“The position of a boss is an interesting relationship you know. Essentially you get thrown in with this dominant person that you spend more time with than your husband or your wife. You haven’t necessarily chosen to be with them, and yet you are spending whatever it is, 40 hours a week, with this person that’s “large and in charge” and you haven’t chosen to be there. So, you know if marriage or family relationships are difficult how much more workplace scenarios when there’s a forced hierarchy.”

Graeme Richards: Welcome back you incredibly awesome people! Thank you so much for tuning in for what has been a brilliant start. I hope you guys are feeling awesome this morning we’re going to empower you even more right now. In an ideal world, we would all have fantastic managers and bosses, who help us succeed, make us feel valued (like we try to do every morning) and are just all-round great people. Unfortunately, that is not always the case and for whatever reason, you have to kind of inform a tense relationship with your superior. You still have to make the best of the situation and ultimately get the job done exactly.

Leigh-Anne Williams: So today we are asking if you are dealing with tense relations with your superior? Now this morning were joined by psychologist and CEO of emotional intelligence development platform, Mygrow, Mark Baker to help us discuss this hot topic. We would love to hear your questions and comments as well so you can call us on 021 110 5552, or you can comment on our Facebook page and we will engage with you live.

Graeme Richards: It’s an opportunity to plug into one of the best brains in the business, Mark, welcome to it. Buddy let’s start by being overt.  We’re not judging our bosses, we’re not judging our workers. We are judging the relationship. A very complex relationship between the two. I think first we have to understand the position of a boss and everyone has a story to tell about their boss. We are all subject to that relationship and often getting the job done means having tension. Why is a boss so visible and why do they stand out to the degree that they do, first of all in the workplace? What do you think? 

Mark Baker: The position of a boss is an interesting relationship you know. Essentially you get thrown in with this dominant person that you spend more time with than your husband or your wife. You haven’t necessarily chosen to be with them, and yet you are spending whatever it is, 40 hours a week, with this person that’s “large and in charge” and you haven’t chosen to be there. So, you know if marriage or family relationships are difficult, how much more workplace scenarios when there’s a forced hierarchy? Your question about why they are so prominent, I think that’s the role of a manager or a leader. To be responsible for getting the job done. Essentially, I think the nature of leadership or management is to influence yeah and so there needs to be kind of a dominant role so that there’s a structure. There’s a forced relationship dynamic that I think makes it quite challenging from the outset. 

Leigh-Anne Williams: Do you think that someone in leadership is more vulnerable to criticism from subordinates or even dislike?

Mark Baker: There’s that saying, “The tallest trees catch the most wind.” I think ultimately there’s a slight problem with some of the younger generations coming into the workplace in that there is a sense in which we hear that the world exists to make our lives awesome. And actually ultimately there is a job to be done, you mentioned that in the intro, and that manager or that leader, or whoever it is that is responsible for a department or the outcomes of something, is actually responsible for that. Their responsibility is your work, and so that creates quite a tussle and quite a struggle because some people are trying to get as little done and get paid as much or as little done as possible and the managers are trying to get as much achieved as possible through the people they work with. 

Graeme Richards: This is a spectrum. A spectrum of relationship, a spectrum of ability, a spectrum of responsibilities all within this and we’ve got to somehow find a personal connection so that we can get the best out of each other. I think we often forget it’s a two-way street. As much as your boss can empower you, you can also empower your boss or your manager if things have broken down. What is the best way to approach the situation to escalate it in order to get a favorable outcome? Is it a. Do I speak to my manager directly?”, or “Do I go to human resources”. How do I approach dealing with one of those difficult situations?

Mark Baker: I want to make a joke and say you should be as mean as possible. I think it boils down essentially to a set of skills called emotional intelligence. It is like a two-way street. That set of skills are like psychological muscles that a manager is going to have to a certain or lesser degree and an employee is going to have to a certain or lesser degree. Those muscles are going to impact on the way that relationship plays out. The typical solution is things are bad, go and talk to HR. And that’s all good and well but there’s really only certain scenarios where you probably want to go and have a conversation with HR and that’s when they are really bad or really on the extremes. But in those delicate moments that are really the most awkward and most frustrating over time, it’s emotional intelligence that helps two people to navigate that both, for the leader and the subordinate job

Graeme Richards: Very tricky tricky waters.

