My first job as a research assistant taught me many things, including that achieving quality time with the boss requires a lot of self-discipline. Self-discipline is a key aspect of effective management. In order to achieve it, I need to be clear about my boss’s priorities, have empathy for their challenges and, above all, know how to make myself easy to manage – this is where the self-discipline comes in.
If I want a happy boss, then I need a high level of self-awareness ¬– knowing my strengths and my potential blind spots. It is also helpful to be mindful of how the human brain works. Luckily, I am a bachelor student of psychology, so I know the main principle of neuroscience – we are primarily motivated by both the desire for safety and pleasure, and the avoidance of pain and loss of security. I may be more motivated by one or the other, and as long as I am consciously aware of which it is, I can adjust accordingly if I become blindly optimistic and complacent, or pessimistically skeptical and stressed. Armed with self-awareness and robust self-discipline, it is relatively simple to make my boss happy.
Yet, there is another aspect that needs to be taken into account here: what are the most important priorities for my boss, and what do I need to accomplish in order for my boss to achieve those priorities.
At my first day at work as a research assistant, I asked my boss what her expectations and her priorities were. I could see that she was stressed and I could grasp that it could be lonely as the boss. There is often less support at higher levels, because the higher you go, the higher the stakes, since everyone wants and expects a return on their investment. She told me that it is essential for the project to find a certain amount of participants and to get the data right. For her, this was her main concern. She also asked for adhering to the deadlines as closely as possible, because her work depends on ours, and if we cannot do it on time, neither could she.
Knowing my boss’s priorities made it quite straightforward to identify mine – I had to find 25 participants in the allocated time, and I had to make sure that the data I collected was as truthful as possible. Needless to say, I was at the top of my work. Unfortunately for my boss, lots of the research assistants at the project were not taking it seriously enough, and they were slacking off or even quitting without giving any notification in advance. As a result, my boss wrote an email that we needed 30 more participants in order to meet the demanded quota. I decided to take the initiative and asked two of my fellow colleagues to join me in finding the needed participants. At the end, we achieved the goal of the project – participants’ information was collected, data was analyzed and the report with the final conclusions was released. On top of that, I, and the colleagues that helped me, received a bonus for a job well-done. My boss was happy, and so was I.
At the end of the day, we all want to enjoy work – even our difficult boss. We spend a huge part of our waking hours in our workplace, and our jobs become intrinsic parts of our personalities and future plans. I had the impression that all bosses are sour and make workplaces unhappy. Movies are to blame here – seeing Meryl Streep in The Devil Wears Prada acting as a fearsome boss made me concerned for my first job. I had always imagined that just like her character – my boss would terrorize and insult the majority of her employees, including me. Luckily, that is why movies are just movies and reality is a completely different story. Keeping the management happy is a good strategy for ensuring you have a happy life. Do it and your sour boss might just as well turn into a sweet one. Nesrin Nazlieva