Prescription – What to do when your boss doesn’t like you

This entire month we’ve tackled an all-too-common dysfunction – “I don’t think my boss likes me.” Think back to the glory days of middle school or high school when you had a crush on that special someone. Remember that moment when you wondered, “do they like me back?” And remember what happened?  It was all downhill from there. Your mind spun in circles wondering what’s going on, analyzing every little action he or she did or didn’t take. Unfortunately, when we believe our boss doesn’t like us, we are prone to many of the same spirals. But before we get too far down those paths, let’s take a step and assess what’s going on.

Diagnosing the Problem

Does your boss really not like you or is it all in your head? Consider some of the following tell-tale signs:

  • “The vague performance review”– If you are getting vague poor reviews with the only rationale being “your attitude” or “your approach” needs to change, while there is the possibility that those are true, there is also a good chance that your boss simply doesn’t like you.
  • “The demotion”– If you’ve been inexplicably demoted, this may be another sign your boss doesn’t like you. Consider if it’s your approach or who you’ve been associating with that may have triggered their opinion of you.
  • “The cold shoulder”– If you can’t get any time with your boss despite your best efforts, be worried – very worried. Even the most insensitive bosses will show a minimum level of effort to meet with their employees upon request. Consider 30 minutes every two weeks as a minimum level of contact – anything under that and your boss may be avoiding you on purpose.
  • “Not being asked to prom / rejection”– If your boss starts to play favorites and it’s not you, be concerned. Research shows that when a boss has a favorite, they pick them to fill an open position 98% of the time. Notice if you aren’t getting the invitations and opportunities that someone in your position “should” be getting. This may be a big red flag that you could end up home permanently on Friday nights.

For more on diagnosing the problem, here’s the full article.

Treating the Problem

There are some excellent “Do’s” and “Don’ts” for getting your boss to like you. Consider the following:

  • Focus on your work – A great strategy to get your boss to like you – get your work done consistently well and on time. Shocking, I know.
  • Add value in every interaction with your boss – In every interaction with your boss (casual conversations in the hall, meetings in his or her office, etc…) look to be adding value. What do I mean by that? Ask good questions. Provide updates. Don’t waste his or her time with a rambling story about your golf game that weekend.
  • Look out for your boss – Be on the lookout for things that might help or hurt your boss and let he or she know. They’ll appreciate the fact that you’ve “got their back” and will likely return the favor. Just be careful to not make up those problems just to get in his or her good graces. That kind of manipulation will eventually swallow you whole.
  • Dress like your boss –Bosses do care about “how” things get done. Notice your boss’ style and try to modulate your style to fall in line with how he or she approaches work. The same goes for attire. If he or she is business casual at work, I would not recommend coming into the office in torn jeans and a retro Motley Crue tee shirt.

For all the things you “Don’t” want to do to get your boss to like you, check out this list.

Surgery

It may come to this. You’ve done everything and despite your best efforts, your worst fears are realized. Your boss not only doesn’t like you, but you have a giant target on your back. Time for drastic measures.

Option 1: Wait it out. If your boss is that bad, they will likely burn bridges. Their days may be numbered. Keep your head down, avoid him / her at all costs and hold out for them to be “cut out.”

Option 2: Get out. Get yourself a game plan, begin to network and “cut yourself out of the problem.” But remember, it’s always easier to get a job when you’ve got a job. Leaving without a plan is the equivalent of trying to perform open heart surgery on yourself. Sure there’s a chance you’ll survive, but I really don’t like those odds.

Life is easier when you know your boss likes you. Assess the situation, work the relationship and see if you can turn it to a positive. If not, it may be time for surgery, but in the end, that’s a much better option than working for someone who’s just not that into you.

Next Up (next month’s dysfunction):

“My team member has a bad attitude.” Got an employee or a co-worker who’s attitude sucks? This next “Dysfunction of the Month” is for you.  Stay tuned!  A whole month of bad attitudes… I feel rowdy already.

