WORKSHOP: Personal Trainer

"My boss is a pig! He is obsessed with detail, micro-manages me and ignores my ideas for growth. How can I reform him?"

It is one of life's sad ironies that you don't get to choose your boss. If there were a society set up to reform bosses the membership would be huge. The truth is there are probably as many leadership and management styles as there are bosses.

Regular readers of my column will have realised that the particular style of leadership your boss is exhibiting is not one I would regard as effective.

Good leadership would entail your boss encouraging you to have ideas and trusting you to get on with your work without interfering greatly in the operational detail.

But have you considered why your boss is acting like this? How are you contributing to his behaviour? Does he feel less empowered because you refuse to let him know what you are up to? Do you shrug off his demands for "detail" by telling him your latest grand idea?

I am sure your performance is superlative, but does your boss think so?

Perhaps he has concerns over your work delivery and has been reduced to asking for more detail because otherwise he feels the job will not get done.

I don't know how old or how experienced your boss is but he has probably got to where he is through behaving in the way that he has done so far. He is less likely to want to change on your prompting.

You are clearly going to have to discuss this matter with him. If you have an appraisal process then this is an ideal opportunity to have a discussion about different work styles. If so, then prepare for it in advance and write out a list of the problem areas. Think of ways you could have acted differently. You do need to explain to him how his behaviour causes you problems. But if you do, you will need to be prepared to hear from him as to why your performance may not be quite what he wants. There will need to be give and take - thinking he is a pig may be counter-productive if you want to secure change.

It is often the case that people who prefer the broad-brush approach do not get on with those who seem anally retentive on detail. You will need to negotiate a modus operandi.

In particular, "walk in his shoes". Think about what he needs to achieve in his job. How can you help him to achieve his objectives? Do not be confrontational. Remember, he can sack you if he really resents your behaviour.

And if things don't improve I'm afraid my final advice would have to be that you polish up your CV.

Stephen Bubb is chief executive of the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations (Acevo). Send your questions to:

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