I guess I'm out of touch, but I always understood a working relationship with my boss to be that I should figure out what the boss wants and do that. In the world of employees and bosses, bosses rule, and the best way to maintain harmony and, if the goal is there, someday become a boss, then the idea is to refrain from being antagonizing, counterproductive, dismissive, and arrogant.
Don't misunderstand--I am fully aware that many bosses make work difficult. "So much of what we call management," said Peter Drucker, "consists in making it difficult for people to work." I've had my share of foolish, obtuse bosses who made my job significantly harder because they didn't know what I did or how I did it. But I did understand that it was essentially my job to please them.
Someday soon, I hope, I will find an agent for my book Sheer Living Hell: Surviving a Tormenting Work Environment, where I address working with a superior who is evil and often psychopathic. In the meantime though, I'm simply noting that in most cases, we have pretty regular bosses with pretty regular faults. They may have personalities that rub us the wrong way or their knowledge of how we do our jobs may be spotty at best. They may ask us to do things we find ridiculous. Sometimes, they allow us to argue our positions; sometimes they do not, and frustration results.
But folks, for the most part, when the boss tells you he or she wants to you learn Excel, then by golly, learn Excel. Don't go back to your workstation and decide you are so stinking perfect you don't need to do anything the boss requires. When the boss tells you they want something done in a particular way, don't cry the blues about his or her perfectionism. Just do it the way the boss wants it. (Cry the blues privately with a trusted friend, but get over it.)
You may know more than your boss. You may have a better grasp on what is needed or necessary. You may believe no one else but the boss cares about some tiny detail. So what? You're not the boss. When you're the boss, you can be as unreasonable and insane as you now find the one for whom you work. What's funny is when you get there and act in what you consider a perfectly reasonable way, you'll find that someone on your staff will consider you a loser. That someone is still an employee, though, and it will be that person's responsibility to discover what it is you want and then do it.
It's not hard to understand. It's life. It's about acting like a professional.