How do I head competative behavior off at the pass?
July 12, 2007 11:11 AM   Subscribe

I'm starting a new job on Monday - it's in the same company but at a different location. I've been with the company quite a while and I know my new boss is a bit of an ass, so I want to get off on the firmest best foot - if it's possible I want to position myself as someone he doesn't need to be an ass to/ competative with. What suggestions do you have for good pre-emptive or early actions/ behaviors?

I need to send him an email asking when he wants to meet on Monday (I need to get a pass and all that stuff sorted out) - so perhaps this'd be a good place to start?
posted by The_Partridge_Family to Human Relations (6 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
At the meeting and into the future, were I in your position, I'd be both incredibly efficient and overtly friendly.

I'd go the extra mile on things, then run them past him even if it's not necessary, like "hey there, I just wanted to let you know that I've finished the work you gave me on project X a little early...would you mind giving me your opinion on how it looks?" or "I've started working on project Y, and I wanted to know if you had any advice or tips on (specific arcane point he'd love to talk about) for me since I'm new here."

If he trusts you and he sees that you're not there to compete but value his experience, I have a feeling he won't treat you like the people who've had run-ins with him in the past; you might also end up being a way to obliquely/anonymously report people's wider work problems since you'll have built that trust, which will help everyone in the office out in the long run.

Good luck!
posted by mdonley at 11:23 AM on July 12, 2007

Not sure whether this is the best idea, but it's the first thing that occurs to me and I'm interested in others' responses:

How about: pronounced humility and minimizing your own accomplishments when speaking with him.
posted by amtho at 12:31 PM on July 12, 2007

I have trouble answering this without knowing more about what you mean "a bit of an ass." I understand that he gets competitive, but I don't know whether the "ass" part is just that he's insecure & passive-aggressive (constantly trying to prove himself), cocky & dismissive (once he out-competes someone), domineering & bullying (once he proves he's stronger).... Could you give an example or more information?
posted by salvia at 12:41 PM on July 12, 2007

Response by poster: salvia: option 1 - insecure & passive-aggressive. He's in a position of reasonable power because he's scratched the right backs, so I think he needs to prove himself and because he's not that skilled he does it by putting other people down. Obviously I don't want to get involved nor engage in this, but taking the higher pather is often easier said than done.
posted by The_Partridge_Family at 1:12 PM on July 12, 2007

Hmm, okay. I'm sure there are other (less obvious) ideas, but the maxim "make your boss look good" (to the extent you can control it) comes to mind. "Here is the TPS report in case Susan asks how the department numbers are looking."

I think mdonley's approach is really good.

I'd also figure out how to avoid ever criticizing him, since if he's insecure he's probably sensitive to that. So practice up on oblique disagreement like "that font's too small" "Do you think some other people might find 6-point font hard to read?"

I also think 100% pandering might not be the way to go. If he sees others as better than him, he might disrespect people who act inferior or want his approval. I think there might be some sort of long-term reverse-move here where he won't feel threatened but might think you're superior and continue to want your approval. Like, form a Confidence Club and make him vice president & official figurehead. I'd avoid triggering his insecurities and not threaten his authority, but do so with a high degree of confidence, a sort of inclusive confidence, like "I'm really smart. I think you're really smart. Together, we're awesome!" (If any of this makes sense...)
posted by salvia at 1:47 PM on July 12, 2007

Everyone loves knowing what you can do for them. So at the meeting, ask what he wants to accomplish/get done in this quarter and this fiscal year. Then ask what he thinks you can do to help him with his goals and then offer your thoughts about those goals as well.

From here, it's a nice segue into your goals for the coming quarter and fiscal year. Hopefully by listening to him for while, he'll be adequately pleased to hear about your goals as well.

I'd also ask about his communication and project management style. Does he like to know what you're doing at all times? Does he want to be cc'ed on everything? Or is he more hands-off and prefers to trust that you're doing what you need to be doing. What's his method for assigning tasks and work to you?

If possible, make sure you leave the meeting with some to-do's for you (and maybe some for him as well). This is much more productive than a "thanks that was informative" meeting.
posted by junesix at 1:54 PM on July 12, 2007

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