So You Want to Change your Boss? Fuhgeddaboudit!
by Jim Lukaszewski
As Americas Crisis Guru the most frequent question I get from other senior practitioners is “How do you overcome the resistance of a boss who needs to change but will not listen to you?”
I respond with my own question, “How long have you been trying to change this person?”
The answer is always the same “Pretty much the entire time I’ve worked for them. I like this person. I trust them. But there are things I know they should be doing that they resist.”
“So, you’re the guru. How do YOU do it?”
My view is pragmatic, rather than optimistic. People who run things are adults, and when they ignore you, it’s on purpose. When they avoid or refuse your advice they have consciously decided to do something else or even nothing at all.
Remember, it’s their bus You are along for the ride to be helpful, or useful or as an occasional whipping post, but they get to drive this bus however and wherever they please. If you don’t like that, then find another bus, or drive your own.
Changing your boss’s mind is not easy
I generally have a 10-day rule on suggestions, proposals, and new ideas. If they ignore you, don’t act on your suggestion or formally reject it in 10 days time I might give it another nudge. But after that I drop it and move onto something else.
As communicators and staff advisors, we have very productive imaginations and a constant surplus of ideas. We actually throw ideas away every day. Dip into your idea bucket, rescue a new thought, and move along. We also suffer from a compelling behavior that when we work for someone we like and admire, we always want to change them, improve them, reshape their thinking. Hardly ever works. Well truth is, it never works unless they want to change.
If you’re hanging around your boss because you feel that they need to need you, ask yourself, “How’s that working for you?”
The only exception to this rule is when you are dealing with improper behavior, incivility, bullying, lying, something shady or illegal, and even questionable. Remember who you are dealing with. These are adults who behave these ways intentionally. In this case it is time to leave immediately, and find a new boss and bus. Very few of us have the special powers to change other adults. I have met fellow advisors who have stayed in challenging jobs for years thinking that there would be an opportunity to change a boss or a colleague if only they could figure it out. Stop kidding yourself.
As they say in New Jersey, “fuhgeddaboudit.” The worst behaviors are intentional and impossible to change. Move along, nobody is caring about you, or counting your mistakes but YOU. It’s your career and your life. Find a better idea, be helpful, be constructive, be positive. When those things fail be on your way.
Jim Lukaszewski is the author of Lukaszewski on Crisis Communication: What Your CEO Needs to Know About Reputation Risk and Crisis Management.
In this industry-defining book on crisis communication and leadership recovery, Jim Lukaszewski jump-starts the discussion by clearly differentiating a crisis from other business interruption events and introduces a concept rarely dealt with in crisis communication and operational response planning: managing the victim dimension of crisis.
James E. Lukaszewski, ABC, APR, Fellow PRSA teaches you exactly what to do, what to say, when to say it, and when to do it while the whole world is watching: stop creating victims; communicate effectively with all stakeholders; prevent lawsuits; and reduce the negative impact of media hounds and activists. All supported by case studies and real-life examples, by trusted advisor to CEOs and practitioner/trainer named among the 100 Top Thought Leaders of 2013 by Trust Across America; profiled in Living Legends of American Public Relations; listed in Corporate Legal Times as one of “28 Experts to Call When All Hell Breaks Loose.”