How to Optimize Your Relationship with Your Boss


Your relationship with your boss can be a wellspring of growth possibilities if nurtured properly or a career minefield if left to go sour. Maintaining a good professional relationship with your manager can make all the difference in the type and quality of projects that get sent your way, in your career advancement, in your relationship with others in the firm and in your overall reputation in the industry even after you leave the firm.

  1. Perfect Your Role
    Your relationship with your manager will to a very large extent be determined by your overall professional skills, attributes and success at the job you are doing. A manager will take far more pride in the employee who constantly produces quality work, meets deadlines and is pleasant to work with. Perfect your job by knowing exactly what your manager's objectives for the position are and then exceeding his expectations. Always aim to go the extra mile to show that you are truly dedicated to the position and that you take your career very seriously. This can include volunteering to help others when you have time, taking on additional projects when you can afford to, cultivating unique skills and coming up with new ideas to improve performance, win clients or cut costs. Building a reputation for yourself as someone who does the job extremely well, is professional, pleasant and always goes the extra mile will reflect just as positively on your boss.
  2. Communication
    The importance of building an open dialogue with your manager cannot be overemphasized. Maintaining an open channel of communication with your boss is one of the key ingredients of a successful long-term relationship. The goal of these communications is to build a professional rapport, gain visibility and ensure an unhampered flow of information about the firm, the unit, your own performance and any problems, concerns, issues, accomplishments on either side.
  • Invest in building an open channel of communication early on.
    Get your boss accustomed to your wandering into his office for a chat or scheduling a meeting for yourself in his diary on a periodic basis. Do not wait for him to schedule these meetings! Do them often and as casually as you can so that your meetings with him become a routine part of his day, week or month. This will ensure you do not end up piling up grievances, complaints and unanswered questions simply because you don't have the guts to face your boss or have never taken the time to build an open dialogue. Always go to these meetings prepared. Try to include the casual and comical occasionally in these meetings to break the ice. Your boss will appreciate it if, in addition to your professional issues, you keep him casually informed of what is going on in the firm at your level, eg. the marketing unit ae going away on a brainstorming weekend, the new temp appears to be running a business of her own from her desk, the traders downstairs smashed a phone at the coffee machine the day before etc. AVOID gossip; the goal of these meetings is not trivialties, it is to build a comfort level and flow of career-related information that promotes your PROFESSIONAL growth.
  • Learn to listen to your boss.
    Listening to your boss means understanding the tone as well as the content. Make sure you really understand both your manager's directions and where he is coming from. Ask questions if you don't. Your boss will generally set the objectives and vision for the unit and you will only understand his philosophy and general business style if you really listen.
  • Learn to cope with constructive criticism.
    Some bosses are psychological bullies and criticism from such manager types is far more difficult to take. However, most managers’ dole out criticism with the territory and you should be prepared to handle the criticism in a professional manner and learn from it. Constructive criticism should be used as a means to steer your professional development and should help you avoid career pitfalls.
  1. Manage His Expectations
    Once you have a good grip on the job requirements and have a solid relationship with your boss in place that is built on trust and mutual respect, you can begin to manage your boss's expectations regarding the quality and quantity of your work. This is an essential damage-control tactic if you are to avoid many of the pitfalls that are essentially the result of poor assertiveness skills. Learn to tell your manager that you are overburdened (only when you are of course). Use words like 'we need an additional resource', 'I have to prioritize', 'I have a more urgent deadline', ' I don't want to compromise the quality of the project' to communicate your own time schedule and your existing workload. Always have a list ready of projects you are engaged in and their priority so your manager can more easily plan the projects he sends your way. You should focus on being 'productive' rather than merely 'busy' so your manager learns to respect your prioritization skills and general work aptitude.
  2. Reverse Feedback
    Your boss has a boss and deadlines too, so learn to make his life a bit easier by sending some reverse positive feedback his way when you can. Avoid the false superficial kind of schmoozing but DO compliment or thank your boss whenever you can - on something he taught you, a course he sent you to, a project he sent your way, a project he didn't send your way, a tip he gave you or some other form of constructive criticism he made, a resource he assigned you, a deal he landed, a client he made happy, a new idea, a presentation he made etc. He will appreciate the flattery if it is genuine and delivered professionally. He will also be more inclined to help you in the future if you are appreciative of the steps he takes to guide and promote you.

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