I just sat down on—well, on the toilet if you must know—when I heard the ladies room door open. My entrepreneur boss stuck his head in the bathroom. Yes, I said his head. In the ladies room.
“Kathy, we got the numbers in. I have to talk you.”
Really, guy? Really? You have to talk to me…right….now?
Believe it or not, this happened more than once. And no, I didn’t have a bladder problem. My boss had a boundaries problem.
My friend Chrissy Scivicque, a career coach, recently offered some solid advice for managing your boss and avoiding awkward situations like this. Advice which applies two-fold if you work in a startup.
Chrissy suggests that you talk to your boss specifically about what annoys you, and find out what annoying habits you may have. It’s a tactic she calls Design the Alliance, and although it may sound simplistic at first glance, if you work in a startup I think this tactic could be a life saver.
When you work 14, 16, 24 hours a day with someone, you tend to think you know them. And they think they know you. And everybody tends to think that everybody else thinks like them.
This can lead to annoying behavior.
You Drive Me Crazy
You see, your assumptions are tainted by your own preferences. Just because you prefer a paper memo to an email doesn’t mean that your entrepreneur boss does. (Though quite frankly if you prefer memo’s at all, you shouldn’t be working in a startup.)
Maybe it makes you crazy when your boss yells for you from his (or her) office. Maybe he doesn’t like it when you hover in the doorway waiting for him to get off the phone.
It’s these little annoyances, these hot buttons, that can suck the fun out of your day.
Chrissy suggests talking through even those things that you think may be too commonplace to address:
Sit down with your boss (schedule an appointment if needed) and discuss exactly how you work best. At the same time, invite your boss to share his or her work preferences with you.
Here are a few examples of the types of questions you can ask (and the information you can share about yourself) to get things started:
• How do you prefer to communicate? (Do you like email, phone or in-person conversation best?)
• How often do you like to communicate? (Every day, once a week, etc.)
• What drives you insane?
• How do you prefer to address challenges?
• How do you like to be rewarded?
• How do you like to receive feedback?
• What are your biggest weaknesses and how can I help compensate for them?
(From “Help! My Boss is a Jerk” www.eatyourcareer.com)
Let’s put “meetings in the ladies room” under the category of ‘what drives you insane,’ shall we?
Of course, as the saying goes, it takes two to get a group discount in the mental ward. I’ve done plenty of stuff that made my bosses nuts.
Years after we stopped working together, one entrepreneur boss confessed that she couldn’t stand the Dorito’s I subsisted on during the early days of our startup. The smell made her sick. It was so bad that she said she would get nauseous as soon as she heard me opening the bag.
Probably would have been good to know at the time.
Not all of the questions on Chrissy’s Design the Alliance list will be appropriate for your conversation. Tailor them for your entrepreneur boss. For many entrepreneurs, you’ll lose their attention the minute you start a conversation with “can I schedule an appointment with you?” For those bosses, this conversation may need to take place over drinks. Positioned as a casual conversation among friends.
Just keep it out of the ladies room, okay?
Working for Wonka? Know this: Little, insignificant annoyances can add up to big problems quickly when you work in the close quarter and long hours of a startup. Clear the air of these issues early on, before they stink up the place.