Bringing Out the Best in Your Sucky Boss

Learning to Manage Talent to Improve Your Business Relationships

Learning to Manage Talent to Improve Your Business Relationships

Bosses.  We’ve all had them. Some of them are disfunctional jerks, complete idiots, micromanaging a-holes, or maybe some just plain suck.  Yes, managing your boss can be a challenge. And aside from changing jobs, most of us are stuck with the hand that we’re dealt with when it comes to the boss.  So how do we minimize work-related stress and create a better business relationship with our boss? After all, we look to our boss to bring out the best in us, their teams, and those around them. It’s about managing talent. But what about you?  Can you bring out the best in your boss?

Yes, you can.

Commit to Improve Your Business Relationship: Multiply Up

It’s about a business relationship, it’s about managing talent, and it’s called multiplying up.  Multiplying up involves a commitment from you to improve your relationship with the boss.  This means focusing on personal development and creating value for them by leveraging their strengths to align with your own.  And alignment involves listening and learning. It also means thinking about leadership and management, and finding ways to improve your relationship with your boss.

Find Common Ground with Difficult People, Including Your Boss!

But in order to improve that relationship, a foundation must be established.  This involves having conversations, learning about each other, team work and swallowing a little pride.  This is a business relationship so it doesn’t have to be a personal one, too. But it must be founded on a common ground, principle, or idea called blending.  Blending involves focusing on one commonality to establish a relationship.  I first came across this concept as I struggled with my own relationship with a previous boss and co-worker at my first job out of college.  While it didn’t solve all our relationship problems, it did make working together easier.  I made an effort to drive conversations around topics of conversations where my boss and I both had an interest in like football, an author, or an activity like washers.

Know Your Bosses Leadership Style; Develop Your Own

According to leadership researcher Wiseman there are two types of managers: diminishers and multipliers. And their leadership styles are vastly different.

Diminishers get less than 50% of the capability and productivity out of the people with whom they surround themselves.  Multipliers are those who snag 100% of the capability and seize the talents of those around them.  Rebecca who I’ve written about in the past is a multiplier. She used my love of social media, technology, and passion to build our social recruiting strategy where Facebook and Myspace accounted for 30% of our candidate source.

Diminishers on the other hand are those who cause work-related stress and seem to suck you dry at every turn.  They are often focused on control and are hiding incompetencies that drive these habits or behaviors.  Their fear of not having all the answers and their desire for control presents a missed opportunity as a leader.

Leadership qualities within an organization don’t – or shouldn’t – just come from managers.  Leadership skills are often brought by people who can bring out the best in their managers and teammates by multiplying up.  Making the effort to establish business relationships and build bridges to drive a department, an office, or an organization.   And it’s efforts like these from our leaders that drive the Conversation Culture within organizations whether you have 2, 25 or 250,000 employees.

In the end, you still might have a sucky boss or work with the most difficult people in the whole business community, but you can’t change them. You can only change how you react to them and improve your own business relations in the process. Improve yourself!


The Conversation Culture is a new topical series at Blogging4Jobs discussing how engagement, communication, and conversations in the workplace can create an environment that drives employee productivity as well as employee satisfaction.  Have a topic idea?  Send me a message at jessica@xceptionalhr to start the dialogue.  Want to write for me?  Don’t be shy.  Send me an email.


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Jessica Miller-Merrell

Learn more about Jessica Miller-Merrell, SPHR, SHRM-SCP, the founder of Workology, a workplace HR resource, and the host of the Workology Podcast. More of her blogs can be found here.

Reader Interactions


  1. Ian Mondrow says

    A lot of great tips here! I know everyone suffers a “sucky boss” on at least one occasion. An additional strategy to consider is called “Managing Up” (There is an abundance of books on this topics). In this strategy, you are passively coaching your boss in order to recieve the support you need. This is especially helpful because if a person helps his/her boss to succeed, the boss is more likely to provide autonomy and support.

  2. Andy Phillips says

    A neat separation Jessica between diminishers and multipliers. How come though diminishers get given leadership roles? I was joking with my wife the other day that being a line manager is like being a parent. There is no test you take to prove you can do it. Most of what you do is trial and error. And chances are even if you try really hard to be good at some point you’ll be hated.
    Always enjoy your posts.


  1. […] Jimbo, last name unknown is a manager with Hooters and after the airing of the second episode of “Undercover Boss” can now officially be thought of as the poster child for poor management everywhere.  And after Jimbo’s performance on the show, I can honestly say the bar of acceptable forms of management has been lowered.  The fact is that the behavior of Jimbo and others like him is not out of the norm.  Quite honestly, I’d like to thank Jimbo.  It’s without guys like him that Human Resource professionals (like me) and the EEOC would be completely out of a job.  God bless the sucky boss. […]

  2. […] We’ve talked about sucky bosses before here at Blogging4Jobs and have used less than friendly terms, like complete idiot and micromanaging a-hole, just to name a couple. I’ve even mentioned that the best way to handle one is for you, the employee, to make changes. However, some exciting new research from Zenger Folkman, an authority in strengths-based leadership development, reveals that you don’t have to be the only one who changes. […]


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