“Do’s” and “Don’ts” for getting your boss to like you

Every once and a while, I stumble into a workplace that feels more like middle school or high school drama than an actual work environment where adults gather. O.k., I lied. It’s not every once and while. Reliving the dynamics of middle school and high school drama in our working years is more common than any of us would want or like to admit. But, alas, it is reality. And in keeping with that unfortunate reality, sometimes it matters if our boss likes us or not. So, what are the big “Do’s” and “Don’ts” in getting our boss to like us? Here are some of the most effective (and disastrous) approaches that I’ve seen:

“Don’ts” for getting your boss to like you

  • Be like one of the “cool kids” – I had a client recently tell me that the problem with his workplace is that there seems to be a “cool kids” clique in his office. As he describes it, the cool kids like to “make fun of other people in order to show how smart they are.” He was tempted to try to fit in, but opted to be true to himself. Follow his lead. In middle school the “cool kids” sometimes end up in the principal’s office. In real life, they end up in jail.
  • Kiss up to your boss – There is the natural tendency to tell your boss he or she is the greatest thing since “sliced bread.” You compliment them at every turn: “great idea boss, nicely said boss, you are the greatest, boss…” The problem with this approach is that a healthy boss will see right through this and perceive you as possessing low self confidence. An unhealthy boss will also see you as possessing low self confidence, but then they will proceed to bully you. Neither ends pretty.
  • Try hard to be your boss’ friend outside of work – This is a common approach that often ends in confusion and disaster. You know the drill: invite your boss out for drinks after work, invite him or her on vacations or sporting events, go golfing or shopping with him or her. In general, the strategy is to blur the lines between friend and boss so they like you enough to make things more comfortable for you. The problem I’ve seen with this approach is that it is not uncommon for the boss to separate the two roles in his or her mind (or to be told to do so by their superior). They come back from a great vacation with their employee and start Monday off by letting him or her go.
  • Dress like your boss – Just like in middle school or high school, this strategy entails dressing like the “cool kids.” The downside to this strategy is, just like in high school, everyone knows what you are trying to do… and it looks just as pathetic now as it did then. Have some self-respect.

Those are the big “Don’ts” when it comes to getting your boss to like you. Here are some of the better “Do’s”.

“Do’s” for getting your boss to like you

  • Focus on your work – A great strategy to get your boss to like you – get your work done consistently well and on time. Shocking, I know.
  • Add value in every interaction with your boss – In every interaction with your boss (casual conversations in the hall, meetings in his or her office, etc…) look to be adding value. What do I mean by that? Ask good questions. Provide updates. Don’t waste his or her time with a rambling story about your golf game that weekend.
  • Look out for your boss – Be on the lookout for things that might help or hurt your boss and let he or she know. They’ll appreciate the fact that you’ve “got their back” and will likely return the favor. Just be careful to not make up those problems just to get in his or her good graces. That kind of manipulation will eventually swallow you whole.
  • Dress like your boss – “Wait, didn’t you just say I shouldn’t dress like my boss?”  Here’s where you do want to pay attention to your boss’ appearance. Bosses do care about “how” things get done. So, notice your boss’ style and try to modulate your style to fall in line with how he or she approaches work. The same goes for attire. If he or she is business casual at work, I would not recommend coming into the office in torn jeans and a retro Motley Crue tee shirt.

 

Just like the wonder years of middle school and high school, getting your boss to like you can be an unpleasant and self-sacrificing experience if you let it. Stick to your guns, stay true to your values, and be the consummate professional and I promise, the right people will like you in the end.

 

Is your boss playing favorites?

Does your boss have a favorite at work… that isn’t you? You know what I’m talking about. Your boss makes “googly” eyes at the favorite. The two are routinely spotted whispering together, plotting. And when the time comes to choose someone for one of the better tasks, you know who your boss is going to pick and it won’t be you.

