4 Ways to Improve the Working Relationship with Your Boss

Feb 3, 2014
7 Min Read

It’s often said that employees don’t leave companies, they leave bosses.

In other words, when employees don’t like their bosses, they’re more likely to leave while those who like or appreciate their bosses are likely to stick around longer.

But what if your boss isn’t exactly awful? What if you’re thinking about leaving because you just can’t seem to get him to give you a chance to succeed, or your personalities are polar opposites – or he just seems to not care what you do?

Before you polish off that resume and start looking for another job, consider that if you fail to get along with this boss, a similar scenario may await you at another company. Your failure to manage this critical relationship can be like a dark cloud that follows you from employer-to-employer.

Those who find success no matter where they work often have learned the important skill of meshing with a boss to form a mutually beneficial relationship. You make the boss look good, and he does the same for you.

Sounds easy when it’s put that way, but it can often be tricky road to navigate. This can be especially true if you don’t have a lot of experience working with different bosses.

So, here are some tips to get you on the right path to a better working relationship with your boss:

  • Make sure you’re not the problem. Are you consistently coming in late or leaving early without permission from the boss? Are you submitting so-so work that he has to labor over to improve? Or, are you simply not bringing your “A” game each and every day? Sometimes workers feel like the boss owes them something, but a job is a contract between the employer and the employee. If you don’t bring your best every day, why should the boss help you?
  • Bring problems WITH solutions. If you bring a problem to the boss, make sure you’re ready to offer one or two solutions. Even if you’re inexperienced, you can show that you’re thinking ahead and that’s something that any boss will appreciate. Once he sees he doesn’t have to hand-hold you because you’re ready to confront challenges and keep yourself productive, he’ll be more inclined to look down the road with you for more challenges. Bosses who are mired in your everyday problems won’t be as keen to help you reach for new challenges.
  • Be in his line of sight. Some workers don’t like talking directly to the boss too often because they believe it’s easier and less stressful to just send emails or texts. This strategy only works if the boss wants it that way. If you’re working on a new project or handling a critical client, then you probably need to communicate with the boss more often face-to-face. Try to make your interactions concise so you don’t waste the boss’s time, and the boss will welcome you for some face time instead looking at you like a long-winded burden.

Management guru Peter Drucker said bosses are either “listeners” or “readers,” meaning some bosses would rather read information and have time to digest it while others would rather it be told to them. Even if your boss likes time to read information, you still need to follow up sometimes with face time.

  • Be adaptable. While you will begin to learn a boss’s habits and preferences the longer you work with him, don’t become complacent and think those things will never change. Just as your job or tasks may evolve due to market conditions, team support or even personal issues, a boss’s job can be affected the same way. Take time periodically in your face-to-face meetings to ask the boss about any additional concerns, or look for signs that he may be stressed or concerned about certain issues. These will be issues you may also need to give more priority to, or at least pay more attention to them when they’re discussed by others.

A survey by McKinsey & Co. earlier this year found that only 52% of 1,400 C-level executives are spending their time in a way that matched their companies’ strategic priorities. The study revealed that many bosses are finding it tough to find ways to use their time effectively, and feel frustrated about it. If you want to stay on the right side of the boss, helping him to use his time in ways that make him feel like he’s getting the right things accomplished is critical.

Finally, recognize that you and your boss may have different work styles and you cannot let that become a roadblock to forming a mutually beneficial relationship. You both desire success, so take any feedback he offers and use it to hone your style to better mesh with his.

What are some ways you’ve found to be effective in managing your relationship with a boss?

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