11 Apr 2021

Why your brain is programmed to love (or loathe) your boss

From Sunday Morning, 9:37 am on 11 April 2021

Most people have had great bosses, but there are others who have never felt the love for their workplace superiors.

It turns out there's science behind why your relationship with your boss works so well - or doesn't.

Dr Sherri Malouf is the chair and principal of situation management Systems and author of Science and the Leader-Follower Relationship.

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Photo: Supplied

Fixing failing relationships is no easy thing, she told Jim Mora.

“With a car or a heating system you can take it apart and figure out what’s broken it’s a little bit more difficult to so that with relationships.”

Our brains are bigoted, hard wired to gravitate towards those we have common traits with, she says.

“We are pretty hard-wired to decide who’s an us and who’s a them.”

We create mental models and it is from an efficiency stand point. The brain consumes so much energy, if we had to think about every person and look at every person and say what do I think of that person and do a conscious check it would take us forever to get through the day.”

But in the work place we are forced together, often with those we would normally avoid, she says.

She recommends listening as a good first approach to fixing a troubled workplace relationship.

“If you are challenged at having a relationship with somebody, just go and listen to them, ask them questions ask them about their life and just listen.

“The impact when somebody feels listened to and feels heard it starts that relationship top build, it helps that relationship to build.”

So, what do leaders need to do to improve relationships?

“They’ve got to identify what relationships are working and what are broken and fix the broken ones.”

Heal one relationship and change the world one relationship at a time, she says

If you have a boss that you can’t connect with, change yourself she says.

“You’ve got to shift yourself. One of the things that we do is because of these patterns, we get into habitual interactions with each other and those van be positive or negative.

“One of the ways to shift out of that is to change yourself. Get yourself centre grounded … I always tell people, breathe, oxygen is your friend. Take a deep breath, get yourself grounded and solid in yourself. And then take a completely different path.

“Because a lot of times when you break that pattern, the other person will as well. But you can’t wait for the other person to change, because it has got to come from you.”