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Photographer:Fotograaf: Loraine Bodewes

Sander (31): “My boss gives me assignments and then tells me how to implement them. He is hardly ever interested in my opinion. We clash regularly. What can I do to improve our working relationship?”

Ingrid: Human behaviour is predictable. If you call out to your colleague ‘hey, could you get me a cup of coffee,’ chances are he won’t do it. You will be more successful if you choose different words and use them with the correct intonation. So, you can guide other people’s behaviour. The American psychologist Timothy Leary developed a model, Leary’s rose (see the chart below), which shows you how to go about it. You can use it as a compass that shows you the road to a better working relationship. You only need one person to achieve this: you.




In the compass, above mainly means dominant, below not dominant, opposed is task-focused and together is focused on relationships. Your superior is in his preferred position, above/opposed. He gives assignments, he does not tolerate contradiction, focuses on the job at hand and not on the relationship. You are also in that part of the pie, because you want to determine for yourself what you should do and you need your superior like you need a hole in the head. Both of you being in the same section of Leary’s rose leads to misery. Both of you being above inevitably leads to trouble, but both being in different wedges isn’t the answer. You will become bogged down in what-do-you-thinks if you are both in ‘below/together’. Both in ‘against/below’ will lead to endless weighing of words and criticising each other’s ideas. So it is up to you to be flexible and move through the rose in order to get on. To determine which way to go, it is important to know that above behaviour in one person brings out below behaviour in another and vice versa. Together and against behaviour on the other hand,  is contagious: the other does the same.

Leave your above/left place in order to get the relationship moving. By taking a step to the right in the rose, you will tempt your boss to do the same. After all, together behaviour elicits together behaviour. Try to be co-operative – together/below. You do so by listening and showing an interest in his ideas. Ask him lots of questions and tell him that you like or appreciate that he always has so many plans. Your manager will come around to your side more and more and eventually maybe even offer help with the implementation of your plans. He will pay attention to you, and encourage and compliment you. In short, your co-operation will improve. Action is after all reaction.

Ingrid Candel 



Would you like to ask psychologist Ingrid Candel a question (you may do so anonymously)? Send an e-mail to

Do you have any questions or problems and would you like to speak with a psychological counsellor for students from Maastricht University, contact or call 043 3885388.



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