Dr Tommy Weir says body language is key to understanding your boss.
Dr Tommy Weir says body language is key to understanding your boss.

Reading your boss's mind

Getting ahead at work often just means getting in good with the boss.

But that key relationship is a tricky one, especially as the aftershocks of the recent economic downturn continue to ripple through the workforce. In a recent survey, 34 per cent of US workers said they were somewhat or very dissatisfied with the relationship with their boss.

Nearly half, or 45 per cent, also said the recession specifically had affected their relationship - and not in a good way, according to a study commissioned by Spherion Staffing Services, a recruiting company with offices throughout the US and Canada.

Local experts in this region warn that the souring of relations between employees and their managers is by no means unique to North America. But Dr Tommy Weir, a speaker and author on strategic leadership, who is based in Dubai, says there are ways to work a relationship to an employee's advantage. In one recent session with workers who were looking to make the most of limited time with a manager, Dr Weir highlighted some key points to consider.

Get into your manager's mind

Employees sometimes clash with their boss when they pitch an idea, only to be struck down and left feeling deflated. But that doesn't necessarily mean the idea is a bad one. In order to maximise a few minutes with a boss, and actually get requests approved for the next phase, it's important to approach them after having thought about it from their perspective. "You need to be cognitive about what's on their mind," says Dr Weir, who recommends thinking about what their current stress level is and anticipating their responses. "Maximising time with the boss is about personality. It's not about the content. It's much more about understanding who they are."

Learn to read a boss's signs

Research has found that 93 per cent of communication is based on body language. Yet, while many employees are trained to look for signs that their manager might be stressed out, not everyone actually puts it into practice, says Dr Weir. One idea: jot down a few notes when a manager reacts particularly positively, and include what kinds of facial expressions, verbal remarks or gestures they make. Next time, it might be worth waiting until similar cues come up before approaching them with some negative news.

Make face-time more efficient

It's no secret that many managers loathe meetings. In one global survey conducted by the recruitment firm Robert Half, managers based in Luxembourg said 14 per cent of the meetings they had attended were a waste of time, while in Dubai that figure jumped to 17 per cent. Over in New Zealand, managers felt more than 25 per cent of meetings were unnecessary, mainly because participants lose focus and discuss anything they want, rather than the issue a meeting was called for.

The most important question to keep in mind when approaching a boss for a meeting, says Dr Weir, is to ask yourself "does this actually have to be answered now"? He recommends getting into the practice of pushing a boss for responses on crucial, strategic decisions - and circling back on less important operational matters when there's more time. Even then, he says, be direct and remove the ambiguity that goes on for the first minute or two when managers might think to themselves "you're telling me this, why"?


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