Try these tips to build a more positive, more productive relationship with your boss.
by Bryan Povlinski
In most situations, your boss is likely to be the most important person to form a good relationship with at work. If you have a poor relationship with your boss, chances are you’re going to dislike your job. You’re also going to have a difficult time getting promoted, or simply getting to where you want to be in your career. Throughout the time I’ve been in college, I’ve had a summer job and three internships where I’ve had to build relationships with a boss. Generally, my relationships have been extremely positive, but it wasn’t always perfect from the beginning. I’ve had to work at building these connections. There are a few things that I’ve learned from my experience that I think can be applied in other situations as well.
It doesn’t matter what else you’re doing if you can’t follow through on the tasks that you’re assigned. Your boss has no business supporting you if this is the case. I constantly made sure to focus on the job that I was asked to do ahead of any additional projects that I wanted to take on myself. The advice you often hear is to “under-promise and over-deliver.” I think this applies well to any tasks without a definite deadline that you must give your boss a time estimate for. When I started off at one of my internships, I wanted to prove that I was a talented college student and I could do any job extremely quickly. I told my boss that I could get the task done by the end of the day. I realized there was a lot more to it than I originally thought, and I wasn’t even close to finishing by the end of the day. I learned from then on to give myself a cushion to make sure I could get everything done when I promised.
Communication with my boss was a struggle for me at times. Sometimes I would have the mindset that I wanted to focus on what I was working on for a couple days straight and then report back when I was finished. I found this strategy to be extremely ineffective, and I’d often have to go back and make a lot of changes to the spreadsheet or project plan that I was working on. We decided to set up daily meetings so that I could report progress and my boss could offer advice on any changes I could make. Communication is extremely important, and in my opinion, the more the better. If there is anything you’re unsure of whether or not you should ask or tell your boss, I would say to do it.
Always Have a Positive Attitude
Having a positive attitude is a pretty generic form of advice, and you probably didn’t need anyone to tell you that. The problem is that so many people in my experience have a negative attitude towards work or towards their boss. If you don’t like your boss or your situation at work, take it upon yourself to find something positive that you can build a relationship on. Maybe you share an interest with your boss in a particular sport, or maybe your boss’s daughter just reached a milestone in her life. Find a way to talk to them about those things. Your boss will likely be in a better mood, and you can improve your situation, as well.
Pitch New Ideas
In my experience, managers are always looking for fresh ideas. They don’t have all the answers, and it’s beneficial to them to support the ideas of their employees. Take it upon yourself to set aside 20-30 minutes each week to brainstorm creative ideas to improve the business or your division, and take the best of those ideas and put it into a proposal. It’s always a good idea to come to your boss with something tangible in writing with as much information possible so that your boss can best understand how your idea can work. Although an idea without any kind of written proposal is better than nothing at all.
Be Able to Joke Around
When I was able to joke around with my boss and form a relationship as friends, our business relationship improved significantly. I immediately felt more comfortable when I was around my manager, and I felt a greater sense of responsibility to follow through for him. I think humor adds to every relationship, so find a way to incorporate some in your day-to-day interactions with your boss, and your relationship will definitely be better.
Ask to Take on Additional Projects
Taking on additional projects is a way to show your boss what you can really do. If you can manage all of your assigned tasks plus a new project, then your stock is going to rise in your manager’s mind. This can be a way to advance your career in the direction that you really want to take it. Involve your company in a new form of social media to interact with your customers, form a recreational sports team in an intramural league or partner with a local non-profit to do some kind of community service work. Those are just a few ideas for additional projects that could add value to you and your business.
Act on Feedback
When you go through an annual review or any kind of feedback sessio,n make sure you develop a strategy to act on it. I’ve gotten feedback before that I didn’t really do anything with, and I continued to get the same feedback the next time I was reviewed. This should never happen, and I learned to put together a plan to act on the behaviors I needed to change. I think this should be included in every type of review. Rather than just pointing out the weaknesses or things that should be changed, I think a manager should recommend specific behaviors that would help improve this behavior. If your manager doesn’t give you any ideas, then ask for it.
What other kinds of things can you do to improve your relationship with your boss? Has anyone had experiences that would be helpful in this situation?