However devious it sounds, controlling your boss can be beneficial to them as well as to you.
Why? ‘Because sometimes bosses are an absolute nightmare,’ says Corinne Mills, managing director of Personal Career Management and author of Career Coach: Your Personal Workbook for a Better Career.
‘It’s not always because they are deliberately being a nightmare,’ continues Corinne, ‘but maybe they’re not getting the best out of you? Maybe they’re not being as efficient as they could be? For that reason, you might want to control your boss. Not for nasty, manipulative reasons, but because you want to get things done.’
The thought of managing the manager might sound fanciful to many workers, but it isn’t as difficult as it sounds.
We’re not talking about mind control here - simply pulling certain strings in order to influence their behaviour.
‘What’s helpful is to try and understand your boss’s style,’ says Corinne. ‘By that I mean their thinking style, their decision-making style. Quite often, people don’t get on with their boss because there’s a mismatch of style. A staff member is left thinking, ‘I’m telling them this but they don’t seem to be listening’. Well, often they just need to be told in a different way.
‘Controlling your boss is largely about understanding their style and then playing it back to them.’
The benefits can be huge. ‘Just making sure you are heard is one of the advantages,’ says Corinne. ‘And if you’re heard, you can influence decisions. But there are other benefits, too.
‘For instance, if you’ve got a chaotic boss (they are good at some things but terrible at others) then actually putting a bit more structure and control into how they operate can relieve some of their stress and relieve some of your stress. Things like time management.
‘You know what it’s like… you’re about to go out the door at home time and the boss says ‘can you just do this before you go?’ If that’s something they do often - if they drop things on you without warning - then to control them by getting some time management structure in place is helpful for everyone.
‘That might be going to see them first thing in the morning or after lunch and checking what the plan for the day is, or asking if there’s likely to be anything coming in that will need urgent attention. Just helping them structure their time - and thus your time as well - can be massively stress alleviating for everyone.’
Setting out to deliberately control your boss might sound a bit like playing with fire, but Corinne says it all depends what your intentions are.
‘When is manipulation a force for good?,’ she says. ‘And when is it because you are just trying to get your evil way?
‘If it’s about making the department and the team as effective as it can be, then that’s absolutely fine. But when it’s something a bit more insidious, when it’s a personal agenda, then that’s not going to endear you very much to colleagues and not going to reinforce that sense of teamwork.
According to Corinne, people are manipulating their bosses all the time in the workplace - it’s just hard to see it.
‘The really good ones do it insidiously and you can’t spot it,’ she says. ‘It’s happening all the time, but some people are just very clever about it.’