It’s fair to say most bosses have a dominant personality style. They’ve gotten where they are through force of will, competence, boldness, and drive. They’re usually fast paced, action oriented, and have little time to spare.

Intimidating? You bet! Especially if you’re younger, new to the organization, or have a milder personality type.

So, how can you work with a dominant boss effectively?

Competence is everything.

Know what you’re doing. If you don’t know yet, be a quick study. Become what one of my clients calls a “curious athlete,” willing to work incredibly hard and with an insatiable desire to discover how things work and connect. Proactively spend time beyond normal working hours to get up to speed. It will pay off later.

Adapt to their style.

Be a good observer and notice your boss’s communication preferences. Does she prefer in person, phone, email, or text? Because dominant styles are often fast paced use short sentences and get to the point quickly.

Offer solutions, not problems.

If you’re drawing attention to a problem, bring at least one solution with you, if not two or three. Research your solutions well. Be ready to “sell” the one you think is best. Cue things up so it’s easy for them to pull the trigger rather than piling material on them to wade through. Michael Hyatt offers great advice on how to do this in his article How to Get Your Boss’s Approval When You Need It.

Be time sensitive.

Don’t worry, you don’t have to talk double time!

  • Be calm and confident.
  • Don’t take more time than is necessary.
  • If you’re making a point, do so concisely and pleasantly.
  • If you’re seeking direction, drive for clarity by asking thoughtful, open-ended questions.

A too-short conversation that requires follow up later isn’t efficient, so never sacrifice clarity.

Connect to the big picture.

Consider how the work you’ve been assigned connects to higher goals. Thinking habitually this way develops and demonstrates a strategic mindset. Bosses often assume that employees understand how their work connects to the greater good. But often they don’t, and it’s a fair and important question to ask. If you’re unsure about an assignment you’ve been given here’s a great question to ask the boss that ties to the bigger picture, from Fast Company.

Honor your limits.

As much as you want to work effectively with your boss, never compromise your ethics and integrity. Disappoint the boss if you must, but honor integrity above all.

And don’t jump on the gossip train about the boss, no matter how tempting it may be. It won’t go well for you. You wouldn’t want someone to do that to you, right?  If your boss is truly horrible you may need to decide if this is the right job or the right organization for you. But in the meantime, stay above the fray. Project optimism and deliver your best effort consistently. You’ll cultivate a reputation in the midst of the trial that will carry you well beyond the crisis at hand.

Okay, you’ve got this!
Let us know if you need a little help or encouragement. We are here to support managers and leaders, so just reach out!

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