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Working with your boss - Mid career tips
If you are a married man, you don’t need this. For the rest of us, the lesson is to always remain mindful of your boss, especially when you think you are doing a great job or having lots of fun at work.
I thought I was on top of my job and remained unaware till almost the very end, that I had fallen out of favour with my new incoming boss.
A friend from HR told me they were interviewing for my replacement. That is when I woke up with a shock.
I was not a newbie. I had been working for several years and was good at what I did.
I was also the life of the floor. I did my best to bring the team together and keep people engaged. Work never suffered.
I digress now. Have you seen the Invisible Gorilla video? See it for inattention blindness.
People playing missed the gorilla because they were so caught up in not dropping the ball.
The new boss came in. There were signals for sure. I missed them, because I was so caught up in not dropping the day-to-day ball.
I learnt from that misadventure. “Keep your boss in your peripheral vision, all the time!”, I now say.
There was another time I had a challenging ‘Boss Situation”, but this time, I redeemed it - just barely in time.
Again, it was a new boss. I was the head of Quality. She came is as the Head of India Operations.
I came under fire from day 1. She wanted specifics. That too in systematic steps. I was the systems thinking guy - “Holistic does not happen overnight”, was my mantra.
I had been successful with my previous manager and had results to show for it. I tried to bring her around. No success.
In a review with my team attending, a few days later, she walked out midway in a huff, accusing us of “Not getting it!”
In an open office, I sat across the aisle from her. The chill was so high, my team stopped visiting me on my floor.
I was at my wit's end. This was not just my job on the line. It was my team’s future, too.
I took a timeout. I prided myself on my ability to see patterns. I tried to figure out what I was doing wrong.
I saw that she was cast in the classic “Project Manager’s mould”. Everything needed to have steps and clear outcomes. I was the opposite.
It was time for me to change. I decided to do a PMI course as I had worked with Project Managers all along, but have never been one myself. Maybe, I needed to learn to think like one.
A quick look at the training portal showed me that the next official PMI course was 6 weeks away. Me and the team would not last that long in her regime.
For the first time in my career, I paid for an external professional course out of my pocket and nominated myself for a PMI certification, starting next Monday.
When I walked across to tell her about this, I was expecting another storm. She surprised me. She said, “Go do it! Don’t worry about the work back here. We will manage.”
After I returned, I applied my new found learning to my next status update. She was thrilled with my approach and I think, with the fact that I was trying to change myself. It touched her, even though she was the all Project Manager type.
I think, soon after, I would have moved on her dashboard from red, to a working-well-together green. Over time, we became friends too. And Yes, as a side benefit, I got my PMI certification!
The insight here is that besides keeping a wary eye on your boss, be the first one to blink if it ever becomes a staring match.