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GOLDMAN: When your boss doesn’t trust you, trust me

Who’s that peeking around the corner? 
Who’s that peeping over the cubicle wall? 
It could be nobody. You could be paranoid. Or it could be someone really dangerous. It could be your boss. 
Working for a boss who doesn’t trust you is a serious impediment to career success. It’s bad when it happens in an office situation, where a sneaky-peepy-creepy manager can stalk you from conference room to lunch room, looking for proof that you’re out to get their job. 
For remote workers, it’s even worse. Remember when you were a kid and you worried about a monster in your closet? Well, you were 100% right, only now the monster is your manager, hiding themselves among your coat hangers to make sure you’re not being disloyal. 
One haunted worker bee, suffering from trust issues, recently wrote to Amy Gallo, the “Getting Along” advice columnist of the Harvard Business Review. 
“I’ve been facing some challenges with my direct supervisor,” the writer explained. “She thinks I’m out to get her or gunning for her position.” 
This is a big problem when you really don’t want your boss’ job. It’s an even bigger problem when you do. Either way, you definitely need to make your manager believe you are not a threat. 
Is it possible to build trust in the workplace? Here are Amy Gallo’s three suggestions, and just in case you don’t trust her, I’ve added a few totally trustworthy strategies of my own. 
No. 1: Look for small ways to signal you are not a threat. 
When bosses start acting weird and suspicious, the cause is not your behavior; it’s their insecurity. They feel threatened, even though “they have more power and authority than you.” 
This puts you in a difficult situation. The better your work, the more of a threat you become. Fortunately, there is a simple solution: Stop working so hard. Start making mistakes. By committing to being terrible at your job, you not only will have less to do and more time to play, but you also won’t threaten your insecure boss. 
Most important, don’t forget to use each blunder as an opportunity to ask your boss for guidance. 
“Sorry, boss,” you might say. “I screwed up again. I really need your help.” 
The concern here is that your manager may actually try to help you, in which case you’ll have to find opportunities to make bigger and even bigger mistakes. It shouldn’t be difficult. Just follow your manager’s instructions to the letter and you can be assured that everything will turn out wrong. 
No. 2: Build trust by emphasizing how you’re both aligned. 
It’s important to make your boss feel that both of you are on the same side. You can do this by making sure you understand their priorities and making sure they understand that your priorities are the same as their priorities and you will never waver, unless, of course, their priorities change in which case your priorities will immediately change, as well. 
In other words, show your boss that you are perfectly happy to do whatever you are told. 
Think that establishing yourself as mindless today won’t get you anywhere? How do you think your boss got promoted? 
No. 3: Return to the one-on-one conversation 
The writer to “Managing Up” reported that she had actually confronted her boss with a list of complaints. Unsurprisingly, it had not gone well. There are managers who welcome criticism and adjust their behavior to make work more satisfying to their direct reports. 
These managers can be found in the HR department in Narnia. 
If your workplace is not located in a magical kingdom, you are advised to ask if “there something I can do differently to improve our working relationship.” 
This is a good start, but you will want to add an expression of fealty, something subtle, like, “You are a beacon of excellence throughout the company, and I can only dream of the day when I am half the leader you are. I love you for being you. You’ve made me the happiest direct report in the known universe.” 
Does the fawning sycophant approach seem too obvious? Try it 10 or 50 times. Your manager will start relaxing around you, proving to everyone at work that they have complete confidence in your loyalty. This is the exact point when you can step up, speak out and grab their job for yourself. 
They’ll never know what hit them. On that, you can trust me. 
Bob Goldman was an advertising executive at a Fortune 500 company. He offers a virtual shoulder to cry on at [email protected] To find out more about Bob Goldman and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at 

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