Here’s the most frightening element about favorites at work, they wield more power today than ever before. Why you might ask? Simple. Leaders (and organizations for that matter) are avoiding any and all risk at every turn. They don’t want to take a chance on anything and anyone who is “unknown.” Our friends in the job market will attest to that. Consider the following recent survey that was conducted by researchers at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business. In polling senior executives at large U.S. corporations they found:

• 92% have seen favoritism at play in employee promotions.

• 84% have seen it at their own companies.

• 23% said they practiced favoritism themselves.

• 29% said their most recent promotion considered only a single candidate.

• 56% said when more than one candidate was considered, they already knew who they wanted to promote before deliberations.

• 96% report promoting the pre-selected individual.

Are you getting this? If there’s an open job, over half the time the boss has picked a favorite, and if they have, it’s a virtual lock that the favorite is gonna get it. So what can we do? Simple. Become the favorite.

Steps to Becoming the Favorite:

  1. Let your boss know what you are up to – Part of becoming the favorite is keeping yourself “front and center” in your boss’ mind AND not a source of worry or frustration. How do you do that? A simple way is to provide your boss a quick status update at the end of every week on things are progressing. If they know what you are up to, they are more likely to trust you.
  2. Make your boss’ life easier – Anticipate what your boss needs and try to meet those needs without being asked. Be proactive in putting out your boss’ fires and they will love you for it.
  3. Make your boss look good – Get kudos and recognition and then pull your boss into the spotlight. Making your boss look like he or she is doing a great job is a fantastic way to get in his or her good graces.

So, what should you not do? Pretty simple, the opposite of everything I mentioned above. In addition, keeping quiet and silent, hoping to be discovered is a sure-fire way to get lost at work. I did a whole month on that particular dysfunction so check it out ( “I’m not getting noticed at work” ).

Next up: Getting your boss to like you – What are tried and true do’s and don’ts? You might be surprised. Golf may not be such a good strategy after all… particularly if your golf game is anything like mine. Then again, I’m great at making others look really really good.

And in case you’d rather listen than read, here’s my recent radio segment on “Playing Favorites”.  Course, I give that to you at the end of the post.  Tricky or disorganized… you be the judge.

Listen: “When the Boss Plays Favorites at Work”

Playing Favorites

Signs your boss doesn’t like you

Does your boss like you? And what if he or she doesn’t? What could that mean for you and your career? Simply put – really bad stuff could be in store for you. The horror stories I have heard from those whose bosses didn’t like him or her are astounding. Devastating performance reviews with no basis, demotions, transfers, being undermined at every turn, long-hours, you name it. Imagine your worst nightmare and like a bad horror flick on the Syfy channel, I’ve seen it made a reality. So, what are the signs that your boss doesn’t like you?

Consider these tell tale signs:

