This article will be in a series on how to understand your boss. The word boss here is a person who manages you than leads. All my context is in academics and my stories also.

I was attending to my coaching client. She is a fully sponsored PhD candidate at a prestigious university. She is full of zeal and wants the world to know of her as an important researcher. She also wants to settle in the country. Her supervisor is a kind lady and is a stalwart in the field of research. She has helped quite a number of students from the developing world to become top researchers and get PR in her country. Now let’s go to the reason why I coached this PhD student, Sophie, on managing her relationship with Dr Emma.

“I am not meeting Emma’s expectations…..” “Can you elaborate?” Sophie continued, “You know right, how I was dear to Emma and she considers me as a person who is intelligent and smart in research. Of late, she ignores me.” “Really, what makes you say that”. “She has not replied to any of my emails. Today, my kid was sick and I mailed her saying I cannot attend her seminar. Know what, no reply. I ran to her seminar. Emma smirked, you here? I just nodded. The other day, I went to her and asked if she needed me to do anything. I got a few documents to check for typo. I was supposed to do it by last Tuesday. It was tedious and boring. I tried to finish, but I could not. I asked for some more time …… no response”.

“What do you think” asked Sophie

I didn’t want to jump to conclusions, let my sound judgments pass, and struggled not to give her my advice. I wanted more information to understand their relation and dynamics. “What kind of person is Emma?”

“Well, she is good caring. But do you know why she did not renew the contract with the other girl? She used to give excuses for not doing her work in time. I heard Emma say once to me about her, ‘I also have kids and I have more work than her. Why do you think I can do while she is not able to’. She is caring only till I am productive. How do I get in her good books again? How do I build my relationship, I need her to give me the contract next year, I don’t want to be thrown out like that”

“How can we go about it? As I understand, you want to have a good relationship with Emma and be in her good books”

“Yes! What does Emma want? I don’t think she expects perfection or good work. I don’t want to prove her wrong, that would be catastrophic, yeah, for me. I have to finish all she gives me. No excuses. My motivation – to be a PR, for that I need to be a good researcher and Emma definitely can support me towards that.”

“Anything else?”

“Yes, I should not negate her. She is the boss and boss is always right. I will suggest but make it seem that it came from her. I should be genuine else she can easily sniff me. Let me make a plan”

“How will you know you are going in the right direction?”

“Easy. She will talk to me, she will reply, she will complain about others. I’ll know”

I swallowed my comments on her professionalism as it does not help her and I don’t hold a high moral position as a coach. I further implored, “Any obstacles?”

“Yeah, time is against me. Do you know I have only 18 hours a day? I get easily burned out. I am not able to give time to my kid. But I will find a way. Emma Emma, I am joining your club”

“Can I summarize? You want a good to an excellent working relationship with Emma. Emma is important for your career and life here. She does not accept delays in completing jobs. She is ok with less perfect jobs. You don’t want to prove her wrong. You are going to finish all her work well ahead of time. You will evaluate your progress in the relationship. Anything I missed?