Who Are Superiors?
Superiors are those individuals with relatively more power and authority than other members of a group. Thus, superiors could be teachers, band directors, coaches, team captains, heads of committees, or fist-line supervisors. Needless to say, there are a number of advantages to having a good working relationship with superiors.
1. First, superiors and followers sharing the same values, approaches and attitudes will experience less conflict, provide higher levels of mutual support, and be more satisfied with superior-follower relationships than superiors and followers having poor working relationships.
Relatedly, individuals having good superior-follower relationships are often in the superior’s in-group and thus are more likely to have a say in the decision-making process, be delegated interesting tasks, and have the superior’s support for career advancement.
2. Second, followers are often less satisfied with their supervisors and receive lower performance appraisal ratings when superior-follower relationships are poor. Although the advantages of having of having a good working relationship with superiors seem clear, one might mistakenly think that followers have little, if any, say in the quality of the relationship. In other words, followers might believe their relationships within their superiors are a matter of luck; either the follower has a good superior or a bad one, or the superior just happens to like or dislike the follower, and there is little if anything the follower can do about it.
However, the quality of a working relationship is not determined solely by the superior, and effective subordinates do not limit themselves to a passive stance toward superiors.
Effective followers have learned how to take active steps to strengthen the relationship and enhance the support they provide their superior and the organization.
Wherever a person is positioned in an organization, an important aspect of that person’s work is to help his superior be successful, just as an important part of the superior’s work is to help followers be successful. This does not mean that followers should become apple-polishers, play politics, or distort information just to make superiors look good,
It does mean, however, that followers should think of their own and their superiors success as interdependent. It means that followers are players on their superior’s team and should be evaluated on the basis of the team’s success, not just their own.
If the team succeeds, then the coach and the team members should benefit; if the team fails, then the blame should fall on both the coach and the team members.
Because team, club, or organizational outcomes depend to some extent on good superior-follower relationships, understanding how superiors view the world and adapting to superiors’ styles are two things followers can do to increase the likelihood their actions will have positive results for themselves, their superiors, and their organizations.
Understanding the Superior’s World
There are a number of things followers can do to better understand their superior’s world.
First, they should try to get a handle on their superior’s personal and organizational objectives. Loyalty and support are a two-way street, and just as a superior can help subordinates attain their personal goals most readily by knowing what they are, so can subordinates support their superior if they understand the superior’s goal s and objectives.
Relatedly, knowing a superior’s values, preferences, and personality can help followers better understand why superiors act the way they do and can give followers insights into how they might strengthen relationships with supervisors.
Second, followers need to realize that superiors are not supermen or superwomen. Superiors do not have all the answers, and they have both strength and weaknesses. Subordinates can make a great contribution to the overall success of a team by recognizing and complementing a superior’s weakness, and understanding his constraints and limitations.
For example, a consultant might spend over 200 days a year conducting executive development workshops, providing organizational feedbacks to clients, or giving speeches at various public events. This same consultant, however, might not be skilled in designing and making effective visual aids for presentations. Or she might dislike having to make her own travel and accommodation arrangements. A follower could make both the consultant and the consulting firm more successful through his own organization and planning, attention to detail, computer graphics skills, and understanding that the consultant is most effective she has at least a one-day break between engagements. A similar process can take place in other contexts, as when subordinates help orient and educate a newly assigned superior whose expertise and prior experience may have been in a different field or activity. In an even general sense, subordinates can enhance superior-follower relationships by keeping superiors informed about various activities in the work group or new developments or opportunities in the field. Few superiors like surprises, and any news should come from the person with the responsibility for a particular area – especially if the news is potentially bad or concerns unfavorable developments. Followers wishing to develop good superior-follower relationships should never put their superior in the embarrassing situation of having someone else know more about their terrain than she does (her own boss, for instance). The best followers think critically and play an active role in their organizations; which means followers should keep their superiors informed about critical information and pertinent opinions concerning organizational issues,