How to Strengthen Your Relationship With Your Boss

Millions of appreciative employees go into work each day thanking their bosses for the support, encouragement and guidance they receive throughout the year. Unfortunately, others have poor relationships with their managers. It is to these employees that I want to dedicate today’s blog. As a CEO myself, there are behaviors that I expect from the people who work for me. When they happen, there will be few, if any, problems from me. However, I’m also human, and there are things employees do that drive me crazy and can lead to problems. If you’re having issues with your boss, please think about your employer-employee relationship, and think about ways to strengthen it.

It’s important for all sides to maintain a good working relationship. As an employee, it’s critical to have a strong, or at least a healthy, relationship with your boss for a variety of reasons.

  • First, your boss has a tremendous amount of influence over workplace stress, whether real or perceived. He or she can make the workplace exciting and something to look forward to each day, or a place that you dread visiting. In short, your health is at stake.
  • Second, bosses hold the key to your advancement within the company, and sometimes outside of it as well. Without a good relationship, they may not speak highly of you—or consider recommending you for other positions, departments or companies—regardless of your performance.
  • And third, having a good relationship with your boss just makes sense. Work consumes most of your time usually, and having good relationships will make things more enjoyable and lead to opportunities.

Good relationships need constant care 

The boss-employee relationship is much like others we need to manage in our lives. As long as both parties are committed to the relationship, we get out what we put into them. If both parties aren’t clear in communicating their expectations and giving feedback when expectations aren’t met, little issues can snowball to the point the relationship is no longer sustainable.

Setting a good example for behavior doesn’t always translate into a strong relationship. Employees might not get the direct and constructive performance feedback they need to elevate their career—or the boss isn’t all that invested so he or she doesn’t push the team to consistently achieve and grow.

In order to grow, learn and advance in their careers, employees need to be on the same page with their supervisors about their goals, objectives and career path. And, employees should start this dialogue so that they can open the lines of communication with their supervisors and engage them in this process.

According to several recent studies, many workers rate their relationship with their supervisor as good, great or excellent. However, for the percentage of people who rate their relationship as weak, it could be related to trust. Strong relationships are based on trust from both parties, and it takes an open line of communication from both the employee and the supervisor to make that happen.

Other reasons some employees have such weak relationships with their bosses can be the very nature of the boss-employee dynamic.

If an employee has someone who is constantly telling him or her what to do and, in many instances, how to do it, this can easily cause friction and resentment. It piles onto an already stressful workday. In addition, there are many employees who are jealous of their bosses and perhaps feel that they, not the bosses, should be the ones in charge. Again, this causes resentment toward the one person at work who has the most control over your career.

But it is imperative to have a great work relationship with your boss because he or she controls your destiny. You don’t have to love your boss, but you need to be able to work well together.

One of the main reasons employees leave their job is because of their boss. A troubled relationship with your boss can negatively affect your morale, your productivity, your happiness and, of course, your career. A positive relationship can improve your morale, productivity and happiness, which could lead to more career success in the form of promotions, raises and higher self-esteem.

Here’s how to strengthen your relationship with your boss:

Put yourself in your boss’s shoes

Figure out the challenges your boss will encounter that day in respect to your work, a project the team has or even bigger issues affecting the organization. Then, be prepared to offer solutions. Anticipate the questions that your supervisor may ask about your work or a project, and have thoughtful answers or next steps to take. Thinking ahead can really show that you’re an invaluable team member. And I’ve yet to meet an executive or member of management who doesn’t appreciate an employee who thinks big picture.

On the other hand, I know it can be easy to resent your boss, especially if he or she treats you a certain way. However, realize that your boss has a job to do as well, and sometimes the stress is enormous. There’s a lot about your boss’s job that you don’t know about or see, so don’t assume that he or she is out to get you. Perhaps there are higher-ups putting pressure on them—so try to be understanding.

Show value

You’re employed because at some point, you showed you could add value to the organization. Make sure that you’re adding value to the organization and/or your position. Bosses want employees not only to agree with them, but also be willing to speak up about the realities and challenges in the business that need to be addressed. Be the person who speaks with facts, confidence and reasonable suggestions that produce results. This builds your boss’s confidence in you.

Represent yourself—and your boss—well at all times  

Everyone cares about their work reputation, or at least they should. If you can make your boss look good, he or she will be happy—and if your boss is happy, you’ll be happy. Whether your boss attends or not, be prepared for every meeting. Your reputation does precede you.

Don’t correct your boss in front of others. It’s embarrassing for your boss, even if he or she is wrong about something. You’re better off addressing their mistake with them after people leave.

At all times, display a level of professionalism that not only benefits you personally, but also reflects highly of your boss. You’re a reflection of your boss’s leadership.

Know when and how to communicate with your boss  

Does your supervisor like one-sentence emails or prefer a detailed account of what’s going on? Does he or she want to receive an outline of where your project stands? Or do you need to provide all of the details? Learn how your supervisor likes to communicate and receive communication, and mimic this style.

Finally, ask yourself questions like: “What time of day would my boss prefer to answer questions I might have?” and “What day of the week is the best time to approach him or her?” “Knowing this in advance can greatly improve the relationship. If you don’t know the answers and can’t ask your boss directly, ask your boss’s administrative assistant if applicable.

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