You Think The Same As You Did Before
For those of you who are over the age of 25, you know how you feel the same no matter how old you are? The outside may seem older, but to yourself—inside your mind—you feel the same age. It’s really weird. You would think that as you age, you would think differently, but if you do, you don’t notice it.
The same is true when you become a boss. You think of yourself as the same. You have different responsibilities and you have to do them differently than you did before you were a boss (you have more power and that helps get things done), but you think of yourself as being the same. Again, when you become an executive, how other people think of you changes, but how you think of yourself stays much the same. The problem is (in both cases–age and organization level) that other people see you differently.
Power Changes Things
When you are a boss, you have positional power over people–you have the ability and the right to decide their fate. You can give them a good review, or put them on “a program.” You decide how much raise they get (within parmeters established by the company) and therefore whether their quality of life goes up or down. You give them assignments which can create visibility or push them beyond their ability to perform. You believe in your own head that you are fair, that you make the right decisions on all of these things, and that you are a good and likeable person. Right?
Just by virtue of having this power, however, you will frequently stop being given the benefit of the doubt. Your motivations will not be seen as virtuous, your decisions will not be seen as fair (by everyone) and your subordinates will begin to feel a distance toward you–even those who are your friends. It is just the way it is. If you are a boss, you need to be aware of this. To do your job, you must exercise positional power. You can counterbalance the negative side of positional power, however, by building your personal power. Personal power is acquired through respect by others. Personal power comes in several flavors: referent power, information power, connection power. When you have personal power, that benefit of the doubt comes back. Personal power stays with you when you leave the specific job. Personal power does not alienate people as much as positional power does. Personal power helps others view you as “a people” too.
Treat Your Boss Like “A People”
Now, flip the switch. Think about your own boss(es). They have the same issues. S/he sees herself as fair, virtuous, and trying to do the right thing. S/he is puzzled about why her subordinates don’t see her that way. Consider giving him/her the benefit of the doubt. Try to overlook the positional power and treat him/her like “a people.” You will stand out. You will engender trust by trusting. And that will begin to build your personal power with your boss.