People use Google to search for information on everything from local weather to “what happened in Paris” shortly after the terrorist attack. And sometimes people search random things they’re currently thinking about with the hope they’ll find help.
“I hate my boss” is currently typed into Google’s search engine about 1,600 times each month in the United States. This must represent only a fraction of those who say this out loud to their spouse or friends each month.
In fact, a Gallup survey of more than 7,000 US workers found that half of them had left a job at some point in their careers solely because they could no longer put up with their manager, thus proving the adage that people join a company based on its reputation and leave it due to a boss.
No matter where you work, your boss has a great deal of control over your destiny and it’s important that you do all you can to nurture this relationship. The idea of managing one’s boss should be taken very seriously.
Communication is often at the heart of a poor relationship between a boss and subordinate as this can quickly lead to a lack of respect and trust. But it could also be due to many other factors that are both within and outside of your control.
The most successful relationships are those where bosses and employees really get to know one another, says Piera Palazzo, senior vice president of Dale Carnegie Training.
“That’s different from years ago, when you weren’t supposed to ask any personal questions,” says Palazzo. “Those lines are blurred now, people want you to care about them, particularly if there’s something going on in their lives that might affect their performance.”
In my work coaching individuals, the discontented relationship with a boss is a common concern. So often my help begins with working on communication—both speaking and listening. This includes clearly stating what you need from your boss in order to be successful, and actively listening to what is said and not said, or reading between the lines with written messages.
Like so many challenging relationships both in our personal and professional lives, poor communication often takes center stage. And if you put the cause of the problem entirely on the other person, you are clearly not taking responsibility for your role in the challenge.
So what can you do to improve this? Here are 10 ways to improve your relationship with your boss:
- Ensure clear expectations. Nothing can derail a boss-employee relationship more quickly than unclear expectations. You should drive your one-on-one meetings and be certain you are crystal clear on what you are expected to do.
- Know how to best communicate. Don’t assume your boss has your same communication style. Determine the best time of day, day of week, email, etc. to communicate. Keep your boss informed well in advance to minimize surprises.
- Demonstrate your value. Don’t be afraid to challenge assumptions and offer your own ideas, but do it respectfully. And when you are in conflict, take it as a sign that one of you knows something the other doesn’t, or that one of you is looking at the situation from a different perspective. Then bring that to the surface to bridge the gap.
- Get to know your boss personally. Sometimes it’s easy to forget that your boss has friends, family, and a personal life with passions just as you do. Be curious and show an interest just as you would with your other co-workers.
- Make your boss look good. Don’t suck up, but don’t push back either. This doesn’t mean you should be disingenuous; instead be authentic, respectful and professional. The level of professionalism you demonstrate not only benefits you, but also reflects highly on your boss as a leader of others.
- Put yourself in your boss’s shoes. A little empathy goes a long way and it shouldn’t be discarded when it comes to those above us in the organization. Try to see things from his or her perspective when you don’t agree with a decision.
- Ask for feedback. If something is not going especially well or you feel you aren’t clear on how your performance stacks up, ask about it. Don’t wait to be surprised in the annual performance review.
- Ask for help and advice. Determine whether you need direction, support, both or neither, and let your boss know. This is one of the most important aspects of managing and being managed by someone. And like all of us, your boss will appreciate being asked for his or her opinion.
- Stay above gossip. This is detrimental to employee engagement and especially your career advancement. Stay clear of those who engage in it.
- Know when it’s time to move on. You can learn a great deal from a bad boss, but if he or she is derailing your morale that’s impacting your performance, it may be time to look for a new job either inside or outside of the company.
And if it is time to look for a new job, be sure you know what it is you’re looking for in an ideal boss. Then learn all you can about your potential new boss during the interview. You don’t want to leave a bad boss and then run into another one, or you may have to take a lot more responsibility for it not working out this next time.
I recently learned that when choosing where to attend college, high school seniors should spend a lot more time interviewing professors in their field of study rather than relying on the university’s reputation alone. This relationship with the professors is often a better indicator of the true value you will derive from your educational experience. The same could be said for your boss in the workplace.
It’s ultimately about building a strong relationship just like any other. It takes time to establish rapport, instill trust, and find a common understanding for how to work together well. And this is your responsibility. It’s vital to work on this so you can be fully engaged and bring your best self to the workplace.