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Managing Your Boss

Six Signs that You May Be "Hard to Manage"

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Are you a "difficult employee"? Your answer to that question is probably a resounding "no" - but would your manager agree? You may assume that you would know if your boss held this view, but managers often fail to tell employees what they're thinking. However, they may freely share their opinions with others. Getting a reputation for being "hard to manage" can definitely limit your career.

To succeed in any job, you must be able to get along with management. So take a minute to look at things from your boss's point of view. See if you're guilty of any of these "unmanageable" behaviors.

1.  "Oppositional" attitude to authority
Simply by virtue of their position, managers have a certain amount of power over employees. However, some employees either (a) have a general resistance to authority or (b) feel that a particular boss is not qualified to manage them. These attitudes are often expressed through arguments, debates, or criticism.

Solution
: Accept the fact that your boss's job includes supervising you. That's just how organizations work. So even if your boss is an idiot, you need to demonstrate respect for the position. Learn how to express disagreement without arguing or criticizing. Your goal is to have productive problem-solving discussions instead of conflicts.

2.  Ignoring management requests
Some oppositional people are passive-aggressive instead of confrontational. They express their contempt by simply choosing not to complete assignments or respond to requests. When these lapses show up on their performance reviews, employees often express shock and resentment. But they really should not be surprised.

Solution: Never ignore anything that your manager asks you to do. If you don't have time or if the request seems unreasonable, express your concerns in a non-confrontational manner. Respectful disagreement is much better than failing to meet expectations.

For example: "I'll be glad to set up a meeting to get input from the marketing staff. However, I'm concerned that the time needed to get everyone together may cause us to miss the deadline. To save time, what if I made a few phone calls to get their feedback individually?"

3.  Complaining about coworkers
Managers really hate being dragged into petty coworker squabbles. Taking too many of these gripes to your boss will only make you look like someone who can't work well with others.

Solution: When a coworker is frustrating or annoying, ask yourself if their irritating behavior is affecting your work results. If the answer is "no", then stop fretting about it and just let it go. But if the answer is "yes", then you have a business issue to resolve. The best solution is to work it out directly with your coworker, but if you must go to your manager, focus solving on the business problem, not complaining about your colleague.

4.  Chronic negativity
Some people are real downers. If you tell them about your upcoming beach vacation, they automatically bring up hurricanes. If you describe your exciting new project, they quickly point out the downside. Managers have enough problems to deal with, so they quickly tire of people who are always negative.

Solution: Observe your conversations and mentally calculate the percentage or positive and negative remarks that you make. If you consistently point out possible problems without mentioning positive aspects, then you need to work on talking about good points and expressing appreciation.

5.  Missing deadlines
All managers are concerned with schedules and deadlines, because they are usually evaluated on how well they meet them. So one sure way to be seen as a problem is to be chronically late with your work. This will eventually cause your manager to stop trusting you.

Solution: When you are setting a deadline yourself, be realistic. Don't promise a report by Tuesday if you know it will probably not be ready till Thursday. If you find that you are not going to meet an agreed-upon deadline, let your boss know as soon as possible and suggest strategies for damage control.

6.  Using your boss as a therapist
Your manager does not need to hear about problems with your social life or the details of your messy divorce. Or any other complex personal issue. Even if your boss listens politely, he or she may be thinking "I wish this conversation would end!"

Solution: Personal issues are best discussed with personal friends. It's fine to let your boss know what's going on in your life, especially if it may affect your work in some way, but keep the information brief and the conversation time-limited. This is to your benefit, because you never know when management's knowledge of your personal life could adversely affect your career.

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