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’s quiet.

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?”

Bad Performance Review, Boxing, Boss Doesn't Care How Hard Work

BAM!

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.

The Recovery

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

  1. Invest in Results – Not Effort

Getting Results Performance Appraisal

 

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.

 

  1. 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.

 

  1. 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.

  1. Be Prepared For The Goalposts To Move And To Move With Them

Moving Goalposts, Rule Changing, Boss Doesn't Care How Hard You Work

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

 


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Showing 11 comments
  • Meredith
    Reply

    I wish I’d ready this post 20 years ago! You could have saved me a lot of struggles!

    • Keith Clarke
      Reply

      Thanks, Meredith!

      Anything in particular that resonated with you?

      • Meredith Hooke
        Reply

        Hi Keith,

        I think mostly just thinking about what my managers goals would have been vs mine – to be more consciously aligned with what my superiors are trying to do. I think that’s really what I got most out of this post – to be more “conscious” of what the company and my boss are moving towards and to be in step with that. Of course, now I have the best boss ever – she’s so cool – I’m completely aligned with her goals! 🙂

        • Keith Clarke
          Reply

          Ha Ha. Glad you found the perfect boss 😉 But aren’t we all our own boss at the end of the day anyway? 🙂

          The alignment is important. Not always achievable in which case other decisions need to be made, but we need to at least look for it and try it first. If we are just ‘anti’ and always fighting and ensconced in an ‘us and them’ attitude, it will always be hard. Hmmm, I think that is another post 🙂

    • Cameron
      Reply

      Totally agree. Your boss will only care if your successes make them look better.

  • Sandra
    Reply

    Interesting post Keith. That would’ve been a real challenge to come back from such an ego bashing, especially when you’d previously been given positive feedback. Well done for changing your perspective and responding rather than reacting.

    I was in a senior midwifery position for some years and my problem was an almost complete lack of feedback or performance review which was very frustrating. My boss was so overwhelmed by the position they were always the things put off. I suspect a lack of knowledge and a fear of ‘leading’, which as you say is crucial in an organisation.

    I adore now being self-employed and reviewing my own performance – as well as the feedback from clients which always keep me on track.

    • Keith Clarke
      Reply

      Hi Sandra,

      Thanks for reading and commenting 🙂

      It certainly was a challenge, but there again, most of the valuable experience I have gained has been 🙂

      Feedback is so important so that must have been difficult for you. Unfortunately it is something many managers are uncomfortable doing. I would encourage all managers / leaders to give continuous feedback and for everyone to ask for feedback if they aren’t sure how they are doing, no matter what level in an organisation you are at. Everyone needs it.

      • Sandra
        Reply

        Absolutely, couldn’t agree more. Believe me I asked, and did all I could think of to support the manager to be less afraid. In the end I let it go and got on with my job to the best of my ability rather than add to their overwhelm 😉

  • Mike
    Reply

    The lessons learned from the performance review were bang on. I hope five hour performance reviews are not the norm. I used to meet with my employees every month to do a high level gut check on their performance. It gave them an opportunity to course correct if needed and continue to build on the things that they were doing right. When performance review time came along it was short and sweet with no surprises. The fact that you had been given positive feedback from your current boss is a real life problem for many people. Many times I have seen employees go into performance reviews thinking they should get a pay raise when the company is thinking of firing them!! Never hurts to get feedback from other sources in your company on your performance. Even if it is informal.

    • Keith Clarke
      Reply

      They were bang on indeed, Mike!

      And no, they weren’t the norm. The only one 🙂 And you are absolutely right, performance review should be ongoing. The formal session should just be to capture the current situation and future goals and development. There should be no surprises in a performance review for either party.

      Managers that struggle with leadership end up trying to be friends with their staff and don’t sometimes deliver the hard feedback when required. What happens then is the manager is losing out because they aren’t getting the most from their employee, and the employee is losing out because they aren’t aware of how they can improve, so their growth is impacted. Eventually that always backfires on the manager in my experience.

      Thanks for your comment, Mike 🙂

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