Q: I am certain that I am underpaid, given my responsibilities. Unfortunately, doing anything about it requires me to deal with my boss, who is extremely difficult. What can I do?
A: A difficult boss is a tough obstacle to overcome, but you can do it. Try these approaches:
· Focus on the Problem, not the Person
No matter how difficult or pleasant your boss, the real issue has to do with the fairness of your compensation. The more attention you pay to the substantive matters, the less you will be sidetracked by your boss's personality defects.
· Listen and Learn as Much as You Advocate
Chances are your boss will have a strong point of view that he or she will insist upon stating. Instead of fighting with your boss over whether that perspective is right, just listen. Once you understand your boss's point of view, and he or she realizes that you "get it," you can provide your different perspective. If you have taken the time to hear your boss out out, he or she will more readily grant you the same courtesy.
· Do the Hard Creative Work
You probably cannot count on your boss to come up with a solution that takes into account your views as well as his or her own view, or to significantly improve the situation by thinking outside the box. So be proactive and get prepared to do this type of creative problem solving for the both of you. As you do so, make sure you include your boss's views and input so it feels like a joint problem solving session.
· Stress the Legitimacy of Your Desires
Even the most difficult of people tend to view themselves as fair and therefore want to act in ways that leave others feeling fairly treated. So, as you seek more compensation, stress that it is merely an opportunity for the company to treat a valued employee fairly. If you can, gather data about what others in similar positions in the company are making and compare those figures to your own salary.
· Consider Your Alternatives
If your boss is just too nasty, stubborn or useless to deal with directly, can you approach another senior manager? Is there someone else who can take up your case for more compensation on your behalf? If so, consider bypassing this difficult person in order to make progress.
· Get Commitments in Writing
No matter how much progress you make in conversations with your boss, unless those discussions are put in writing you may find it hard to get them enforced. So, even if all you can get is an exchange of emails, or just a letter from you detailing the points that you agreed upon, get all promises in writing.
Job Stress Management Tips to Start Today
Stress. Pressure. Anxiety. Tension. Whatever you call it, there is no shortage of it in todays fast-paced, technologically advanced workplace. Consider these statistics:
- Stress-related disorders are fast becoming the most prevalent reason for worker disability according to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.
- Job stress and related problems cost American companies an estimated $200 billion or more annually through absenteeism, turnover, accidents, etc.
- The World Health Organization calls job stress a "worldwide epidemic."
Obviously stress has a powerful impact on us. Can we eliminate the stressors of modern work life? No -- and its a good thing we cant. We need a certain degree of stress in our lives to spur us to action, challenge our perception of what we are capable of, and help us reach new levels of performance. The trick is learning how to manage the stress versus being overwhelmed by it.
Bill Delano, founder of Job Stress Help, an Internet service that provides confidential, individualized advice via email to those experiencing job stress, has these suggestions:
In with the Good Air, Out with the Bad
Take a breathing break. Frequent short breaks during the day allow you to breathe deeply and relax your mind, preventing stress build-up.
Know the Enemy
What, exactly, is stressing you out? Is it your job? Your home life? Your relationships? Without knowing the root of the problem, you are unlikely to resolve it. If you are having difficulty identifying the source of your stress, seek professional help from your Employee Assistance Program or a mental health professional.
Move It or Lose It
Begin an exercise program. Exercise helps release endorphins, which relieves stress.
Recognize the difference between the things you can control and the things you cannot. Make a list of these two categories. Starting today, make a pact with yourself to stop stressing about the things in your job you have no control over.
Beware of the To Do List
Take note of all the good work you do and give yourself credit for it. Set short-term goals and allow yourself to take satisfaction in achieving them.
Develop a Tough Skin
Try not to personalize any criticism you receive. Look at negative comments as constructive criticism that allows you to improve your work. If however, the criticism is verbally abusive, e.g., your boss yells at you or uses vulgar language, discuss this problem with your manager or human resources department.
Share the Load
Delegate or share work whenever possible. Dont fall into the trap of thinking you are the only person who can do the job right. Your coworkers and boss might start to buy into that concept as well.
Dont Make Work a Four Letter Word.
Job stress builds when our minds are constantly focused on work. Strive for balance in your life. Make time for family, friends, hobbies and, most importantly, fun.
Know Your Rights
Read the Guide to Workplace Law by the American Bar Association. Its important to know your rights as an employee or employer.
Although learning to manage a stressful job is important, sometimes it makes more sense to leave it. How can you determine when its time to give your job the heave-ho? You know its time to quit when:
- Youve tried all the appropriate channels and methods for resolving your situation, to no avail (or the appropriate channels are not made available).
- Your boss is intimidating, disrespectful or demeaning to you.
- You are so bored on the job that you are exhausted by the end of the day. If you dont have an upwardly mobile career path that challenges you to grow professionally, its time to look for a more interesting position.