Jim’s Wisdom #25 May 19, 2021 So, You Want to Change your Boss? * * * As America’s Crisis Guru® the most frequent question I get from other senior

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Jim’s Wisdom #25

May 19, 2021

So, You Want to Change your Boss?


As America’s Crisis Guru® the most frequent question I get from other senior practitioners is, “How do you overcome the resistance of a boss who needs to change, but will not listen to you?”

I respond with my own question: “How long have you been trying to change this person?”

The answer is always the same. “Pretty much the entire time I’ve worked for them. I like this person. I trust them. But, there are things I know they should be doing that they resist.”

“So, you’re the guru. How do YOU do it?”

Jim Wisdom 25

My view is pragmatic, rather than optimistic. People who run things are adults, and when they ignore you, it’s on purpose. When they avoid or refuse your advice, they have consciously decided to do something else, or even nothing at all.

Remember, it’s their bus. You are along for the ride to be helpful, or useful or as an occasional whipping post, but they get to drive this bus however and wherever they please. If you don’t like that, then find another bus, or drive your own.

I generally have a 10-day rule on suggestions, proposals, and new ideas. If they ignore you, don’t act on your suggestion or formally reject it in 10 days’ time, I might give it another nudge. But after that, I drop it and move onto something else.

As communicators and staff advisors, we have very productive imaginations and a constant surplus of ideas. We actually throw ideas away every day. Dip into your idea bucket, rescue a new thought, and move along. We also suffer from a compelling behavior that when we work for someone we like and admire, we always want to change them, improve them, reshape their thinking. Hardly ever works. Well truth is, it never works unless they want to change.

If you’re hanging around your boss because you feel that they need to need you, ask yourself, “How’s that working for you?”

The only exception to this rule is when you are dealing with improper behavior, incivility, bullying, lying, something shady or illegal, and even questionable. Remember who you are dealing with. These are adults who behave these ways intentionally. In this case, it is time to leave, immediately, and find a new boss and bus. Very few of us have the special powers to change other adults. I have met fellow advisors who have stayed in challenging jobs for years thinking that there would be an opportunity to change a boss or a colleague, if only they could figure it out. Stop kidding yourself.

As they say in New Jersey, “fuhgeddaboudit.” The worst behaviors are intentional and impossible to change. Move along, nobody is caring about you, or counting your mistakes but YOU. It’s your career and your life. Find a better idea, be helpful, be constructive, be positive. When those things fail, be on your way.

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