Mark Craemer 2 Comments

Working for someone else can be challenging no matter how good the boss may be. Nurturing this relationship can be important for your immediate job satisfaction as well as keep advancement opportunities front and center.

With this in mind, there are many things you should never say to your boss. For example, “this is not my job, it’s not my problem, or it can’t be done.” These will only aggravate your boss and demonstrate that you are not a team player and cannot be trusted to get the work completed.

Building a positive relationship with your boss can be vital to your general well being but, like any relationship, it takes time and energy.

Every manager or supervisor is likely to appreciate certain qualities in an employee. These include having credibility, being solution-oriented, being a good team player, being a good listener, and—if there is such a thing where you work—following the chain of command.

“The relationship with your boss is a partnership,” says Jane Boucher, author of How To Love The Job You Hate: Job Satisfaction for the 21st Century. “It takes effort to build the relationship and nurture it. You have to communicate well, avoid confrontations, and resolve differences in a positive way.”

It’s important to learn your boss’s concerns and goals. Try to fully understand the problems and pressures he or she confronts on a daily basis. Listen carefully to what your boss says and doesn’t say. And know when it’s wise for you not to say anything.

“You can lessen the chance that your boss will make bad decisions that adversely affect you and your career by managing your relationship with the boss,” Boucher says. “Keep the boss informed about what’s going on at work and never forget the pressure your boss is under. Honesty and reliability will win the hearts of most bosses.”

So what are specific ways you can maintain a positive working relationship with your boss? I have seven suggestions for things you should say to your boss.

  1. “I’d like to discuss priorities.” All of us at one time or another get overwhelmed with responsibilities, and sorting through what is most important is something our boss should help us with. More than likely, it is good just to check in to be sure what we think is most important is also most important for the boss.
  2. “I’d like your opinion.” All of us have an opinion and are typically proud to give it. In the case of a boss, this can be especially helpful as this person is likely to have a perspective different than yours. Be genuinely interested in this opinion whether you choose to accept and implement it or not.
  3. “Here’s something I really appreciate about you.” Supervisors and middle managers get lots of complaints, but very few compliments. Unless you work for an absolutely terrible boss, he or she probably has some positive qualities. Express your appreciation for these, but only if you are truly sincere.
  4. “I’ve got some bad news and a potential solution.” Employees are typically closer to the work and therefore spot impending trouble before managers do. Be proactive and give your boss a heads up about a problem as well as a potential solution. This will make you a more highly valued employee.
  5. “How am I doing? What can I improve upon?” Don’t wait for your annual review to find out your boss’s opinion on how you’re doing. Initiate an occasional feedback discussion to learn how your performance is perceived as well as how and where you can further improve.
  6. “How can I help?” Everyone needs assistance at times and this includes your boss. He or she may be unable or unwilling to ask given your other priorities, but when you see that you might be able and willing to lend a hand, be sure to ask how.
  7. “Thank you.” This could be for any number of things, such as guidance, patience, support, or the overall flexibility in how you get your job done. Whatever it is, be sure to let your boss know that you appreciate what he or she has done for you.

Speaking with your boss regularly can go a long way towards maintaining a positive relationship. By breaking the habit of simply going over the same job-related tasks and functions, and delving into more personal areas, you can create greater familiarity and closeness. This can make your immediate work environment more enjoyable and it may further your career opportunities


  1. Coming from a history of “problems with authority”, I appreciate your advice about how my behavior affects the decisions my boss makes that effect me. Being the first one to offer respect or compassion is a great challenge, thanks for pointing out the benefits.

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