– Lolu Desalu and Bofamene Berepamo
Most times, it starts out as an inkling — a hunch.
Intuition is an incredible resource and gift that we have been given to help us live our best life, but sometimes, the compass takes you right through the belly of the beast.
You’ve been mauling over the possibility that your boss doesn’t believe in you.
It’s the way they look at you or don’t. It’s in their inability to listen to the unspoken words in the room or maybe how they don’t hear you at all. Maybe for you, it’s the way you always get the memo after everyone else or the less-desirable tasks you’re assigned to and then micromanaged to deliver.
Need a little bit of sage advice or a quick pick-me-up? Stay with me.
Desmond Tutu, the South African, Anglican, cleric, best known for receiving the Nobel Prize for Peace in 1984 for his activism in apartheid South Africa, said “you don’t choose your family. They are God’s gift to you, as you are to them.” With colleagues, it should be the complete opposite, but unfortunately, we don’t get to choose the people we work with all the time. In some cases, you can be put on a project with people who tell the most hilarious jokes and care about the subtle change on your social media. Or, you can also be put in a team of hard workers who are very strict and mean. We’d all love to live in a world where everyone loves us and swears undying fealty to the courses we pursue, but that’s just not how life works.
You’ve seen the signs that your boss doesn’t believe in you — Now what?
- Before anything else, ask this question: “Is it them or is it me?”
The easy and acceptable answer is them. And that might be the obvious truth, but let’s take a step back and look at how you might also be contributing to the problem. Have you done something poorly, repeatedly, that might make them not believe in you? Is there something you do, which, in the first place, you shouldn’t even be doing? Like complaining about issues but never having the solution.
When your boss doesn’t believe in you, be humble enough to examine if their reservations are actually valid.
- Learn more about the issue and give them time to adjust
When you’ve spent all your life racing lions, being around birds feels foreign. You are a creature of the adrenaline pool; flying is not what you know. Recognize that both flying and running will get you to your destination. However, this might be the case for you and your boss. Dozens of brilliant secondary school students battle self-doubt in university. It’s possible that you are overestimating your abilities or that your boss has unrealistic standards brought on by colleagues before you. Time allows the truth to come forth and is an easy way to gain insight. You should develop yourself by gathering the necessary information and experiences to provide more of an opportunity for your creativity to surface. Some things cannot be forced; you need to allow it. After levelling up, give yourself time to do better work. Likewise, if you feel that you should go for it, do it, so you don’t miss out on a valuable opportunity.
- Ask questions and be open to the feedback
When you ask questions, you gain additional insight and clarity. When you ask a question like “are there specific KPIs we need to meet on this project?” it doesn’t have to be that you don’t already know what you need to know. Trust yourself. You already have everything you need inside, but extra clarity never hurt anyone. The more you know of the stakes, the more likely for you to deliver well. As you open yourself up to asking questions, be even more open to constructive feedback. Subtly insert yourself into conversations where this feedback can be gotten if it doesn’t come directly.
- Take responsibility
As easy as taking responsibility might seem, most employees have no sense of responsibility. Be sure not to be one of them. Whenever a task or something related to work comes your way, see it through. Don’t let things fall through the cracks with you. Take it up a notch and see it through excellently. You rarely find a boss who doesn’t believe in some who does excellent work. There’s a difference between not being liked and not being trusted. Even with the conversation about your boss not believing in you, take responsibility for what you can change. Nothing good comes out of weaponizing biases. Instead of worrying about your boss’ unspoken words, do something with yours.
- Address the problem with your boss
After learning a bit more about your boss and doing some figurative house cleaning, it’s finally time to talk to this boss. This sounds easier said than done, but since there’s no avoiding this person, just be straightforward with it.
Start by recognizing the fact their lack of belief has impacted your output. However, since you wish to do more excellent work together, both of you should ascertain what’s standing in your way and think of measures to resolve this. Find out the spaces in your work or character that both of you should work on. Remember that this isn’t about you or your boss; it’s about how the two of you can work together.
If your boss is unwilling to talk about it or denies the problem, then that’s already on him or her. What is important is that you tried to fix your work and that’s some boss level attitude there. They will come around, or not, but you would have improved either way. Nobody is taking that from you, ever!