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Getting on with the boss – an inaugural lecture by Prof Robin Martin

Prof Robin Martin gave his inagural lecture on 16 September

Last week I attended Professor Robin Martin’s inaugural lecture during the 2010 British Science Festival week. I would love to know the reasons why those who attended this lecture did so. Perhaps some were ‘the boss’ and wanted to pick up some tips to improve the way they managed staff. Others might have been disgruntled employees who wanted to see what ‘the boss’ should be doing and how they could help make this happen. Others would have been there to support Robin at this special point in his academic career. Whatever the reason, the 200 strong audience at his inaugural lecture would agree with me in saying that what Martin had to say was fascinating, informative and hugely entertaining too!

Martin discussed:

  • Leaders having different qualities of relationships with those they manage

  • Relationships developing for numerous reasons

  • How the quality of relationship determines psychological wellbeing and performance (for managers too!)

  • How the quality of the relationship can sometimes be too good

  • Having different quality relationships can lead to feelings of injustice

  • The need for managers to be open, transparent and ethical

  • The need for relationships to be managed and nurtured.

Martin began by explaining how workplace relationships follow similar ‘rules’ as non-workplace relationships. The quality of the relationship is what is important, as it is what determines wellbeing within the workplace. He also revealed that only 8-10% of time at work is spent talking about the job in hand!

The traditional approach to leadership was always a top down process but the contemporary approach involves an actual relationship between the leader and colleague which is a reciprocal process. Unsurprisingly, the better the relationship and the more valued an employee feels as an individual, the better job satisfaction and increased motivation an individual will have. This is vital to staff retention and promotion opportunities.

Martin explained how if you are similar to your manager you are more likely to have a good relationship with him or her. If a manager likes you as an employee, any ‘good’ behaviour by you will be attributed to internal factors such as your ability, personality and hard work, and how any ‘bad’ behaviour will be put down to external factors such as illness, too large a workload etc. However, if you’re disliked as an employee, the manager will change these attributes round so that good behaviour will be the result of you getting a lucky break or a colleague helping you, and bad behaviour will be put down to laziness, sickness, inability etc. There can also be irrational and totally out of your control reasons for why you do not get on with your boss, which can be as simple as the fact that you/he/she reminds him/her/you of someone you/they dislike!

Martin ended his lecture by quoting the wise words of David Brent from BBC’s ‘The Office’: “If your boss is getting you down, look at him through the prongs of a fork and imagine him in jail.” Cue laughter all round!

Words by Louise Russell

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