To succeed, you not only need to do what is natural for you, you also must work inside of naturally fitting relationships. The relationships that you have with others have to be natural. Remember: what is natural will flow, feel right. You will still have to work hard but you won’t feel like you are going two steps forward, three steps back.
Your manager has to naturally fit being your manager: he or she must be a size bigger than you. You’ve felt this before. You loved the work but your manager kept micro-managing you. Or you wanted to do more but constantly felt your boss pulling you down. When your boss is not a discrete size bigger than you are, the role will feel unnatural even though the work feels natural.
You grow over time and that can mean losing a natural manager. If you grow to be able to handle the same timeframe of exercising judgment (our definition of work) as your boss, he or she will no longer feel like a natural manager. This makes keeping a natural manager hard and difficult. One of the most agonizing experiences is to outgrow your mentor or great boss.
Lafayette with George Washington, who was a favorite manager of many
Some bosses can’t except a subordinate who grows to be his or her size and will attempt to hurt you. They start sabotaging your work, your career. The best numbers I’ve seen say that about 1 in 6 managers exhibit some form of strong relational pathology (e.g., psychopaths, sociopaths, etc.) and up to 12% of the population has some form of borderline personality disorder, which means that you get a lot of gaslighting and severe mood changes. Just be aware.
If your boss is not big enough to be your Real Boss, you will feel pain. People actually get stressed when these things are following a natural order. Ian McDonald says that the company town saw a 30% drop in domestic violence reports when they reorganized the New Zealand Aluminium Smelter. People did’t have to vent off anger and frustration from working in an unnatural environment any longer. You might learn to cope with this situation, just as you can learn to cope with constant pain in your legs, but that doesn’t mean that it’s the best solution. If you have something stabbing you in the leg, learning to live with the pain isn’t as smart as moving away from it.
All of this follows from what is natural for you, not someone else. A Real Boss for you is not the Real Boss for someone else.
If you’ve missed it, Tom Foster at Management Skills Blog has a great “tale” of how work is judgment. Start there and keep pressing the link at the top right of the entry to move to the next one. Highly, highly recommended, even Foster focuses on non-Creative Class work like manufacturing. I’ll deal with the differences and how this affects who can manage you in a later post.
Image Credit: Château-d’Oex from my window on a snowy morning. © E. Forrest Christian. All rights reserved.