Suggestions for Dealing with MBFAs

By David Strom  |  Posted 2008-04-28 Print this article Print

The Strominator gives real advice for getting managers on your side.

So what do you when you get a MBFA as a boss, other than start polishing up your LinkedIn entry and that electronic resume? Here are a few suggestions.

First, you need to get your boss out of his lair and into your world. Do this gradually. Ask him to stop by and see something that you are proud of, and that he can understand. Don’t try the lunch gambit (see above), but something more casual. Do this in person, not via e-mail.

Second, is there some small project that you can get approval for, to show your boss that you can do it on your own, without his constant supervision and second-guessing? At another job, my boss was firmly stuck in the Land of No: Whatever I suggested, I was going to get turned down. I tried to give him the big picture, rather than small, incremental steps toward where we had to be. As you can imagine, my job satisfaction started hitting the skids, and my own productivity suffered.

Another idea is to talk to your customers, and think about having lunch with one of them to understand what they are doing. In IT, our customers are often our colleagues in business groups that want particular kinds of applications built or changed. When was the last time you were proactive about hearing what they had to say? It might give you some ideas to take back to the boss.

What about figuring out what your boss is passionate about–other than his nonwork activities? Sometimes, you have to become the coach or mentor to your boss, and get him to understand what he lacks and how he can improve. I’ve tried this at various jobs, with limited success, though.

How about learning a new skill that will connect you to the boss? In one of my first jobs after grad school (and this is going back to the days before PCs, when we had word processors with 16-character LCDs, instead of full screens), my boss was determined to teach me how to write. It took him six months, but it really connected us. And as you can see today, I still appreciate his efforts, patience, and inspiration. Now, he was a very unusual boss, but I hope you can find someone or something that you can connect with before throwing in the towel completely.

I know it is too much to ask that all MBFAs be turned into MBWAs. But maybe we can try to convert a few this year and make some of those Dilberts obsolete.


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