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I'm not bossy, I'm the boss! (Part I)

“Please can I see you in my office for 10 minutes?” When your manager asks to see you, there is always some anxiety that creeps up, no matter how lovely the relationship has been.

Why do we get anxious when the manager asks to see us? Well, they do have authority over us in the workplace, so, just that on its own is enough to set off some crazy anxiety levels. It gets even worse when we need to speak to our managers about how we are feeling. Fret not, my friend. There is hope. Before we get into it, let us figure out why we are scared of our managers in the first place. There are a couple of reasons:

  1. They hold a position of authority over us

  2. They, to some degree, can determine our work fate

  3. They are central to whether the work environment is healthy or not

  4. Their decisions pave the way forward in the team

Last week on my Instagram story, I asked people to share the struggles they have with their managers, and to say I was really shocked and sad is an understatement. When one has an unapproachable manager, it is very difficult to express one’s ideas and thoughts. So, how exactly does one navigate a constructive conversation with a manager? If you would like to talk to your manager about a possible salary increase, a new idea, or about the fact that you think your relationship with your manager is strained, here are some tips: 1. TRUST ISSUES If you have trust issues with your manager, but you need to raise an issue you have been grappling with for a while, write an email requesting a meeting. I would suggest that you not send this email out when you are highly emotional. Take time to think about what it is you would like to discuss in the meeting. Notify your manager that you will have a third party present (preferably your manager’s senior or a fellow team member) to help you ‘keep the main thing, the main thing’. If you have a manager that tends to twist you words, or one that you cannot trust, having a third party present is important. Please note that this third party must not be someone who will take your side, but someone who is mature and strives to see a good resolution being met. Remember, you and your manager are part of the same team, working towards the same goal. Your manager is not your enemy. 2. BOUNDARIES ARE NOT RESPECTED You may have a manager that texts you at all ungodly hours of the night with work requests, or a manager that does not respect your time when you have taken a day off work. Be assertive! People often equate assertiveness to aggressiveness which couldn’t be further from the truth. Assertiveness means (according to Reader's Digest's "How to write and speak better"), “approaching situations expecting to negotiate with others as an equal; being aware of your own rights, but also being prepared to listen and respond to other people sympathetically.”

Assertiveness can be learned, so do the following:

  • Know what you want and justify it.

  • Speak in a way that conveys what it is that you want. Don’t shy away from using terms like “I feel” and “I need”.

  • If you want to say “no”, say it as early as possible in response to your manager’s request. If you are asked to work late into the night and you cannot do so, make that known as early as possible and suggest an alternative.

  • Avoid using phrases that weaken your message, such as, “when you have a moment” or “if its not too much trouble”.

When cornered, we often default to aggressiveness or submission. Both can be very extreme, and both tend to cover our deeper need for recognition and respect. These are behaviours we adopted from a young age, as defence mechanisms. “When you act assertively, you take the positive elements from aggression and submission – aggression in dealing with unnecessary obstacles, submission in accepting necessary limitations and exercising self-control”.

Stay tuned for Part 2.


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