about a person who is dishonest, lacks integrity, etc., we all have our own unique needs. Decide what kind of person you seek to work for. You may desire a calm, logical person. Others may prefer an extroverted, passionate change-agent. Know what you struggle with in a supervisor and be honest with them about what you need.
3) Do your “homework” on your potential boss before accepting any new position: The most important relationship you will develop at work is with your supervisor. Be sure to talk candidly with others who have been/currently are supervised by him/her so that you have a clear picture of how they lead, what their priorities are and how you might be able to contribute to advancing their goals. Oftentimes, people don’t leave jobs, they leave their manager.
4) Know Your Options: If a new supervisor joins your team and you are struggling to work with them, what should you do? Having a new boss can significantly alter your professional experience—sometimes for the better, sometimes to the detriment of your work environment. It is important to assess if this is a workable situation. Know that you always have three options: 1) Adapt to the new changes, 2) Try to preserve your current ways of operating within the department (which may or may not work) or 3) Leave with grace. Too many people stay beyond their prime because they didn’t realize their own expiration date. New bosses have every right to make changes as they see fit—and you have every right to walk away.
5) Assess the Good That Can Result from Working with a “Bad Boss”: The author of this article states “They are more like a low-grade headache. You learn to live with them. Besides, if you quit, you’ll miss some important lessons that will help you become a better leader.” This is all about perspective. Do you have a friend who occasionally drives you nuts but you keep them around because you know they add a unique perspective to your life? It’s the same concept. Figure out what you can learn from that person—both the good and the bad, and your view of them may alter.
6) Figure Out What Your Boss Needs from a Supervisee: Too often we focus on what our supervisor isn’t doing for us, without asking what we are doing for them. Consider how you can help your supervisor advance their goals. This can be an incentive for them to help you achieve your objectives, as well. Show that you are indispensable to the team—and to them—every single day!
What universal truths do you have about supervision? What tips do you have for managing supervisory challenges? Share them here!
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