Last Updated Apr 7, 2010 6:24 PM EDT
Here's how: 1) Your job is to make your boss love you Forget the job description. It's not a binding contract. Instead, look at what your boss really needs. This is a relationship like any other, and many of us are lousy at seeing problems when it comes ourselves. Think about it: Why is it so easy to see why your friend's boyfriend sucks, but it's so hard to see the problem with your own boyfriend? The same is true with the workplace. It's much easier to see other peoples' problems. Which means you're in a better position than your boss to understand what your boss needs someone to take care of.
Also, remember this: What you really want to do is build skills and learn more so you can control what you do next in your life, right? The way you do this is get your boss to love you. Then your boss will help you get what you want.
2) Exploit your boss's weaknesses We all have shortcomings. Your boss's imperfections are an opportunity for you to become a star. That's right. The place where your boss is incompetent is the place where you can shine. Is your boss bad at details? Then take over the details. Is your boss bad at finance? Offer to manage the spreadsheets.
If you're impatient with your boss, or annoyed because he's bad at some stuff, get over it. Realize how you can exploit your boss's weaknesses and hopefully you'll become more patient in the process. Stop being annoyed. Be grateful that you're good at something, and start volunteering to do more of it. Your boss will love you if you rescue him from having to do something he's terrible at.
3) Take time to understand your boss Most people are bad at what they are scared of. They don't do the work or they do it poorly or they never stop doing it. Each of these annoying traits is rooted in fear. If you can understand what drives your boss's fear, then you can help your boss where she most needs it. A lot of us spend most of our day doing work that our boss doesn't actually care that much about. Spend your time figuring out what work worries your boss the most, and make sure you get to that. Do your own work faster so you can make time to give extra help to your boss on projects she is unsure about. If you make your boss less scared, then she can make more time to coach you on the stuff you are scared about.
4) Get some respect Your boss got where he is because he's either competent or likable. And, to be honest, people usually get promotions because they are likable. So if you don't like your boss, you're not going to get very far because the person who promoted him likes him. Figure out what is likable about your boss. Focus on that. And then you have learned a new skill: To be more upbeat about the whole world because you can find the good in each person. Corny, yes, but optimistic people do better in their careers, so learning to love an annoying boss is good for your career.
5) Lose the idea that you are special The problem you have with your boss is not insurmountable. For example, do you work for a micromanager? People always tell me that having a micromanager is the worst work problem ever. But look: A micromanager's weakness is that he can't see the big picture. So let him micromanage whatever he wants. Do your work assuming he'll redo it all. Then look for all the big-picture analysis he's missing because he's stuck in micromanager land. He'll love you for relieving him of big-picture stuff, and you'll be learning to do a new job - your boss's.
6) Focus on your own learning curve Your boss does not control your ability to learn. Your boss does not control your self-esteem or your IQ. You are smart, creative and hardworking if you put your mind to it. Not because your boss says you are. Not because someone gives you the assignment to be that. So be your true self, no matter who your boss is, and when you are learning, even if you're learning to get along with a crazy person, you are growing. And that's what makes a job worth holding onto.