Your Boss Doesn’t Care How Hard You Work: 4 Ways To Change That
I’m in work.
I have been a senior manager for a couple of years now. It’s still early in my career but I work hard and I think that I do a reasonably good job.
And I’m about to find out that my boss doesn’t care one bit about how hard I work!
The New Boss
He’s been around a little while now.
He watches a lot. Listens a lot. Asks some very specific questions now and again.
And bores through you with his eyes.
He doesn’t say much.
And his presence is a little unnerving.
Eventually I will like him a lot, build a good relationship with him, and look to him as my mentor. But that only happens after he practically destroys me.
The Performance Review
I was working for a company that ran the distribution contract for a big multi-national supermarket chain. Our customer insisted that all our managers go through their new carefully designed performance review every three months. These reviews were a little on the lengthy side. Normally around the 90 minute to two hour mark.
I already thought this was long, but I was about to have the longest performance review of my life.
Normally it would be my immediate manager conducting this review. However the new big boss had decided he wanted to sit in. So the dynamic changed.
It felt a bit different, but we proceeded as normal. We started at 4.30 pm and I thought, OK, that’s not too bad, I should be out by 6.30 pm. How wrong I was.
The Boss Doesn’t Care How Hard You Work
I left that performance review, in the dark, at 9.30 pm, feeling like I had lasted 12 rounds with Mike Tyson, having somehow stayed on my feet to keep taking the punches.
I had never experienced anything like that up to this point (and thankfully have never experienced anything like it since).
My new boss had wiped the floor with me over a grueling five hours!
He had found fault in everything I had been doing for the last few years. Everything that up until that point I thought was good.
You may have heard the adage only ask a question you already know the answer to. Well I wish I had taken that advice.
I was so punch-drunk coming to the end of the fight review that I asked incredulously, ‘Is there anything at all that’s good that you see?”
He blindsided me with an uppercut shaped like a big slow motion ‘No’. I’m now Rocky Balboa going down and I don’t even know who Adrian is at this stage.
‘Nothing?’ I croaked.
‘Nothing’ he said
The Next Day
The next day he asked me to take a walk with him around the warehouse. He asked how I was feeling.
I was still shell shocked, but managed to express how dismayed I was that he thought everything was so wrong.
He proceeded to share his wisdom with me. He didn’t take back any of the punches. But he gave me a way forward (even though I didn’t fully realise it at the time).
I think it took me over 6 months to fully recover from this. Never before had I had a bad performance review. I thought about leaving.
I stayed and did my job. I got better at it. I got over my pummeling. I was selected to become the General Manager of our smaller sister site ahead of my colleagues. The tide had turned.
Later I would be promoted to Human Resources Manager, now advising Mike Tyson on how best to lead his people without knocking them out whenever he needed to make a point.
It took some time but the lessons I learned became invaluable.
Boss Doesn’t Care How Hard You Work – The Lessons
Invest in Results – Not Effort
Those giving less effort but focusing on the right things will seem to go further quicker.
Adams Equity Theory then kicks because you feel there is an unfair balance between what you put into your job and what you are getting out of it. So then your motivation starts to wane.
Giving 100% is not enough if it’s only your agenda. If you’re not getting the ‘right’ results the effort becomes almost meaningless, no matter how well intentioned.
If you invest primarily in your effort it also makes it more difficult to take criticism in the right way thus stunting your growth. Know the results that are required and direct your effort precisely.
Align with your business goals
What you are focusing on will have a direct correlation to how meaningful your effort becomes. To start with, you need to understand what your company goals are, and the goals of your immediate manager.
I know this sounds harsh, but it doesn’t matter what you think the focus points are. You need to be aligned with the company and your manager or you will be fighting upstream. If you don’t like it, you will struggle. If you hate your job then maybe you need to look at it differently
There is a time for expressing your views and a time for disagreeing with a particular direction. That time is after you have established the right rapport by showing you can align with the bigger picture. You must do this first.
Be Proactive, Not Reactive
Much of the effort I put into my role up to that performance review was reacting to things as they happened. Rushing around putting out fires but standing still in the process. This was one of the main points my boss had been trying to get through to me.
It’s not about chasing, it’s about leading. And this proactive principle can be applied even if you have a non-managerial position. It’s about how you approach your day, about how you approach your work.
One way to ensure this in advance is to open up a dialogue with your boss. Get clarification. Don’t be afraid to ask the stupid questions. Ask for feedback regularly – this is your rudder.
Be Prepared For The Goalposts To Move And To Move With Them
This was the one I hadn’t been expecting before. Before the new boss came in I was getting feedback. Feedback that told me I was on track.
Yes I had learned lessons and gained experience. But managing in an organisation of 100 employees is vastly different to managing in an organisation of 600. This is where I was headed.
The organisation needed to step up as the contract grew and bigger hitters were brought in. Those of us already there were being measured against a different standard now. We were required to step up.
It wasn’t that my performance had dropped. It wasn’t even that I wasn’t doing what I should have been. The rules changed. That is all. And yes, that sucks.
But life has a way of suddenly changing the rules. You can bemoan the fact that the rules have changed, or change with them. The choice is yours. But I have noticed that in all avenues of life, not just work, the rules have a habit of doing that. Nothing stays the same.
Understand Why You Are There
You need to know what is expected from you in your role. It is important to know what your company is measuring you on. What results are expected? What competencies and values do they want to see demonstrated? How do these fit with your aspirations, goals and values and are there any clashes. If promotion is on your mind, this is even more critical.
Life isn’t always fair. There isn’t always an equal measure coming back from what is given out. But with the right focus, alignment, and being proactive rather than reactive, it’s possible to get better results and redress that balance.
And that’s when people start to care about the effort we are putting in. Think your boss doesn’t care how hard you work? You know what to do.
NOTE: If you would like to get some clarity and find solutions to a difficult time you are having at work, then Set up a Free Consultation with me Now to discover how I can help you turn your situation around.
Main Image Courtesy of JD Hancock
Goalposts Image Courtesy of Bosc D’Anjou
Results Image Courtesy of Nguyen Hung Vu
Boxing Image Courtesy of Fort Carson