When it comes to bosses, most employees think in terms of avoidance—avoiding criticism, avoiding blame, and often, avoiding contact as much as possible. But sidestepping interaction with your boss can be a hindrance to your career advancement. In fact, learning to manage your relationship with your boss can be beneficial for your career path and your current job satisfaction.
The key to any productive relationship—including a relationship with a manager—is communication. Your boss can’t read your mind; it’s your job to keep her updated on what’s happening in your sphere of influence. If the elements of your boss’ default management style make it difficult to perform your job well, say so.
Initiate regular communications with your manager to ensure that you both agree on your goals and progress. Provide regular updates, and ask for help and advice if you need it. Learn your manager’s communication style and try to adhere to it. If she prefers bi-weekly meetings, get them on her schedule. If email works best for her, get in the habit of providing regular, thorough, and well-organized updates that she can review on her time frame.
Typically, managers do not enjoy being the last to know important information that affects them—even if that information is negative. If a project isn’t going well, don’t try to hide the information from your boss. Be forthcoming and work with your manager to change course as needed.
Don’t meekly commit to tasks without proper expertise and resources. Here’s the trick: Always under-commit and over-deliver. It’s better to speak up to your boss at the first hint of unrealistic expectations, than to disappoint him or her later.
Respect the Chain of Command
To gain and keep your manager’s respect, don’t complain incessantly without suggesting solutions. And if you feel that your boss makes bad decisions or doesn’t listen to your concerns, think carefully before going over her head. As in the military, there’s no turning back once you’ve potentially embarrassed your manager by breaking the chain of command. Take every possible step to work out disagreements within the defined structure.
If you disagree with a decision your boss has made, then express disagreement by all means. But once the decision is final, do your best to honor it. Discuss problems, but don’t be confrontational.
Part of just about every job is making the boss look good. Take an interest in outside factors that are affecting your manager, and find ways to provide assistance and support. The success of your manager also helps you succeed.
Focus on Excellence
Take your job seriously and always do your best work. Managers usually know when an employee’s heart isn’t in it. Think creatively about how to overcome obstacles, and be proactive in finding solutions that can also help your manager succeed. Be prepared for meetings with your manager—understand the ins and outs of the agenda. Scrambling to find a fact or figure wastes your boss’ time and doesn’t serve to impress.
Learning to manage your relationship with your boss is a skill that will help advance your career. Effective communication, respect for your company’s leadership structure, and taking your job seriously are important components of a healthy relationship with your manager.