Guest contributor Jodie Hebbard gives us insider tips on strengthening your relationship with your boss.
As a Regional Director in a corporate setting, I gained hands on experience managing teams that managed other teams. The experience had me quickly learning how to help managers best work with employees and vice versa.
Gone are the times when managers could just directly lead with a focus on a downward, hierarchical structure. We are now in an era of collaboration and trust in all directions in an organization. And it’s not just the manager anymore with the responsibility to make the relationship a success -- employees, more than ever, share in building toward highly productive teamwork.
Your boss has a big impact on your career outlook and growth, so it is important to make that relationship a priority. Realizing this and committing to it will allow you to get the most out of the rest of your career and workplace happiness, too.
If you have found yourself struggling at work due to your relationship with your boss, consider asking yourself the following questions:
1. What qualities do I appreciate in my boss?
Gratitude can be a big step in the journey to professional fulfillment. Your boss is likely in their position for a reason - there was something in them that got them to where they are, and now they hold at least one of the keys to your future.
Maybe they aren’t the best communicator, but are amazing at sales. Perhaps they are really disorganized but are extraordinary at problem solving. Or maybe they really know how to manage a team but fail at individual contribution.
Focus on their strengths and ask yourself what you can learn from them.
2. How can I better manage myself?
Don’t underestimate the power of being dependable through results and achievements you discover and measure yourself.
Show interest and foresight by researching and asking in-depth questions when you’re uncertain about a problem. Take the initiative to find unique solutions to problems that have long plagued your team that everyone else has ignored.
Your manager will take note - not only are you saving them time, but you’re also taking steps toward developing yourself as a self-starter and ultimately moving up the ladder.
3. How can I help them?
Demonstrating respect and empathy can positively transform any relationship. Consider what your manager is going through and try to put yourself in their shoes.
Did they take the red-eye flight home last night from a business meeting? Are they dealing with shipping delays and frustrated customers? Or are they perhaps facing budget cuts that they have to deliver in the form of layoffs?
Instead of adding to any stressors that your manager is already dealing with, consider how you can be a part of the solution and offer your assistance and feedback.
Managers often find it difficult to recognize when they’ve taken on too much or can’t problem-solve alone. If you’re there to lighten the load for them, your effort will be noticed.
4. What is their work style?
If your boss likes to be very involved of and aware of what everyone is working on, take the initiative by proactively providing them with small but consistent status reports. Set up a schedule to update them on your current projects - it doesn’t have to be too often or face-to-face, as long as the information is communicated in a way that gives them comfort in how you’re getting things done.
On the other hand, if you know your boss in involved in many projects and doesn’t have the time or concern to micromanage, just being a consistent deliverer of results will do wonders for their trust and your relationship.
If you’re unsure what they prefer, ask your boss what works best for them and figure out how you can best adapt.
5. What are my expectations?
If you are the type of person that requires regular feedback from your employer, explain that to your boss and ask if you can schedule regular weekly meetings to touch base. Consider their schedule and level of responsibility when making this request to ensure you’re not adding too much to an already sizeable workload.
If you don’t need regular check-ins and prefer more autonomy and space to complete your work, let your boss know (best to discuss this before you take the job, but it’s never too late) and deliver accordingly. Earn their confidence and you’ll get the projects and responsibilities you need to move ahead in your career.
In summary: Clear communication on both sides of the manager-employee relationship is key to develop a strong rapport. Always consider how you can help your manager succeed in their career and managing you. You’ll see the same effort in return. Ultimately, this relationship can have a very positive impact on your job satisfaction and growth potential.