That popular expression of power is often used in referring to the attitude of tough bosses. Some of those bosses enjoy stating it themselves. I worked for more than one boss who liked to say, “It’s my way or the highway!”
During my twenties, I worked for three different food service equipment dealers. At one of them, I had a boss who appeared to favor two men in the company who I was confident I was outperforming.
I was baffled.
In sales, I consistently ranked with the top performers. Even though one of the youngest salesmen, I was the only one capable of designing, selling and installing the equipment for a complete food service operation. In fact, I had designed kitchens for more of the local high visibility name restaurants than anyone at any of the food service equipment dealers in our market area.
Confrontations with my boss were a regular occurrence. It seemed that I seldom pleased him no matter how productive my performance.
If my conflict with the boss was not because of my performance, it had to be something else. I thought maybe it was lifestyle since mine was very different from the two men he favored most, yet I could not see any substantial similarity in the life-style of those two men. Their backgrounds could not have been more different. One was aristocratic and sophisticated, and the other was redneck and rough.
The boss was not like either of them. He was competent, socially active and respected in the local business community. None of the three of us salesmen had, at that time, the same type of connections the boss had, in fact, none of us traveled in the same circles at all. All four of us had a different lifestyle, therefore whatever caused the boss to favor the other two men must not have been a lifestyle issue.
Why did I not receive the boss’s favor and recognition like the other two men?
Then, one day it dawned on me. How could I have been so blind for so long?
Those other two men did everything exactly the way the boss liked it done!
I had rediscovered another Principle of Creative Followership. Even though I had known this principle, I had not been actively using it. Not using it had cost me my boss’s favor and handicapped my advancement within the company.
As I began to apply this Principle, and do it the way the boss liked it done, my status with my boss improved amazingly!
Do It the Way the Boss Likes it Done
Unfortunately, this boss and I had some fundamental differences in our ethics and attitudes about how people should be treated and business should be conducted. He asked his employees to do things that I was not willing to do.
There may come a time during your career when you will face a similar situation. Your choices could either make or break your reputation. I wanted to determine who I would be, and I was not willing to compromise my integrity
My choices were clear; I either had to compromise my ethics to do it the boss’s way or find a new boss whose ethics were in sync with mine.
To be successful in my relationship with my boss, I knew that I must be willing to do it the way the boss liked it done. In this situation, there were too many times when I could not do that.
The solution? Do it the way the boss likes it done or choose a new boss.
I decided that “my way or the highway” was not a boss exclusive slogan. I used it myself and fired my boss and took the highway.
Of course, I did choose a new boss before I fired the one I was leaving.
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