(I write some articles for work, and this is borrowed and/or adapted from one of them. Enjoy!)
Every relationship has its challenges, and the relationship with your boss is no different. You have the power – and the responsibility – to make it the best relationship you can.
Any time there are two people working together, there are all kinds of opportunities to see things differently. Your boss may think you’re not skilled enough for a task you believe yourself to be. Your boss may have opinions about how you should dress or behave that you think he/she should keep private. Or your boss may prefer meeting in person when you think an email will suffice.
The good news is that taking responsibility in relationships means acknowledging that the only person you can change is you. Sure, your boss may do or say things that drive you crazy, but you can’t change him or her, and trying will only frustrate you! You don’t have to love your boss – you don’t even have to like him or her very much. But you do have to do your part.
This is where the basics from stress management come in. Apply the 3A’s – alter the situation, avoid the situation, or accept the situation and alter your response to it.
First is altering – what can you change in the world around you so that your boss’s behavior doesn't impact you so much? If your boss thinks you’re not skilled enough for a task, for example, can you alter the way you demonstrate your skills? Provide a weekly recap of all the things you did that prove you’re up for the task.
Second is avoiding – how can you reduce your exposure to the things that drive you crazy? This does not mean avoiding your boss completely! But it does mean that if the conversation finds its way to your boss’s opinions about your personal life, you can adeptly steer it in another direction. You don’t avoid your boss, you avoid the topics that cause the most stress.
And third is accepting the situation and altering your response to it – what do you need to think or do differently so that your boss’s behavior doesn't make you nuts? If your boss prefers meeting when an email will suffice, accept that there are going to be times you’ll have to spend an extra ten or twenty minutes when you’d rather be doing something else. If you change your expectations from “why doesn't she just email?” to “she prefers meeting, I can live with it” you may find yourself feeling less stressed about the relationship.
This last principle is the most important in avoiding stress in general, and I can see it all the time on the subway. When there are delays, you can’t alter the circumstances. (Unless, of course, you know how to drive a train.) You can’t avoid the situation; you’re smack in the middle of it. And so all you can do is accept the situation and alter your response to it. Instead of thinking (or, perhaps vocalizing, as New Yorkers tend to do) that this train needs to move or I’m going to be really late, you can accept that you’ll be stuck here for a minute or two and you can use the time to start thinking about what you’ll need to do next to mitigate the impacts of the delay.
I heard a great quote which covers this fairly well: if you can do something about it, why worry? And if you can’t do something about it, why worry?
All of this ties back to your responsibility to the relationship with your boss – or with anyone. Are you taking care of you? Are you bringing your best self to the relationship? Or are you blaming it all on your boss and hoping that, magically, he or she will a) know what exactly needs to change, and b) be able to do it?