Five ways to make your boss work for you

ON THE face of it, you only need to do your job well to get on. In reality, though, there’s more to it than that. Your career development is not just about your performance – it’s about your performance in the eyes of your boss. Here are five tips to manage the most important relationship in your working life.

You have to think about your relationship with your boss in the right way – you are partners in a joint enterprise, and your shared goal is the success of your business. You are collaborators with different roles and so your relationship is one of equals, not a parent-child relationship.

If – after careful consideration – you disagree with a decision, say so and don’t just go with the flow. If you are right, you look good. If you are wrong, take responsibility for that. You will have shown that you are independent-minded and mature, and such people are valuable. That said, professional contrarians are irritating.

Make sure he knows your areas of expertise. In the day-to-day bustle he might forget where your central talents are. Most of us spend much of our time doing the things we are second-best at. Remind him what you are really good at and try to nudge him to give you the job you can really shine in. Talent and expertise are always valued. You want to spring to mind when your perfect job comes up.

Find something that you both have in common – football, golf, a shared love of the musicals of Andrew Lloyd Webber – and talk to him about it. That might sound manipulative, but if he wasn’t your boss, it would seen natural. Treat him as a human being and he will see you as an equal, and not an underling. That way he is more likely to think of you as somebody closer to his level in the organisation, and potentially promotable.

Is he going places? What is his reputation in the business? You don’t want to be seen as the stooge of somebody who is generally thought to be a loser or incompetent. Always do a good, professional job, of course, but be very careful about linking your fate to that of your boss. Remember too that if he is sinking, he might cling to you. Be careful.


Hacking Work
by Bill Jensen and Josh Klein
£12.99 Penguin

CAN computer hackers teach you to perform better at work? According to the authors of this book, yes they can. The big idea is that you can, as the subtitle says, break “stupid rules” to get “smart results”.

If you sidestep the systems and bureaucracies that make work inefficient then you will do a better job, get better outcomes and everybody will be happier. To illustrate the point, the authors use geeky concepts like “work-arounds” and “cheat-codes”. It’s a neat idea.

Examples include people who do their expenses with web-based tools instead of the one their company wants them to use in order to save time. Or the woman who got herself time off work by hacking into her boss’s computer and making a spreadsheet that she presented to their mutual line-manager to prove that she was working harder then he was.

“Today’s top performers are taking matters into their own hands,” the authors write, “they are bypassing sacred structures and breaking all sorts of rules just to get their work done.” And “the bad guys are the tools, processes, procedures and structures we all use to get work done.” “Our tools have become more bossy than our bosses”. Hackers will “save business from itself”.

The idea of hacking is refreshing and quirky, but in practice it doesn’t always live up to its billing. One example the authors give is, er, people passing notes in meetings so they don’t have to listen to their boss. There is something adolescent about the idea of hacking work. It is, we are told, a tactic commonly used by Generation Y, who have a “sense of entitlement” but who are creative mavericks who will change the world. Hmm. Or maybe they’re just young.

It’s good to be reminded that you should always be looking for ways to bend the rules and that small innovations are incredibly valuable. But to claim that it will improve businesses too seems optimistic. And what happens when your rule-breaking goes wrong? Hacking is a tool best used carefully.
Jeremy Hazlehurst