This article examines an effective way of improving your relationship with your boss by taking responsibility for the relationship and changing your attitude and behaviour.

Getting Started

Appropriate Subject Area(s):

Careers, business studies

Key Questions to Explore:

  • What is the relationship I have with my boss?
  • What is the core of the problem?
  • What is my boss trying to accomplish?

Materials Needed:

Copies of article for the students

Study and Discussion Activity

Introduction to lesson and task:

People often find themselves in frustrating relationships with their bosses. This frequently results in feelings of resentment and dissatisfaction and the person blames the boss for most, if not all, of the problem. These individuals see themselves as victims of the situation as the boss has all the power. What is needed to change this situation is a different perspective. As Paulo Coelho points out in his classic allegory, The Alchemist, people cannot control what happens to them but they can choose how they will react to those events. They can see themselves either as victims or as adventurers. If they see themselves as victims then they will continue to have no power. If they see themselves as adventurers who are setting out to meet the challenges life has to offer, then they empower themselves to act, adjust and make the best of events. This is also true of the relationship between boss and underling. As Steve Arneson points out in the article, it is incumbent upon individuals who are in a frustrating situation with their boss to empower themselves by changing their attitude and being proactive rather than simply placing blame at the feet of the boss.

This lesson will have the students examine these kinds of situations and discuss what could be done to proactively remedy this type of problem.

Action (lesson plan and task):

  • Begin the lesson by asking the students if they have ever been in a situation where they had a job and they and their boss did not get along.
  • Ask them to outline what they saw as the causes of the problem.
  • List the various causes that the students identify.
  • At this point, put the students in groups of four or five and ask them to discuss what they think should be done to remedy each of the types of problems identified.
  • Allow the groups time to discuss the problems and then have them report their findings to the class, recording the responses as they are given.
  • Once the reports have been completed, examine the list to see if there are any suggested actions that have the individual taking control of the situation and assuming the responsibility for changing it.
  • At this point, hand out the article explaining that Steve Arneson, a leadership coach from Boulder, Colorado, suggests that the individual, and not the boss, has the responsibility to change the situation.
  • Allow the groups time to read and discuss it.

Consolidation of Learning:

Once this has been done, have the groups report the degree to which they agree with the comments in the article, giving reasons for their answers. Determine if there is any consensus among the students as to the level of support for Arneson’s suggestions.

Success and Additional Learning

Success Criteria:

The students will be able to:

  1. Explain that the way in which a person responds to a situation will either make them the victim or the adventurer.
  2. Offer suggestions as to the types of actions that can be taken to remedy a bad boss – underling relationship.

Confirming Activity:

For homework, have the students describe how this approach could be effective in dealing with other difficult interpersonal situations.