  • “The vague performance review”– A good friend of mine is a rock star at what she does. She routinely posts the highest sales figures every year for her role and has done so for nearly ten years straight. Every sales contest, she wins. And to top it all off, her co-workers love her. She routinely hosts conference calls with all of her colleagues where they share best practices, coordinate their efforts, etc… The problem – her boss doesn’t like her. So, when she recently got her annual performance review, she received “below expectations” scores throughout with no concrete evidence to support his evaluation. His only rationale was “she needs to show more enthusiasm.” As one of the most enthusiastic people I know, this absolutely set her off.The TakeawayIf you are getting vague poor reviews with the only rationale being “your attitude” or “your approach” needs to change, while there is the possibility that those are true, there is also a good chance that your boss simply doesn’t like you.
  • “The demotion”– Another common sign that your boss doesn’t like you is the dreaded demotion. For political reasons or perhaps because of a lack of evidence, your boss may not be willing to fire you even though he or she may not like you. Instead, they may choose to make your life miserable by demoting you significantly below your role. This happened to Brad. Brad was second in command at his office. His boss had promised to take care of him… until he left for a better gig. The new boss decided right away that anyone who was part of the past regime must be “bad.” Brad had always been a loyal and committed employee and had only worked for that company his entire career (25+ years) so the new boss didn’t want to cause a political uproar by firing him. Instead, he chose to reorganize the office and moved Brad from second in command to sales support manager – a role Brad had held 20 years earlier in his career.The Takeaway – If you were associated with someone your boss doesn’t like, he / she may likely decide you too must not be likeable. Watch out for snap judgments based on who you are associated with.
  • “The cold shoulder”– This is a tricky one. Sometimes when we don’t hear from our boss, it’s a sign that things are o.k. However, if you go weeks at a time not seeing or hearing from your boss this could be a sign that they simply don’t want to spend any time with you. Beth had that situation. She had a regularly scheduled call with her boss every Monday morning when they began working together. As it became clearer and clearer to both of them that they did not see eye-to-eye, the calls started getting postponed by her boss. One day, Beth realized it had been nearly two months since they had talked. The next call from her boss was to talk about her outplacement package.The Takeaway – If you can’t get any time with your boss despite your best efforts, be worried – very worried. Even the most insensitive bosses will show a minimum level of effort to meet with their employees upon request. Consider 30 minutes every two weeks as a minimum level of contact – anything under that and your boss may be avoiding you on purpose.
  • “Not being asked to prom / rejection”– From not being invited to significant meetings / events to being humiliated in public, this form of visible rejection is clear to everyone in the office.  Think of it as your worst high school nightmare. Miguel got the unfortunate opportunity to enjoy this first hand. It was clear to Miguel that his new manager immediately clicked with one of Miguel’s direct reports from day one. Not only had his new boss and his direct report both attended the same university, but they even came from the same home town. Despite those initial commonalities, Miguel had no idea how bad it was going to get. Miguel was repeatedly “left back at the office” as his boss opted to take his direct report over Miguel to every senior meeting, conference and “career accelerating” event. In the end, Miguel’s boss was promoted and guess who took his place? Yep, Miguel’s direct report became Miguel’s boss overnight.The Takeaway – If your boss starts to play favorites and it’s not you, be concerned. Research shows that when a boss has a favorite, they pick them to fill an open position 98% of the time. Notice if you aren’t getting the invitations and opportunities that someone in your position “should” be getting. This may be a big red flag that you could end up home permanently on Friday nights.

There you have it.  Those are the big warning signs that your boss isn’t into you. Watch out. If any of those have happened or are currently happening to you, the first step is to name them for what they are – possible threats to you and your career. Next up, we’ll tackle what you can do if you think your boss is playing favorites… and you’re not the favorite. Always a tricky place to be in…

“I don’t think my boss likes me”

If you are like most people, you’ve had at least one new boss over the last several years. Heck, you may have had a revolving door of bosses – a veritable cornucopia of managers – and just when you get one you like, they are yanked from you like ripping a plush teddy bear from a toddler. I had a former student reach out to me several months ago with the complaint that she has had 5 different bosses over the last year! That’s practically a different boss every two months. Insanity. The real challenge comes in when you get stuck with a boss that you suspect doesn’t like you. Whether you think they secretly have plans to remove you or you believe that they simply don’t like your “style” (your attitude, your approach, or simply YOU), how do you cope?

This month is about dealing with “that boss.” Amongst other topics, we’ll be tackling the following important questions:

  • What are the signs your boss doesn’t like you?
  • Is your boss playing favorites? What can you do?
  • What are ways to get your boss to like you? What should you and what should you NOT do?
  • What’s your back-up plan if all else fails?

Getting stuck with a boss that doesn’t like you is no fun at all. The challenge is to figure out what’s going on, what you can do about it and getting yourself a back-up plan just in case you can’t sway his or her opinion of you.  If this dysfunction is hitting way too close to home for you, stay tuned.  Help is on its way.

And for a great example of what having a boss who doesn’t like you looks like, here is a wonderful clip from the greatest workplace movie of all time – Office Space.  Ah, the TPS report…