Do you respect your boss or do you think they are a jerk?
First, let me clarify that I am not talking about a boss whose behavior is immoral or unethical. If that is your case, you need to get counsel immediately.
This may help:
- Respect – deep admiration, high esteem, think highly of or hold in high regard
- Jerk – obnoxious person, selfish, not well liked or who treats others badly
When you work closely with someone, the truth is you are going to see their strengths and their weaknesses. It is easier to admire leaders when you keep them at a distance. But up close and personal, you see it all.
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Sometime in your career (and it may be now), you may have a boss that you simply don’t respect. For you, their behavior or style of leadership is more like a jerk than a respected leader. So what do you do?
There are many reasons you should learn to respect the role of leadership this person holds and whenever possible, respect them.
Here are seven ways to give respect even to a boss who is a jerk:
1. Seek to Understand.
I had a mentor/teacher several years ago that taught me to take the first few minutes with a leader to focus on them before I discussed anything on my agenda. This piece of wisdom has been so helpful to me over the years. Asking a few questions and listening first can make all the difference.
Your leader has their own pressures and challenges both personal and professional. What is the weight of leadership they are feeling? What specific stress are they currently facing? Everyone has a story and so does your boss. Seek to know their story. It may not excuse their behavior but it will give you the ability to have more patience and give more grace.
2. Offer to help.
Using the approach above, there have been many meetings with leaders where I left not covering my own agenda but rather refocusing on helping with theirs. Your leader’s success will be your success. Better insight allows you to seek ways to partner for success. Respect comes before trust and every leader needs people around them they can trust. One way to give respect is to offer to help carry the load of a leader. How can you help your leader be more successful?
3. Speak to their strengthens often.
I had another mentor leader who taught me that the flip side of everyone’s strengths is their weaknesses. A wise leader is aware of both. Every leader has strengths. Even your boss isn’t 100% a jerk. Focus on what they do right. How can you affirm those gifts? Make sure you are speaking to others and even to your boss about those strengths. Point out and affirm the areas where they are strong. Point those out to others. Look for opportunities to speak positively about your boss to others.
4. Don’t undermine their leadership.
It is so easy to join the behind the back critics of a leader whose behavior lands them in the jerk category. One of the greatest leadership lessons you can adopt is to never do that. Never. I’m not saying don’t deal with the behavior when it is out of line but talking about it around the office isn’t helping. It is impossible to talk negatively and critically about your boss with others and then to turn around and be open and productive with them. That undertone will show up in every encounter you have with them. Your boss will feel it and it will be a barrier for you. Make it a habit to never undermine their leadership.
5. Speak truth to power.
If you do the first four, you have the potential to earn the right to speak truth to your boss. When you approach them respectfully, and your boss has learned they can trust you, then and only then can you be an instrument to move your boss from being a jerk to being a better leader. You can approach them in the right spirit to address some behaviors that are hurting you and your team. You can provide them insight into actions that they may not even realize they are doing that is counter productive. Speaking truth to power is a gift to leaders.
6. Your own leadership influence.
When you give respect to a boss others consider to be a jerk, I promise you others will take note. Colleagues will naturally come to you for counsel and advise. Your position will quickly become one of influence to your team. You will be in a position to make a significant impact on the culture of your organization.
7. Your own leadership development.
When you learn to give respect to the position of leadership, learn to serve your boss and your team when things are tough, you are well on your way to increased opportunities for your own leadership. Some of the best development happens when things are tough. Don’t waste the many lessons around you as you learn to thrive even when your boss is a jerk. Someone in your organization is watching you and leadership changes do happen. Owning your own development will make you leader ready.
What lessons have your learned from a boss you didn’t respect?
“Everyone must submit to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except from God, and those that exist are instituted by God. So then, the one who resists the authority is opposing God’s command, and those who oppose it will bring judgement on themselves. . . Pay your obligations to everyone: taxes to those you owe taxes, tolls to those you owe tolls, respect to those you owe respect, and honor to those you owe honor.” Romans 13:1-2 & 7