The Boss Whisperer, Part I - Mood Matters. A Lot.

by Joseph Kwon in


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You know who they are. You don't want to admit it, but you envy them. They have ability to stay in the good graces of even the most difficult bosses. Somehow, they manage to safely navigate temperamental waters. Even when they fall short, they survive and thrive, and perhaps to your dismay, maintain the boss' ultimate confidence. They have a stranglehold on the best assignments and are invited into the circle of trust. As a result, they rise to the top. They are the boss whisperers.

What is this magical hold they have on the head honcho? What deal have they made with the devil? And what do they know that you don't know? More importantly, what are they doing that you are not?

At a recent training on emotional intelligence I shared a story about a former colleague who gave me an early glimpse into the ways of a boss whisperer. One clever twist to the training was in order to encourage sharing while preserving privacy, we were instructed to refer to "my turtle" when mentioning any difficult characters. This colleague and I worked in an office with a senior turtle who was renowned for foul moods. You could walk into turtle's office announcing you had turned water into wine, but if turtle was having a bad day, their scathing words would turn your wine into vinegar. One day, I learned this lesson the hard way and left turtle's office shell shocked. I shared this experience with my colleague who was sympathetic and kindly shared his strategy for avoiding such disasters. He had cultivated a good relationship with turtle's admin and before he would even consider walking into the lion's den, he would call and ask, "How's the weather? Is the coast clear?" And if the skies were stormy, he'd wait until a sunnier moment to drop by. No surprise he was able to cultivate a fine relationship with this turtle, as well.

His method seems so simple in hindsight, but on a deeper level it illuminates the fact that most of us don't seriously take into account other people's moods. We operate mostly on the level of managing and acting according to our own moods. As for others, we mistakenly assume that good news should always be received well and that bad news, well...less well. In doing so, we fail to recognize the powerful filtering effect a person's mood has on how ANY information is received. The boss whisperer recognizes that theory and logic are best left for textbooks and Star Trek characters. In the real world, our emotions run us.  

Here are some EZPZ steps you can take to deal with the turtles in your life and maybe even become a boss whisperer yourself.

1. Time of Day

Most people have a fairly consistent pattern to when they are feeling good versus feeling low. Ask yourself are they a morning person or a night owl? What part of the day seems to be the most over scheduled? Pay attention to the windows when your turtle is in a good mood and maximize your interactions during those times.

2. Heed the Signals

Pay attention to the verbal and nonverbal signals your turtle definitely gives off that signal whether they are in a good or bad mood. Ask yourself what does your turtle's body language look like when they are in a good mood vs. a bad one? The funny thing is when you stop obsessing about your own mood and start paying more attention to others' moods, you may be surprised at how obvious the signs are.

3. Learn the Triggers

What are the external events that can send your turtle into a tailspin? You don't have to be Sherlock to deduce whether it is a call from a family member, a meeting with their own turtle, or a demoralizing sports team defeat. Before you write this off as silly and irrelevant, think about the last time something put you in a really bad mood at work. Was it purely work-related or more personal in nature? Awareness of your turtle's triggers will help you from becoming collateral damage.

Flex your boss whisperer muscles by exercising your awareness of their moods and factoring them into your interactions. In other words...

"Manage mood, lest it manage you."

If you try this, would love to hear how it went. Good luck!

Next post Saturday, 6:30 a.m.