Come on Andy

Often it is the employees that can influence relational dynamics in their workplace – but knowing how to do so successfully is key

My primary focus is on how to have a direct influence on staff performance and impact their safety culture.

However, the other night I was watching The Devil Wears Prada, a cute feel-good movie that revolves around Andrea Sachs (played by Anne Hathaway), an aspiring journalist who is trying to make it in New York. She eventually lands a job at Runway, a leading fashion magazine.

Miranda Priestly (played by Meryl Streep), the senior editor in chief, is a tyrant. She is rude, abrasive, dismissive, unsympathetic and condescending. Everything my previous articles argue that a boss should not be.

In one scene, Miranda gets stuck in Miami because of a hurricane. In spite of the fact that all aeroplanes have been grounded, she unforgivingly takes it out on Andrea. Naturally, Andrea is distraught, annoyed and frustrated. In a mood, she vents to Nigel, Miranda’s right hand man, about her boss’s maliciousness.

Unexpectedly, Nigel does not take her side. Instead, he points out that she is whining and that if things are that bad, then she should quit.

Nigel points out how clear it is that Andrea does not care about the company and has not poured her heart and soul into her work. Boom, she gets it, and with an immediate attitude change steps up to the plate.

With a new work ethic, it does not take long before she becomes a valuable asset to the company and even gains Miranda’s respect.

It is all too common to hear subordinators gripe about their bosses. There are many stories about how autocratic and insensitive they tend to be, micromanaging at every opportunity. How they constantly place unreasonable demands from the comfort of their offices, without having any comprehension of the realities on the floor.

The worst is when leaders who, while giving lip service about safety, continually push for production in a way that compromises safety.

Unfortunately, besides complaining, these subordinates, who are often leaders in their own right, do nothing about it. They passively accept the status quo.

Michael Useem advocates a call to action by leadership. He places the burden on leaders to get results, and to embrace a “whatever-it-takes” attitude. This is because what leaders do matters. It’s not about trying to score brownie points or about getting a promotion.

It’s wise to for employees to build trust and gain respect of their boss in order to effectively do their job. They have to help and guide their superiors by influencing them. This includes intentionally and proactively taking charge of the relational dynamics.

For this article, I would like to give attention to how people can be more successful in leading. Here are three practical recommendations:

Do your job

Just as subordinates moan about their bosses, the most frequent irritation leaders express is the unwillingness of their subordinates to take ownership of their work. They feel forced to micromanage, and at times jump in and do the work themselves. Leaders love people who stand up and take responsibility.

Employees should not give their boss any reason to be on their back. They should rather get the job done without making a fuss. When the boss makes an executive call, an employee should respond with a willing heart and not grudgingly. They should meet and exceed their manager’s expectations just like they would expect their own subordinates to do.

When there are setbacks or challenges, employees should avoid telling their boss about the problem, but rather about how they plan to solve it. Leaders would prefer to hear about solutions rather than problems.

Employees should always bring something to the table and not wait to be told what to do. Be efficacious, take initiative and find solutions to meet the deadline. Then keep managers in the loop by updating them about progress that has been made.

Add value to your leader

Employees have skills, experiences, insight and potential that can make them indispensable. They should look for ways to relieve the pressure from their bosses and be their go-to player by going the extra mile and picking up the ball when necessary.

Employees should learn to work with their boss’s weaknesses and avoid resisting instructions even when they are unreasonable, they should rather listen attentively and try to appreciate their boss’s perspective.

Employees should communicate in a way that shows commitment and support for their boss’s vision and expectations. They should always talk in a positive way about their boss and refuse to tolerate any unfair criticism or gossip.

Reach out and build rapport

Remember bosses are also human. Employees to do not have to become their boss’s best friend, but should find out what is important to them by showing interest, asking questions, listening and being engaged. They should learn to speak their language and express appreciation when they do well. Where appropriate, they should show interest in their personal lives, especially when it comes to their family and hobbies.

As this trusting relationship develops, employees should know when to push back and challenge and when to step back and be agreeable. They should take the appropriate opportunities to share what is important, including ideas for improvements and concerns, especially when it comes to safety.

Some bosses may feel that employees who behave this way are being fake and are sucking-up, or even that they are being weak and compromising.

I believe the adage, “If you want different results to what you are getting, you have to try different approaches,” applies here.

Employees should not be doing this to make a new best friend, but because what they do is important, because they are ambassadors and have a responsibility to be a change agent and because they are refusing to allow anyone to get hurt under their care.

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