Office politics #3

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Five o'clock - brilliant - time to go home.

They say that one of the biggest causes of stress at work is the boss - and boy do you understand why. It's been a non-stop drip feeding of tasks today. And of course, they all need to be done yesterday. She doesn't seem to understand that you also have your own work to do. And if only she could be a bit more polite when she asks you to do things. Oh, and bit of gratitude wouldn't go amiss either. How can you make sure that your boss is managing you in the way you want to be managed?

First, do your bit ...

Try, just for a minute, putting yourself into your boss's shoes. Why is she behaving like this today? What are her pressures and concerns? What work (and home) related problems are likely to be grinding her down? How will she be feeling as a result? This can often be a tricky exercise, and it's especially difficult if you really clash with the individual. But thinking it through will help you to understand where your boss is coming from and therefore what she might want from you. Help her by working in a way which is going to make her life easier. Try to be positive: instead of coming up with reasons why something can't be done, focus on how you could make it work. Be realistic about what can be delivered, and deliver what you promise.

Then help your boss to do her bit ...

You now have some credit in the bank. You are being supportive, empathetic and helping your boss to do her job better. It's time to give her some feedback about how she should be managing you.

Think carefully about what you want her to do differently. Be, selective: if you bombard her with a whole host of requests she will be unlikely to listen, let alone change! Think through how you are going to give this feedback. She will be more inclined to acknowledge negative points if you have first told her what you like about her style. Acknowledge your faults and suggest things you can do to improve. Most importantly, explain your motivation. This is not about having a nicer or an easier time at work, it's about how you can be more effective and provide a better service. Of course, you will enjoy work more, but what's wrong with a win-win situation?

Maintain an open relationship ...

This shouldn't be a one off. Good working relationships take time to develop. You will need to continue giving your boss feedback - praising positive change and dropping gentle reminders about promises made - and encourage her to do the same for you. Keep her informed about what's going on in your work. If there's a problem, don't let it fester. Let her know quickly and try to have your solution ready. Make it easy for her to help you help her.

Learn to say no ...

Remember, nine times out of ten your focus should be positive. But you need to know where to draw the line. If you overload yourself you run the risk of damaging your overall performance, not to mention your state of mind. So there will be times when you just have to say no. Learn to do it in the right way. Outline all the other tasks you currently have on your plate and ask which of these she is prepared to let slip. Alternatively, suggest someone else who might be able to do the job and offer to brief them. Always present yourself as someone who solves rather than creates problems.

Manage your boss effectively and you can transform your working life.

John Nicholson and Jane Clarke are directors of Nicholson McBride, the business psychology consultancy.