Leigh-Anne Williams: Certainly is. Well  if you are dealing with some tense relations with your superior we would love to hear your questions or even your comment for a psychologist, Mark Baker you so you can call us on 021 110 5552 or even just post a comment on our Facebook page and we will engage with you after this

Leigh-Anne Williams: Welcome back to your feel-good breakfast show Expresso on SABC 3. Well it’s Monday and we are talking relationships and today psychologist and CEO of emotional intelligence development platform Mygrow, Mark Baker, is in the hot seat to help us discuss how you can improve tense relations with your manager or boss at work and we would love to hear your questions or even for psychologist Mark Baker so call us on 021 110 5552 or send us a comment on our Facebook page and we will engage with you. We have a caller on the line.

Caller: Very good morning, this is an excellent topic! I find that those in leadership positions are uninformed and that some people are in management roles, but aren’t properly trained. So, this means management figures without the knowledge then control people.

Graeme Richards: Are you dealing with a situation like that yourself or maybe I can ask you what advice do you have for someone who is dealing with a similar situation?

Caller: I am currently dealing with a situation like that. A common theme is that these managers are not trained. In fact, I want senior management to train these people and send them on leadership courses because there a lot of dynamics that go into being a manager. 

Graeme Richards: Thank you so much man for weighing in. You raise a couple of really pertinent questions today and you always know in studio when everyone’s nodding, because we feel that this is the reality. There are going to be a lot of managers that might be younger. I mean this is a can of worms that we can we can possibly open with this, but and what is your take?

Mark Baker:  I think this is a problem that we see so much in different companies. Often the first person to get promoted into a managerial role is the one that stands out technically, so they have this technical ability, they get promoted into a managerial role. Imagine you’re all peers and you’ve all been around the watercooler together, now suddenly this person gets promoted. It’s a higher salary and different responsibilities. Essentially the reporting lines change and the person, quite rightly as the caller said, doesn’t have the leadership competence or managerial history or skill to navigate that. It’s a huge problem in organizations.

Graeme Richards: So, what do you do to help that person grow into that role? The reality is that they are your boss. They are going to be managing you and what are you doing to empower them? Do you go to the structures above and bang your fist against the wall or how do you deal with it?

Mark Baker: Yeah, I mean it is a complex question. The simple answer is training and development. You know I mean with the BEE scorecard in South Africa, the whole point of transformation and growing South Africa as a company in terms of our human resource is training and development. I think that the main thing. Train your leaders, specifically in the arena of emotional intelligence as it is the dominant part of leadership. Then you know there’s these cultural aspects you were mentioning that in the break you know that just developing the culture of the organization helps people to be a little bit softer towards each other, a little bit more pliable in the way they interact with each other, more understanding of that humans are just humans. You know that the boss or the manager is just another human trying to do their best

Leigh-Anne Williams: Talking about humans being humans, let’s say you are dealing with a difficult boss or there are tense relations between you, the subordinate, and your leader, most times we gravitate to venting to our colleagues what are the pros and what are the cons is this situation? What is venting and what is undermining? 

Mark Baker: I mean can I just start with the cons? If I come to you and start saying about Graeme you know …. Graeme I can’t believe he was doing this . Even if it’s obvious to you, it leaves you with a sense that Mark is potentially saying this about me to someone else. Subconsciously there’s this kind of gossip-filled, malicious breaking down of others that starts coming in. Unfortunately for the person doing it or sharing it, it just actually starts breaking down people’s views of them and ultimately starts excluding them. Because on the surface it looks like I’m part of that the “inner circle that all hates the boss” but ultimately it just starts eroding trust and so there’s definitely negatives about that. I would say on the positive side you probably do want to get another perspective from someone you know. I would find it quite helpful to chat to people in your personal life and try and give them an objective view of what’s happening. So often it’s poor performance that leads to a struggle or a tussle between a boss and a manager. It’s difficult to say that but what I mean is that we need to up our game. Yes, be awesome and you’re probably not going to have the same kind of tussle with your manager because all they are trying to do is achieve their KPIs and what their mandate is.

Graeme Richards: And I suppose ultimately this might be a bitter pill to swallow, but if you are feeling like someone else is the reason that you’re underperforming, you might be passing the buck. There is always something that you can do. If you’re strong and confident within your own performance, that gives you in any scenario/situation of literally a link to stellar markets. that’s been great I feel more emotionally right now but thank you so much for everyone who weighed in and I know it can be a very difficult thing to broach. One of the most complex dynamics I think in certain scenarios and we may not get to choose our boss but we do get to choose how we react to those tough situations in life, whether it’s work or outside of work. Being dealt a hand that includes a difficult boss is not fun, we can relate to you certainly, but with the right mindset, the right approach and the right emotional intelligence, you can make it work until you’re able to move on to either a better environment or help evolve your own environment to make it better for you and your boss and that’s ultimately what it’s all about. 


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