Interpersonal Edge: Make boss 'get real' about expectations
Friday, December 28, 2012

By Dr. Daneen Skube
Tribune Media Services
Q. My boss has ridiculous expectations about what I should do at work. I'm getting exhausted from him telling me to "fly" and me having to explain why I can't. Is there any diplomatic way to get a boss to get real when it comes to expectations of employees.
  A. Yes, you have to engage in two tasks to get your boss to "get real." First, find out what is making him so anxious he actually believes employees should fly. Second, make sure you get him to give you a formula for "flying." When he can't give you directions, his expectations will automatically become more realistic.
  In today's high-pressure corporate circles, bosses are often under ridiculous pressure themselves from their managers. Ironically, the higher up the food chain you are in corporate America, the more likely you have superiors expecting you to leap small buildings and have super powers.
  Very few people in your workplace are clever enough to do what you are about to learn in this column: how to identify the underlying goal behind the "flying" directive and contribute to this goal. Most people just agree to "fly" and then stop sleeping, since they know they can't escape gravity.
  Since we all are wired to take the behavior of other people personally, most employees simply assume their boss is trying to make their job impossible. Most employees don't stop and consider that the boss of their boss is probably doing the same to their manager.
  Before you ask your boss what drugs he has been smoking lately or some other clever response, try to find out how "flying" will make the job of your boss easier. Asking questions like, "If I fly, how will that help our team?" should reveal the goals your boss has in mind. 
  If you ask these identifying questions, you'll discover "flying" really wasn't necessary. Your boss actually needs to increase sales, solve certain problems, or save the company money. If you can fix these problems, no one will care if you don't solve them while soaring over your cubicle in a red cape.
  The secret to dealing with unrealistic bosses is to understand that you are simply dealing with a really anxious human being. Really anxious human beings are rarely rational and often do and say things that make no sense. Clever employees know that if they want to calm their boss down, they have to find out what he is scared about, acknowledge that problem, and come up with plans to help fix the issue.
  Once you have the issue your boss is nervous about defined, you'll be able to use your normal workplace skills to do the job of a skilled human employee - no super powers required. You'll feel confident, your boss will be calm, and no one will have to feel inadequate that he or she isn't a superhero.
  The last word(s)
  Q. I have a rare opportunity at work but I am not certain I have the skills for the task. Should I still take on the project?
  A. Yes, anxiety about being inadequate is temporary. Expanding your talents and self-assurance at work is permanent.
Daneen Skube, Ph.D., executive coach, trainer, therapist and speaker. She's the author of "Interpersonal Edge: Breakthrough Tools for Talking to Anyone, Anywhere, About Anything" (Hay House, 2006).   Contact her at or 1420 NW Gilman Blvd., #2845, Issaquah, WA 98027. 
This was printed in the December 30, 2012 - January 12, 2013 Edition

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