Where do you stand in your job? Are you killin’ it or are things looking precarious? There are many factors to consider of course. And, two that are absolutely fundamental to the quality of your overall employment experience are: (i) Skill and (ii) the relationship with your boss. Taken together these form a matrix that can serve as an important indicator of where you stand at work. A matrix that can reveal if you are a Legend or a Lackey? Let’s find out.

Your skill

Skill is simply about how good you are at your job. Every role will have requirements and skill is about doing these well and in a manner that is evident to your team. I stress “evident” because of the common pitfall of doing great work but not being recognised for it. There may be many reasons for this from company culture to team set-up, and your boss could certainly be a major contributing factor too. That brings us to the relationship with your boss.

The relationship with your boss

What is your relationship with your boss? Do you get along well? Is it neutral? Or, is there friction between you? The better the working relationship with your boss, the better things will usually be for you at work. And, that is often irrespective of the reason for the good relationship.

For example, a good relationship may be the result of the fact they value your hard work, or because you come from the same small town! The end result is a supportive professional relationship. Remember that I am not making a moral judgement about one type of reason being better or worse. I am merely noting the importance of a good working relationship with your boss, which may have all sorts of underlying reasons.

The matrix — skill vs. the relationship with your boss

What does all this mean for where you might stand at work? Let’s look at the quadrants of the matrix, where “skill” is on the X-axis and “the relationship with your boss” on the Y-axis. The bottom half is where you definitely don’t want to be!

the relationship with your boss

Bottom left

This is a place of not being good at your job where the relationship with your boss is also bad. Needless to say, this is a dangerous place to be in. You aren’t doing good work and your boss doesn’t like you. This probably means that you are soon to be fired.

Bottom right

Here you are not very good at your job, but  your working relationship with your boss is strong. They like you and so they keep you around despite your not-so-great performance. This is not a good place to be in either because you are at your boss’s mercy — at the risk of becoming a lackey. A lackey who is kept around because they can be relied on to comply even if they are not performing so well. This is certainly not a place of strength.

In a sense, all corporate employment has an element of being a lackey and pleasing your boss. But, that’s another story for another day. If corporate employment creates lackeys, the bottom right quadrant produces bona fide lackeys.

Top left

The top left is an odd place to be in. It is one where you are doing excellent work, but for whatever reason, you just don’t get along with your boss. This can be a real negative for your overall working experience. It can become a place of conflict, tension and politics.

There is also the risk that your boss is plotting to get rid of you (or vice versa!). The slightest mistake may suddenly downgrade you into the “soon to be fired” quadrant because your boss is waiting for you to slip-up. Once again, the reasons for the friction may be entirely not your fault. The result however is a problematic working environment and it’s very useful to notice that. It may be a sign that change is required.

Top right

This is where you want to be. You do great work and your boss loves you. You are a legend! It is really the only place where you should be. Why would you not do good work anyway? And, why would you tolerate a bad working relationship with your boss? Your boss is often your sponsor in big corporate settings and this relationship needs to be strong. You have to ensure it. Otherwise, you risk being forgotten or worse, being treated unfairly.

Skill alone is not enough, the relationship with your boss is hugely important to the quality of your work life and  your career.

Final words

Remember that if your industry or company are tanking then being in the top right won’t save you! But, it is still the place to be, even in a crisis.

Skill and the relationship with your boss are just two factors out of many that affect the quality of your employment. Yet, they are fundamental. I don’t want to quite say it’s 80/20, but being in the top-right hand quadrant of the matrix is definitely up there in terms of impact on job satisfaction.

Where do you stand? Are you legend or lackey?


life coaching londonHarsha is a 1:1 coach and independent thinker based in London. He empowers people to find more clarity, confidence and focus in their lives — to cut through the noise, in a world so full of it. Harsha’s new book, Machine Ego: Tragedy of the Modern Mind, is now available in paperback and Kindle through Amazon.