Understand the Boss’s Perspective to Get Ahead at Work

by Marie on July 18, 2013 · 2 comments

Anton Ego, the food critic character in the movie Ratatouille said (when asked what he wanted to try at the restaurant):

“After reading a lot of overheated puffery about your new cook, you know what I’m craving? A little perspective. That’s it. I’d like some fresh, clear, well seasoned perspective.

Sometimes a bit of perspective is what we need at work. We humans have a habit of becoming enmeshed in our own little view of the world, forgetting that others see things differently. As a department manager and as a project manager I supervised people and projects. As such, sometimes I had a very different perspective on the behavior of those employees than they did. Sometimes, what they thought was impressive and acceptable, looked to me like a disaster waiting to happen.

As Marcus Aurelius (an early Roman Emperor and philosopher) is thought to have said:

“Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact. Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth.”

Differences in perspective.

Here are a few examples of how differences in perspective between you and the boss can cause problems for you along with some suggested solutions. Read your own situation though, these solutions may or may not work for you!

What you call networking – the boss calls wasting time or gossiping.

If you consistently visit with others for an hour or more, the boss will eventually observe. Even if you are using the time to network and build good work relationships, what the boss sees are two people not working – chatting and laughing for hours.

Solution: Make sure you are talking business when the boss is walking around. Limit visits, network elsewhere.

What you call research – the boss calls goofing off on the internet.

Freeforming on the internet might start out as research for a project but your boss may see it as you, goofing off, and looking to shop on company time.

Solution: Document your research results, showing where you got the information. Talk to the boss about how many ideas you get using the internet.

What you call honing your productivity – the boss calls sleeping on the job.

Naps are good, right? Research shows they make you more productive in the afternoon. But your boss, walking around at 1 PM may not realize you are taking lunch and sees it as sleeping on the job when you should be working.

Solution: Go to your car or somewhere else to nap at lunch.

What you call focusing on your strengths – the boss calls refusing to do the entire job.

You are a coder. You are a great coder, but you don’t design systems or graphics or interfaces, it’s not your thing to come up with new ideas, you just implement other people’s ideas. If the boss has asked you to do something, and you delay or flat out refuse, he or she may think you are neglecting your duty (that ‘other duties as assigned part’).

Solution: If you want to move ahead, you should consider learning new things. If you really think what the boss is asking you to do is out of line – have that tough discussion with them, don’t just not do the work.

What you call expressing yourself – the boss calls a messy/disgusting workplace and bad personal hygiene.

Your desk is messy, your clothing is rumpled, you haven’t bathed in a few days. You think it is your business, you are expressing yourself. The boss has to deal with co worker complaints about body order; your lack of performance because you can’t find things in your work area that you need; and clients who wrinkle their nose and curl their lip when they walk past your area.

Solution: Find a acceptable way to express individuality that won’t offend others or scare off clients if you want to keep your job.

What you call showing sense of humor – the boss calls picking on people.

You are just trying to liven up the workplace by playing a practical joke on a co-worker. The boss has to deal with loss of morale by the co-worker and others in the area who see your joke as bullying; and deal with the complaints and human resources.  This takes up time your boss could be using to focus on the job at hand.

Solution: Keep your sense of humor but hone your people reading skills and cease and desist if you are causing others concern.

What you call work/life balance – the boss calls lack of caring about the job.

You leave promptly at the 8 hour mark so you can be responsible and pick up the kids, get home and spend family time with them. As unfair and illogical as it may be, the boss may see this as lack of commitment, especially if you are a key part in a crunch job.

Solution: Have that hard discussion to talk about priorities, but also offer (at least once in a while) to go the extra mile to get the job done.

What’s your perspective? Have you had a run in at work due to different views of the same thing?

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Money Beagle July 18, 2013 at 1:24 pm

Whenever I get angry at a policy or decision from a boss, one of the first things I do is try to put myself in their shoes and ask why are they doing what they’re doing. In many cases, I can see that they’re likely getting pressure from their bosses or that they need information or something like that. Often that calms me down or in some cases it’s even allowed me to suggest things that might be better from my perspective but will also give my boss what he or she is trying to acheive.


2 Marie at Family Money Values July 23, 2013 at 9:10 am

It is great that you were able to do that, most people find it difficult.


Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: