At one point or another in your career, you will report to a manager, the person you fondly – or not – call boss. The relationships that you create and manage, with both your immediate boss, and other company employees, are critical for your work success and career progress.
And, face it, whether you like it or not, you’re in charge of your relationship with your boss. No one will ever share as much concern as you do that the quality of the relationship helps you achieve your goals. At the same time, your boss has information that you need to succeed. He can’t do his job or accomplish his goals without your help.
So, your manager shares a critical interdependence with you. If you don’t accomplish your work, your manager will never shine for his or her overall responsibilities. You won’t progress without the information, perspective, experience, and support of your manager.
Despite knowing this, managers do come in every size and with all possible levels of skill and effectiveness. Some managers are just plain bad bosses; others are unaware of what you needfrom them. Managing up is challenging, but ultimately, worth your time.
How to Develop an Effective Relationship With Your Boss
These steps will help you develop a positive, ongoing, supportive relationship with your boss – a relationship that serves you well, your manager well, and, as a consequence, your organization well.
- The first step in managing up is to develop a positive relationship with your boss. Relationships are based on trust. Do what you say you’ll do. Keep timeline commitments. Never blind side your manager with surprises that you could have predicted or prevented. Keep her informed about your projects and interactions with the rest of the organization.
Tell the boss when you’ve made an error or one of your reporting staff has made a mistake. Cover-ups don’t contribute to an effective relationship. Lies or efforts to mislead always result in further stress for you as you worry about getting “caught” or somehow slipping up in the consistency of your story. Communicate daily or weekly to build the relationship.
Get to know your manager as a person – she is one, after all. She shares the human experience, just as you do, with all of its joys and sorrows.
- Recognize that success at work is not all about you; put your boss’s needs at the center of your universe. Identify your boss’s areas of weakness or greatest challenges and ask what you can do to help. What are your boss’s biggest worries; how can your contribution mitigate these concerns? Understand your boss’s goals and priorities. Place emphasis in your work to match her priorities. Think in terms of the overall success of your department and company, not just about your more narrow world at work.
- Look for and focus on the “best” parts of your boss; just about every boss has both good points and bad. When you’re negative about your boss, the tendency is to focus on his worst traits and failings. This is neither positive for your work happiness nor your prospects for success in your organization. Instead, compliment your boss on something he does well. Provide positive recognition for contributions to your success. Make your boss feel valued. Isn’t this what you want from him for you?
- Your boss is unlikely to change; she can choose to change, but the person who shows up to work every day has taken years and years of effort on her part to create. And, who your boss is has worked for her in the past and reinforced her actions and beliefs. Instead of trying to change your boss, focus instead, on trying to understand your boss’s work style.
Identify what she values in an employee. Does she like frequent communication, autonomous employees, requests in writing in advance of meeting, or informal conversation as you pass in the hallway. Your boss’s preferences are important and the better you understand them, the better you will work with her.
- Learning how to read your boss’s moods and reactionsis also a helpful approach to communicate more effectively with him. There are times when you don’t want to introduce new ideas; if he is preoccupied with making this month’s numbers, your idea for a six month improvement may not be timely. Problems at home or a relative in failing health affect each of your workplace behaviors and openness to an improvement discussion. Additionally, if your boss regularly reacts in the same way to similar ideas, explore what he fundamentally likes or dislikes about your proposals.
- Learn from your boss. Although some days it may not feel like it, your boss has much to teach you. Appreciate that she was promoted because your organization found aspects of her work, actions, and/or management style worthwhile. Promotions are usually the result of effective work and successful contributions. So, ask questions to learn and listen more than you speakto develop an effective relationship with your boss.
- Ask your boss for feedback. Let the boss play the role of coach and mentor. Remember that your boss can’t read your mind. Enable him to offer you recognition for your excellent performance. Make sure he knows what you have accomplished. Create a space in your conversation for him to praise and thank you.
- Value your boss’s time. Try to schedule, at least, a weekly meeting during which you are prepared with a list of what you need and your questions. This allows him to accomplish work without regular interruption.
- Tie your work, your requests, and your project direction to your boss’s and the company’s overarching goals. When making proposals to your boss, try to see the larger picture. There are many reasons why your suggestion may not be adopted: resources, time, goals, and vision. Maintain strict confidentiality.
- In your relationship with your boss you will sometimes disagree and occasionally experience an emotional reaction. Don’t hold grudges. Don’t make threats about leaving. Disagreement is fine; discord is not. Get over it. You need to come to terms with the fact that your boss has more authority and power than you do. You are unlikely to always get your way.
By Susan M. Heathfield, About.com Guide