I was at lunch with a high level finance executive the other day when his cell phone rang. He looked at the number displayed on the screen and his face turned beet red – I think I even saw a couple of purple splotches mixed in.
He let the call go to voicemail and his face color returned to normal after a few minutes.
“Everything OK?” I asked.
“My employees are going to kill me,” he said. “They’re driving me crazy.”
Since I’ve written a book about how employees drive their bosses crazy, I couldn’t resist pursuing more questions. After a while he shared a story about an employee who constantly called or texted him, reporting some perceived misdeed in the office. Other employees continually griped about what they didn’t have, always giving the impression that whatever he did for them wasn’t enough.
The executive told me that he wondered if employees ever realized how much additional stress they piled on him. He said that he was never off the clock, often putting in 14-hour days, working weekends and receiving emails from his boss at 2 a.m. While he knew that stress was part of his job, he told me that he felt like a non-person in the eyes of his employees who seemed to think nothing of dumping even the most trivial problems on him.
Sometimes workers believe that whatever the boss is going through can never be as bad as what they’re experiencing, and often make no attempt to put themselves in the boss’s shoes. Managers often are blamed for everything from diminishing health benefits to broken snack machines. But they can get just as discouraged and feel just as unappreciated as any other employee – they’re just not supposed to show it.
However, learning to show a little appreciation for the job a boss does can pay off in a number of ways, not the least of which is a better relationship between you and your boss. While you don’t want to be a total suck-up, there’s nothing wrong with showing a little compassion for what the boss goes through every day and respecting him as a person.
Some ways to score points with the boss and make both of you feel good include:
• Sending the boss a thank-you note. Make sure you send a note thanking the boss if you get a big project or a bonus, but also take note of small gestures on her part. Sending a thank-you email after she gives you a great idea for handling a difficult client or lets you take an extended lunch hour to run some errands shouldn’t be overlooked.
• Taking the boss out for lunch. It’s usually expected that the boss pays for a meal. After all, she makes more money than you, right? But it’s a nice gesture to ask the boss out and then pick up the tab sometimes. If you can’t afford lunch, a cup of coffee or soda shouldn’t set you back too far.
• Showing respect for the boss’s partner. As the summer holidays approach, bosses sometimes will open their homes for a barbecue or have an offsite picnic for the staff. At these events, make a point of introducing yourself to the boss’s significant other if you haven’t met before and express your appreciation for the partner’s efforts at the event. Don’t try and wheedle information about the boss out of the spouse or partner, and make sure you say goodbye to the boss and significant other before leaving.
• Congratulating the boss on success. If your boss is recognized by the local Kiwanis or given the Presidential Medal of Freedom, make sure you send a personal congratulatory note, including a copy of the notice from a local newspaper or professional publication if possible. Employees aren’t the only ones that appreciate having their accomplishments recognized.
• Remembering that bosses are human. If the boss has a new grandchild, send a note. If you feel close to the boss, it’s even better to get him or her something like a picture frame for the new baby’s photo. Other momentous events also should recognized, such as a death in the family.
Don’t forget that bosses also have had to make sacrifices for their jobs. They may have stresses you don’t know about, so don’t assume they don’t need a word of appreciation or encouragement sometimes. And the best part of it is that your kind words may make you feel better, as well.