Conflict between managers and employees is a natural part of nearly every work environment. It can even be a sign of good things, like idea sharing, constructive criticism, or passion for the task at hand. If you’re experiencing conflict too regularly, however, you might have a problem, as the relationship between you and your supervisor may be negatively impacting your plans for career development or achieving success in your field. The good news is that the power to change that relationship and shape your professional future is in your hands. But how do you know when conflict is truly an issue, and what can you do to resolve it?
A dead giveaway that your relationship with your manager is not what it should be is poor communication between the two of you. Maybe you disagree with your manager’s assessment of your performance or open projects, but feel incapable of saying so, or maybe you listen hard at every meeting but still feel like you struggle to understand what’s expected. Maybe you’re just plagued with the silent, inescapable feeling that you aren’t part of your manager’s “inner circle.” Whatever the case, these types of situations aren’t conducive to personal success or career development, not to mention the well-being of the whole organization.
The first step you need to take in improving this vitally important relationship is to open up those lines of communication. Ask yourself what you could do to compensate for the negatives in the relationship. It could be as simple as working to eliminate a self-sabotaging behavior, such as looking down when you speak, or crossing your arms while listening, habits that make you appear closed off to others or insecure. On the other hand, maybe you just need to speak up. Assertiveness goes a long way in establishing that you belong at the table and you have something of value to contribute.
Alternatively, you could just be dealing with a bad boss. A bad boss ranges from someone who plays favorites and gives the best projects to the same people every time, to someone who micro-manages every assignment constantly picking on your every move, to someone who blatantly lies to upper management in an effort to mask some serious productivity problems. If you find you’re on the receiving end of damaging and demoralizing behavior, and the department starts to resemble a revolving door of new colleagues as the others find new opportunities (and fast), then it’s time to take proactive measures to ensure that you and your career keep moving forward.
In this case, you need to work your way up the chain of command, all while positioning yourself as someone looking for new opportunities, and creating a solution for your problem at the same time. This is about creating effective relationships that will take you to the next level or at least a lateral move to a new department that is much more productive and balanced. The more you communicate to the manager, senior manager, director and even the executive the more clarity you will gain about what truly matters to the company in terms of performance, both yours and your boss’s. You can then use that knowledge to improve your level of success, as you learn to exert your influence, guiding your network to notice your leadership skills. As you become more and more effective at sharing ideas and communicating clearly while building effective relationships, you’ll find yourself making strides with respect to your career ambitions.
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