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Why bosses and juniors are frequently in conflict?

Updated: Jul 14, 2023


Bosses and juniors always seem to be in disagreement. More often than not there is a subsurface animosity. Why is this so and what are some of the possible solutions?


In my professional life, I have been leading and managing various organisations, I have observed that juniors are frequently in disagreement even in conflict with bosses. Opposition to bosses and by extension to the organisation may be open and active, however most of the time it is passive and clandestine.


This conflict saps the organisation of vitality and hampers progress. Worrisome as this phenomenon is, fortunately there are solutions to this vexing issue.




Here I share with you some of the causes of disagreement between juniors and bosses and the approach to minimise if not eliminate most disagreements.


The fundamental point to note is that, bosses are responsible for outcomes, results and consequences and this is how they measure performance. Juniors on the other hand measure their contribution by their effort, time spent working and sincerity to their employment.


Obviously when two different sets of parameters are used to measure work, the result is frequent disagreement. The solution is to also get juniors to committed to outcomes and help remove hurdles in their ability to perform effectively. I used an approach called 'Management by Objectives (MBO)' and this worked very well for my team.


Secondly, juniors have limited control of resources, particularly the use of their time and access to relevant information. Responsibility without appropriate access to resources is slavery, not employment. Who in their right mind likes slavery?

The solution is that, every junior must be supported with necessary and appropriate resources so that they can deliver results.


Thirdly, juniors are hired for their talents, knowledge and the commitment of their time. It however does not mean the organisation or the boss has purchased the junior's life, their body, mind and soul. Unfortunately most managements and bosses believe otherwise.


Constantly depriving juniors from meeting their personal, family, social, professional etc. responsibilities and needs, produces angry, resentful and frustrated juniors. The pent up resentment comes out in the form of poor productivity, neglect for quality and time schedules, wasteful expenditure, dodging responsibilities and in extreme cases sabotaging the organisation's working and reputation.


Often misunderstood is the fact that, people do not work for organisations, they work for other people within organisations. Organisations are generally faceless, whereas bosses and juniors are individual living beings with intellect, emotion, hope, strengths, insecurities etc.


Several surveys reveal that 80% of the time juniors change jobs because of unpleasant and unnecessarily difficult bosses.


Bosses can be of several kinds.

At one end of the work spectrum, are timid bosses, who mainly desire to be liked. They therefore place minimal demands on juniors. They may be liked but never respected by either juniors or their seniors, and the organisational performance slips.

Then there are bosses who are tyrannical venting their personal frustration and inadequacies upon their juniors. They too are detrimental for professional and team relationships. The important thing is to focus on results rather than behaviour, with bosses seeking to be respected rather than to be liked or hated.


Employees need to be led and guided then rewarded to be at their best. Juniors are least productive and effective when they are forced, driven and harassed.

I have always found it useful to discuss the assignment, project with juniors and first get their commitments to the the outcomes. Then I ask them for what resources such as information, budget, authority etc. they need. Discuss and negotiate with juniors and then conclude the plan.


After agreement between juniors and bosses we discover that both are focussed on the same measures, clear about what what has to be achieved, the time frame and budget etc. Being on the same page increases the certainty of success with minimal friction.


These simple approaches will facilitate superior performance because of better teamwork, focus on results and greater mutual respect between juniors and bosses. Of course being individuals there will be continuing disagreements, but they will be quickly and positively resolved.

 

ps.

Planning is only one part of the success story. There is also need for focus on two other parts, effective deployment and periodic reviews. Then there is the factor of what I term as 'Employee Discretionary Potential' which unleashes the full power of employees strengths towards achieving success. These aspects I shall cover in future articles.


 

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