In a recent article on VitalSmarts blog, a reader asked, “I don’t respect my boss.  Should I try to fake it?

What I hear in that statement is an unwillingness to navigate any further.  No matter how many boundaries this frustrated worker might put in place to have a good working relationship with his/her boss, it may require a great deal more energy than he/she is willing to put forth.  At that point the decision to leave is usually made.  It is easy and tempting to blame and trash the boss for the decision to leave, but this attitude will only keep the frustrated worker lingering in victim mode instead of taking responsibility for his/her actions.

Taking a self-inventory at this time will clarify the knowledge that the boss is universally like all of us: riddled with flaws but also has a potential for greatness (I don’t discount that there are truly evil individuals in the world – gratefully that is not the norm).

I admit that the qualities I don’t like most in myself, I too readily see as the weaknesses I disrespect in others.  In such instances, I ask myself, can I own that my disrespect is based on a distorted version I have of the other person? And do I wish to sustain it?

I am not negating the really bad behavior of a horrible boss.  I am saying that our actions should be based on owning our side of the problem.  We tend to view people as honest or dishonest, in control or out of control.  But here’s the thing, whatever attributes we assign to another’s behavior, this does not define the whole person.  We hold on to a person’s flaws for dear life because it validates our opinion.  We have no desire to put our egos in jeopardy.  In fact, we often mistake humility for humiliation and avoid seeing any redeeming qualities, virtues, or good, “the boss” has done because we fixate on their bad points, bad choices and weaknesses.  In my experience, people tend to focus on what’s wrong.  I wonder if we are hard-wired to do so as a survival mechanism and haven’t learned to disengage from this impulse when it’s not appropriate.  With my own understanding and training, my approach has been to use Appreciative Inquiry methods in business settings, and with personal interactions as well, by asking the question, what is working well right now and start from there.

New Perspective:

Faking it (being a phony) while making it easy on one’s self, is ultimately disrespectful to one’s own values and integrity.  It is a choice and like all choices, it has consequences.   I have seen hostility between individuals thrive for years in some workplaces.  When neither party feels respected, safety and trust is non-existent.

  • Creating safety is crucial to any conversation and a beginning to any dialogue.
  • Meeting people where they are (flex and not try to fix) engages them.
  • Introducing a small amount of trust is a position of openness and an opportunity to test the response.
  • Setting boundaries sets the stage for respect.

Acknowledging the wisdom of Joseph Grenny, one of the authors of Crucial Conversations, and other related books..

“Every time I assign a negative meaning to what takes places in my life, I become victim of my own thinking.  The way life unfolds is the plan.” – Anonymous