Managers who kiss up, kick down.

The bad news? There’s not much you can do about them.

The good news? You can manage your behaviour by figuring out where you want to go.

Your manager has just has just given a speech saying how wonderful her/his boss is. They also give you a bit of credit too. Yet, an hour later they call you to tell you how badly you did on items X, Y and Z. Very badly!

You know the type:

They crave approval so they praise up the line and prevent transparency about their bad behaviour down the line. They are two steps ahead of you, usually to cement their case that you are out of line with their needs, that your ideas are not acceptable.

They live on despite their weak people leadership capabilities, poor communication skills, inability to adapt to change, self-serving relationship-building skills, scattered task management abilities, and poor people development skills. They are devoid of self-awareness. Nobody challenges them, even the leaders who know about the dysfunction.

Unfortunately, your boss is the exception to the rule Everyone’s trying to collaborate. The best you can do with this boss is remember the line, ‘Never wrestle with a pig – the pig enjoys the wrestling and you get dirty.’

What to do?

Think of this boss as a dysfunctional stakeholder who you can’t please. Take them seriously, not literally! Shake yourself loose of their grip on your mindset. Now start thinking of solutions for yourself and your team.

Begin with the end in mind

Go to the big picture of what outcomes you want. Not in your current role, but for your career.

Questions to regularly ask yourself:

What are you aiming to achieve? One year. Three years. Five years.

How will you know you’ve achieved it?

What was the best you ever did (at this thing)?

What went well on that occasion?

What will be the first signs that you’re getting there?

How will other people notice your progress?

This will give you direction to help move you forward within the current situation. It will aid decision-making, deal with ambiguity, and act as a bridge between the current and future.

Be patient. Be persistent. 

Be the leader your boss can’t be.

Support your staff to manage the complexity in front of them. Develop them by letting them see their ideas count (unlike your boss). Involve them in planning. Divest risk to them to help them build capability and confidence, and teach them decision-making capability. Delegate authority and leverage diversity, and set the tone – dissuade complaining.

Questions to regularly ask your team:

What are you aiming to achieve?

How will you know you’ve achieved it?

What was the best you ever did (at this thing)?

What went well on that occasion?

What will be the first signs that you’re getting better?

Will this change the behaviour of your boss?

No. It will help you think of solutions for yourself and manage through this complex part of your life while you wait for the boss to go away, or for you to decide to be successful in another organization.

 

Published by

Alan Kay

Alan Kay. Speeding up Change - Strategy. Customer & Stakeholder Co-creation. Solution Focus. Author & Speaker. Book: Fry the Monkeys - Create a Solution.