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"I'm powerless, too." It's tempting to think your boss - or his boss, or her boss - has all the power. That's not how it feels to them. Everyone feels stuck in the middle. Even your CEO must contend with the board, investors, regulators, and the media.
"You confuse me." From time to time, you say or do things that baffle your boss, and probably the people around you. Perhaps you weren't paying attention until you had to speak. Perhaps you spoke without thinking, or without fully appreciating the gravity of the situation.
If this happens occasionally, no big deal. If it happens routinely, that's a problem. Watch for that look in people's eyes that says, "Huh?" It usually surfaces months before you get official notice of your tenuous status.
"You gotta do something I can't live without." To be secure in today's workforce, you must have a skill that your boss values enough to pay for it. If you lack such a skill, do nothing else until you master one.
But once you do this, people will want you to use that skill again and again and again. If you keep doing this, you will eventually get bored and you will never increase your value in the marketplace. So after you master one skill, learn another on the side, until people are willing to pay you more to use that one.
"Don't undermine your own value." If you love your job so much you would gladly do it for free, it might be best to not to mention this.
"Without confidence, your competence will be wasted." Do whatever it takes to build self-confidence, even if it means confronting your worst fears. The popular press is filled with potential tactics: fake it until you make it; adopt power postures; use self-affirmations; build a support group.
The truth is that people are different, so find a tactic that works for you. But don't waste your talent because you don't value it as much as others would if they could see it clearly.
"You have it really easy." Your worst fears are nothing compared to what some people face each day just to find clean drinking water and enough food. Even if you are underpaid, overworked, and under-appreciated, you are blessed beyond belief compared to most human beings.
"Half the stuff I say is nonsense." Your boss is besieged by the same forces as the rest of us. Budgets shift, bureaucracy wins, the economy varies, technology advances, and sometimes people just flat out change their minds. At best, your boss is perceptively navigating a difficult path. At worst, s/he is lost beyond your worst nightmare.
But either way, your boss is just another person. Show some compassion, and hope that s/he does the same for you.
This article originally appeared on LinkedIn. Read comments here...