Improving your relationship with your boss will lower your workplace stress, improve your career success and increase your day-to-day workplace happiness.
If you’re intimidated when relating to a person with the title boss, supervisor or manager, you may end up reacting to what your boss says rather than trying to create a mutually satisfying relationship.
“It’s easy to forget that managers are humans with the same amount of struggles and difficulties you face,” says Marcia Reynolds, M.A., M.Ed., president of Covisioning and author of Outsmart Your Brain! How to Make Success Feel Easy. “I thought for years that in order to be heard, I had to make noise. Then I learned how to listen to people so they would be heard, and how to speak so I would be heard.”
One of the best ways to harmonize with your supervisor is to listen, then pause to think before responding.
Here are some other strategies for getting along better with your boss.
Be an ally
“Communicate with the sense of ‘we’re in this together.’ You don’t want to get into the ‘who’s smarter than who’ game,” advises Ms. Reynolds. “Look at both of your perspectives so you can get a sense of the bigger picture.”
Do things for your boss, not against your boss, because if he or she fails, you might, too. Help your boss succeed. If you see problems with specific procedures or projects, you should tell your boss. Then you can fix the problem and everybody wins.
The best way to approach your boss with a problem is from a positive perspective. If you can, offer possible solutions. “Here’s the problem, and this is how I think we can make it better.”
Use “and” instead of “but”
That little word and can make a big difference. If your boss asks you to do something in a different way, don’t say, “Yes, but I’m not sure if it will work.”
Instead say, “Yes, and this is how I think it may work even better.” Using the word and sounds like you’re on your boss’ side instead of fighting against him or her.
Mirror your boss’ style
People feel most comfortable when they’re working with people who are like them. So examine your boss’ behavioral style and try to match it.
If your boss is direct and to the point, you must be direct or you’ll lose his or her attention.
If your boss is social, ask about his or her family, hobby or recent vacation.
If your boss is detailed, then you should be as thorough as you can.
If your boss is very cautious, think through the possible risks and consequences before presenting ideas.
Train your boss
You can’t count on your boss having had good training or coaching. He or she may have been promoted to a management position without receiving the proper training in the leadership and communication skills needed to be a successful manager. Therefore, don’t expect him or her to be perfect.
“By being a role model, you train your boss as to how you want to be treated,” says Ms. Reynolds.
So, if your boss is behaving badly, don’t react with bad behavior, or you just perpetuate the problem.
Likewise, if you want your boss to listen to you more and respect you more, you should do the same for him or her.
Remember, just because your boss has the title doesn’t let you off the hook.
“It’s just as much your responsibility to build your relationship with your manager as it is for your manager to build a relationship with you,” Ms. Reynolds says.