Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Managing Your Boss

The shifting nature of American business has reigned in padded corporate accounts and driven leaders towards lean workforces and just-in-time practices. Throughout this churn, layers of management have been stripped away to reveal the underlying interdependent relationship which leaders and followers must uphold to maintain their heavier workloads. Leaders need reliable subordinates just as much as employees need considerate and transformational leaders (Kotter, 2006; Bass, 1985; Tichy and Ulrich, 1984). This interdependent paradigm is now at the forefront of employee-employer relationship research.
Other underlying assumptions about the corporation are also being tested as employee psychological contracts change from relational to transactional (King and Bu, 2005). The relational pieces of the psychological contract focus primarily on long-term growth and socio-emotional obligations whereas the transactional aim emphasizes short-term performance and pay as its main thrust.  New research challenges the traditional literature focused on the leader. Emerging studies aim to break this traditional model and illustrate how much impact followers have and how leveraging that energy for the good of the company, their boss and their own career will prove shrewd.
For any subordinate trying to move forward in the new economy, he should realize how important it is not only to manage himself, but also his boss. While to most ears this may sound politically motivated, it is in fact an important step forward in employee empowerment and company profitability. John Gabarro and John Kotter’s (2006) seminal work on the subject of “managing your boss” points out that “bosses need cooperation, reliability, and honesty from their direct reports.”  This may seem like a “duh” realization, but Gabarro and Kotter are quick to point out that self awareness and the recognition that bosses are just as fallible as you or I is still a notion to be grasped.  The key to reaching an interdependent understanding, and thus a mutually beneficial work relationship with your manager (Gabarro & Kotter, 1980) in a rotating economy is realized by accepting this reality and learning to work within the bounds of an imperfect relationship.