Leading Up: Getting Along with Your Boss

by Chip Lutz, CSP
Leading Up

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My work life has been peppered with people that have been, well, let’s just say jackasses. I’ve always thought of myself as someone that’s easy to get along with but obviously, that’s not the case with everyone. It could be your boss, co-worker, subordinate or even the barista at Starbucks.

Let’s face facts: we all work with some people that we might consider difficult. The difficulty could arise from a difference of opinion or attitude. Regardless from where it stems, it can make work life miserable! If our work life is miserable, that’s going to manifest into other facets of our life. Most of our success in life isn’t about how much we know or how skilled we are, it comes from how well we get along with people and those difficult ones can be difficult!

If you’d like to get along with (notice I wrote “get along with” and not “be best friends with”) the difficult people at work, here are three tactics that have always worked for me.

Keep It Professional

When I was a young Petty Officer, I worked with a crusty old Master Chief that, quite frankly, hated my guts (and it was reciprocated). I didn’t like the way he did things and he didn’t like my “snarky” attitude. So to get along and get things done we kept it professional. Our conversations were about just the facts. That helped remove personality and opinion from the equation and kept things moving.

Be Nice

My first instinct when someone comes at me is to come right back. Although it goes against my instinct, what I’ve found is that by being nice, it helps ease the tension. If they bring a knife, I’m bringing a smile. If they bring a gun, I’m bringing a laugh (you get the idea).

Take a clue from Patrick Swayze in “Road House”:  “Be Nice, until it’s time not to be nice.” Those times may come but 99.9% of the time we can be nice, kill them with kindness and  come out ahead.

Find Something in Common

I used to have a Major work for me that would try and block anything he could in order to maintain control over me. I quickly found that fighting fire with fire brought undesirable  results. What I found was that if I started any conversation about my daughters (we both had two), he would be much more receptive to anything I had to say. I would even ask his advice on what he did in certain situations when he was raising his girls (his were a little older than mine).

EVERYONE HAS SOMETHING IN COMMON! Find out what it is by asking questions and let that be the baseline for opening your conversations. Even if it’s “Hey, you have parents!? I have parents too!” We all have a baseline from which to draw and connect.


In all of these situations, I didn’t become BFFs with the person but I did learn to get along. In any situation, we have a choice to make. We can let it control us or we can work to control it. I think that these three tactics help keep the control in our own court so that we’re a little less stressed, get along better and can move our team further. I hope you find the same.


Chip Lutz, CSP is a leader who’s been there, done that and has the uniform to prove it!  He unplugs leaders from the status quo and plugs them in to people, profits, and productivity!  You can get more information on Chip and his programs at www.unconventionalleader.com.

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