Monday, May 23, 2011

Work Environment: Dealing with the Boss

[It may seem rather odd that, despite the name of this blog, there have been very few posts on life as a young professional. Well, this is about to change now.]

In the consulting company I work, I am part of a 5-8 team responsible for managing systems data for our company's operations. My boss is the leader of the team and, naturally, we all look for him for guidance. It is admittedly a relationship of both respect and fear -- the former because he is the most experienced member of our team (and for newbies like myself, a mentor) but also the latter since he is...our boss.

The relationship between a supervisor and an employee is a very interesting one in corporate America. For both individuals, there are shared objections such as helping to grow the business and hitting objectives set by the higher-ups. Yet at the same time, there are tensions given the disparity in power in the workplace. This power is very significant, as stepping stones in career growth depend on positive evaluations by the supervisor on the employee. Bonuses and promotions are not likely be the rewards if the supervisor considers the employee "unworthy". It is for this reason, the employee fears the boss. On the other side, the supervisor also has a (albeit smaller) fear of the employee -- because an employee exceeding expectations may eventually surpass the supervisor in the corporate hierarchy.

Returning to my position, I am thankful to have the boss that I have: someone who practices a very laissez-faire means of supervising his team. I normally only communicate to him when I have questions concerning the system, my future projects, or personal requests like taking a day off. It appears odd sometimes because there have been days I have not spoken a word to him. All in all, this mode of supervision befits our workload; this stems in part due to the small-projects nature of our work.

A critical function of the boss is to be able to delegate tasks or, generally speaking, maximizing the human capital that he/she manages. This is the quintessential nature of management -- the good managers are able to foster a positive work environment where everyone is able to flourish which, in turn, reflects well on the boss. At the end of the day, the boss will not longer be the boss if the employees do not perform adequately. Hitting company objectives is therefore akin to a flowing river. It starts with the employee but doesn't end with the employee's immediate superior -- it goes up the chain of command (per say).

Work aside, socializing with the boss can be a daunting task. I admit that in my own relationship (with the boss), this normally does not go beyond exchanging pleasantries or briefly sharing about significant temporal events (aka the passing of one's weekend). We have talked about basketball when college basketball was still in season -- but sadly, this is now over. Nonetheless, one cannot ignore the importance of being able to connect with the boss outside of work settings. Not only would this bolster your own relationship with the boss, but allows you to create the impression that you are well-liked and trustworthy. This is especially true if you become on good terms with your boss' boss. Then things will get really interesting.

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