Working Wounded: Bossing Around

Dear WW:In a dream last night I killed my boss. Is my subconscious trying to tell me something?Probably UnhappyDear Unhappy:With my "B" in Psych 101, I normally feel qualified to answer questions about work-related dreams. But in this case, since a homicide is involved, I think I'll leave the task of interpreting your subconscious to either the Psychic Friends Network or a really sharp criminal attorney. I will wager, however, that you are unhappy -- and I can tell you that you're not alone.In the best of times, boss relations are a challenge (and few would argue that these are the best of times). Many problems can be mitigated, however, with a little "boss management." Not boss manipulation, mind you, but a dedicated effort to maintain clear lines of communication, authority, information, and expectation with the person signing your paycheck.In a book called Crazy Bosses (published by Pocket Books, 1993), Stanley Bing outlines a series of tactics you can use to handle a boss who is crazy -- or one who makes you that way. Bing asks the following questions:1. Are you too emotionally dependent on your boss? If all your emotional eggs rest in his or her basket, you're asking to have them scrambled. Learn how to gain a sense of satisfaction from a job well done, not just from your boss's comments.2. Is it possible to just do your job? Many of us can't just do a job -- we have to be our job. Next time you are at a party, listen to yourself: If the only conversation you can maintain is about what you do for a living, it's time to leave your job at work.3. Can you do a better job of keeping your cool? During an argument, your best bet is to stay level-headed, back up your arguments with facts, and know when to take a time-out.4. Can you "work his head." Crazy Bosses says every boss who is a bully has his fears, and smart employees can learn to exploit them. Probably true, although personally, I'd have to be pretty desperate before I'd hike that road.5. Are you preparing yourself for the day your boss's job opens up? Turnover happens. Get a copy of the job description and start gathering the skills you'll need to become your boss's successor. Who knows? Maybe someday someone will be dreaming about you.A few more points to consider. Trade places: When you feel a conflict heating up, look at yourself from your boss's point of view. Are you as blemish-free as you feel? And do some digging: A little spadework on your part may turn up additional information, pressure, or history that will help you understand why your boss acts the way he or she does. I hope this helps with your boss. But in case you're still struggling with the implications of your dream, remember the words of Bob Dylan: "Don't worry about those dreams none, they're only in your head."

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