Ajoy Kumar Singha
Is it enough to just work hard in order to succeed? Maybe not. Making your boss aware of your merit and contributions is important too...

WHY do many of us feel unrecognised, unrewarded or underpaid, compared to what we think we deserve at work? Why is it that boss-bashing is a popular pastime? A nasty one goes “Boss is a double sob spelt backwards!” Management research also confirms that, by and large, employees join organizations but leave bosses.

The boss represents the organization to us and has a major influence in shaping our perception about the organization, its culture and career growth opportunities. So, do you continue to remain at the mercy of ‘bad bosses’, or is there something you can do to alter their perception?

Organizational life differs from academic life in one fundamental way: unlike in school or college, your success in an organization is not dependent on you alone. While your efforts and contribution certainly count, the impact of inter-dependence, support and other environmental factors is significant.
As part of the hiring and induction drill, organizations will consistently and liberally use phrases like ‘meritocracy’, ‘performance-based’ etc. But truth be told, reward and progression are not based on performance, but on the perception of your performance. Whose perception: yours or your supervisor’s? Clearly, the boss is always right! So you have to perform AND be seen performing. You may believe that results or numbers speak for themselves, but bosses may need hearing aids! Remember that while bosses have multiple subordinates, you have one boss, or maybe two in a matrix setup. So clearly, you have far more at stake in making the relationship with the boss click. In fact, the boss is quite likely focused on impressing the super boss!

To help your case, you could increase your interaction with the boss. That does not mean you hang around his office looking busy and neglecting your work! Create a context for meeting and generate valid data for his decision making. Provide a crisp one-page progress update, with what American MNCs term, a ‘Hits’ (achievements) & ‘Misses’ (shortfalls) report, possibly adding a brief section on plans and issues going forward.

A common complaint one hears is about the lack of objectivity in their evaluation process, often ending with an exasperated “It’s all so subjective!” While objectives or targets have a role in assessment, evaluations demand subjective judgment calls by managers. If performance could be objectively measured, managers would have long ago been replaced by a computer software programme! Managers are paid to make decisions based upon their subjective evaluation. One sees many unhappy employees moaning that they perform well, but the boss “always rewards or promotes his favourite(s)”. This is often a case of misalignment with what the boss expects. You may do a brilliant job of some assignment, but if it is not in line with the priorities of the boss, you may not get due credit. Most bosses prefer a competent and aligned subordinate to one who’s brilliant but misaligned, which would require high maintenance!

It is extremely important that you recognise and accept that the boss has two prerogatives in any organisation: Prioritisation of your work, ie, which activity needs to be completed first and Resource Allocation, ie, how much time, money, materials, manpower you will get to complete the assigned work. Sure, you can negotiate to push back, but the boss finally decides. Some bosses may keep quiet while you stray from the agreed priorities, but come assessment time, they will surely take stock.

**Times Life/Sunday Times of India/18-03-2007
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