Maybe you will recognize this situation. You are in a meeting with management and you are full of good ideas. During the process you have presented some of these valuable ideas. But none of your suggestions get enough attention, let alone they would be taken into account or even noted down. And you ask yourself what you are doing there. I bet you thought that in many cases your ideas will find their way upstairs, but of course it was your boss’s idea.
Unfortunately this is a scene that almost daily repeats itself in companies around the world.
Why is that?
I am deliberately going to make a confrontational statement here. It is because a lot of the executives I know are partly or to a greater extent narcissistic! Few exceptions made of course. It means that they are so full of themselves that other people’s opinions are not very important to them. They would rather listen to themselves and not to their staff or even other bosses, as they never feel they are the problem. They are just looking for power, influence and success. However, much to the detriment of staff and thus productivity.
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Having a boss like this creates a toxic working environment for virtually everyone who will be in contact with this individual. The team perspective ceases to exist, and the work atmosphere becomes increasingly stressful. Productivity typically plummets as well.
Research supports these adverse effects. For example, people who report working for this type of boss had lower levels of job satisfaction, saw their stress levels increase over the previous year, were less appreciative of their work and organization, reported lower levels of effort and performance and were more prone to sadness and frustration at work.
One classic example of a leader who altered his behavior to more attentively listen to others was Steve Jobs. Much of Jobs’ success upon returning to the helm at Apple in 1997 was attributed to the drastic change in his interpersonal behavior from his prior tenure in 1985.
Not only was he more willing to listen to his employees, but he was described as someone who seemed to relish other people’s ideas. Research indicated that employees are likely to discount their narcissistic leaders’ more abrasive qualities when those leaders take the time to actively listen to their suggestions.
This sounds to me like the ultimate proof!
Bosses of the world, this is what your employees really want. Your staff wants to share their knowledge and think with you about how to tackle problems. But they also want appreciation. If time and again it turns out that there is no interest in what you say, think and know, you withdraw. Bosses should start understanding this very important fact. After all, what are your staff paid for and how can you use them to the maximum of their capabilities?
So, here you have it once again, please take heed and make your own life a lot easier as well.
But there is something more to this as well. Everyone has expectations, dreams and wishes. And certainly at work. When we enter into an employment contract, we make agreements about hard matters, such as salary, working hours, duration, options for whether or not to work from home, holidays, severance pay and many more. In fact, everyone should realize that this contract, on the basis of your future working time, is one of the most important parts of your relationship with the company. A solid contract can give you a sound basis for your working future, although it does not fully protect you against the tricks of the boss.
Then the introduction phase follows. You will make your acquaintance with colleagues and the initiation in “our” ways, the ways of this particular company.
During those first contacts there are mutual unspoken expectations. Expectations were so self-evident that it never occurs to anyone to say them out loud. It is normal. And this is exactly where things might go wrong. Here misunderstandings can arise and there could be a lack of understanding. A negative spiral develops and what remains is the question: What can I do to have a little fun here? Bosses will step into this void.
If a boss is not paying attention to you, some action can and should be taken. However, one warning: striving for the ideal situation is an illusion and therefore a waste of time. Realize that you are simply forced to spend some of your time with that incomprehensible supervisor. Managers who are often emotionally illiterate. The only solution to make it more pleasant for yourself is to work on a second-best situation. Realizing this will make your work much more pleasant, but….
How do you do that?
By trying to understand your boss better. In order to do that you will need to find out about his interests what is going on in his private life and at work; what is he being judged on. If you are willing and able to understand the needs and feelings of your manager, it helps you to see and experience the situation differently. This is no recipe for success, but for some of us this will definitely work.
My final thoughts
I hope to have proven to you that it is very much in the interest of bosses to engage more with their employees, e.g. listen to what they have to say and involve them in solutions.
Many bosses have too many narcissistic traits and refuse or cannot even see that other people’s ideas can considerably contribute to the company’s success. But it can be turned, see Steve Jobs’ change for the better.
You can help yourself by getting to know your managers better and finding out what makes them tick. Maybe you will see some surprising facts. But what if you do not?
My real thoughts, however, are with the people, who will not be able to live through all this and find themselves in trouble time and again with their bosses. To them I say: It is time for a change! And I mean real change.
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