I’ve worked for some managers over my career that I would classify as “hard drivers.” They focus strongly on getting results, they make challenging demands, and they’re not so great at offering support and feedback.
The result is that I become increasingly resistant, I get pushed into over-work, and I don’t like working for them because it seems that no amount of hard work is ever enough.
When you’re in this situation, there are three concepts you have to master.
BOUNDARIES: Whether it’s because the manager is insensitive to your needs, or just is good at challenging to do more than you think you’re capable of, at some point you run up against true boundaries. No matter what you do, you’ll never be able to create more than 24 hours in a day, and you won’t be able to be in three places at once. If your manager asked you to violate these fundamental laws of nature, what would you do? You’d be forced to state a definite “no,” perhaps blaming it on forces outside your control. But it would be an unshakable “no.”
So let’s take that back a few notches. Can you get by with no sleep and no food? No. Not as unshakable, perhaps, because you can get by for short periods of time, but you’ll quickly get to the point where no amount of incentive is worth the damage you’ll do to your mind and body.
The choice you have is this: Where do you want to place your “Unshakable No?” At 40 hours a week? 50? 60? 70? At a place where you’re able to consistently deliver on your promises 99% of the time? 90%? 75%? This is your stake in the ground, and then the challenge is to deliver your message with unshakable certainty. There may be consequences, sure, but you’re watching out for your long term health and happiness.
CREATIVITY: Many times, hard driving managers are really searching for more creative answers, not necessarily for you to work harder. It’s a lot more mental work to look for alternate paths, of course, and there may be many dangers along the way. But when you find an answer which lets you get more done with less effort, it may be worth all the pain that it took to get there.
SELF MANAGEMENT: When a manager doesn’t offer much supportive feedback, you have to create it yourself. Measure your own progress against the goals. Give yourself rewards for accomplishing the really hard tasks. Look for stress-relief valves that will help you keep up your energy and motivation.
And look to others around you who can give you feedback. They might be partners, co-workers, or customers. Perhaps what they say will be even MORE useful than what your manager might say. Just make sure they don’t drag you into an area where you’re working at cross purposes to what your boss needs.
These three are big challenges, sure. But once you’ve mastered them, you’ll be a lot happier in all kinds of work situations, and steering your career in a direction that you’ll be much happier with.
by Carl Dierschow