An article Managing Your Boss by John Gabarro and John Cotter deals with the pervasive problem of workplace conflict. By reviewing the current situation in the working environment and exemplifying the most widespread types of misunderstandings between managers and their superiors, the authors offer a comprehensive analysis of reasons and suggest several solutions to the conflict situations.
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The paper is structured as a collection of stories presented in the anecdotal form. Each story illustrates a certain point by the authors and is followed by their commentary. The introductory part begins with a story which allows Gabarro and Kotter to suggest a single reason behind almost every conflict: the lack of understanding between the manager and his boss. Thus, according to them, to avoid conflict, two prerequisites should be fulfilled: the manager should be able to understand both his boss and himself, and appropriately utilize this understanding to create a healthy environment.
The first part explains in detail the concept of understanding the boss. By supplying another example, the authors isolate three basic mistakes that form the described conflict: the manager in question took the information for granted, without checking it, made assumptions in the field where he had no competence, and did not try to clarify it with his boss. The second half of the first part tackles the lack of critical self-evaluation.
Based on another example, the authors describe two polar deviations from the norm. The first is the counterdependent behavior, where the manager displays the excessive and unnecessary resistance to his boss, prompting aggressive reaction instead of the constructive interaction. This type sees the boss as an obstacle or a force that needs to be countered. The second is its opposite, the overdependent type. Such manager shows the excessive compliance, even in situations where constructive dialog would be appropriate.
As a result, the mistakes made by the boss are not addressed and taken at face value. The authors argue that while both types have their benefits (the former is usually a good manager for his or her own subordinates and the latter benefits from the lack of unnecessary confrontation), it is necessary to account for these deviations to avoid their adverse effects, as such traits are not likely to be eradicated.
The second part reviews the possible strategies that make use of the obtained information. These strategies are arranged in groups, namely the compatible working styles (such as accounting for preferences in the pace of discussion), decision-making styles (hands-on versus distancing), mutual expectations, the flow of information, and management of time and resources. Authors assert that once these strategies are arranged in a way suggested by the acquired understanding, both the manager and the boss will benefit from the resulting outcome.
It is necessary to point out the weak sides of the paper. First, the type of evidence used by the authors is not conclusive. Each argument is supported with only one example, which, no matter how detailed, accounts for the relatively narrow situation. Second, several strategies, like time management and working styles, seem to intersect, creating unnecessary complexity. Both factors compromise the authors’ assertions to some degree.
In conclusion, despite the lack of the persuasive evidence, Managing Your Boss is a valuable insight into the strategies of improving efficiency and emotional background of a workplace environment. The article primarily aims at the managers working in the business sector, but may offer valuable advice for anybody who is researching the self-reflection techniques or is interested in improving communication skills.