Your boss: Like it or not, they play an important role in your professional life. Why? Well, if you want to continue to climb the career ladder and make forward progress in your career, your boss’s favorable opinion is (very) important. Plus, when you spend so much time working with someone, it’s only natural to crave at least a decent rapport between the two of you. However, you don’t need me to tell you that establishing and fostering a positive relationship with your superior isn’t always so easy. It can be tough to walk that line between overly professional and a little too comfortable.
1. Be a great employee
Let’s start with the obvious, shall we? You can be the friendliest, most outgoing person in the entire office, but if your work is sub-par and you refuse to offer any sort of contributions to your team? Well, getting your boss (and your coworkers, for that matter!) to think highly of you is going to be pretty much impossible. Your first step is to ensure you’re an awesome employee that’s truly adding value to your organization. Do your best work. Chime in with constructive ideas in team meetings. Stay far away from office gossip. Your attitude and high-quality work will be a constant reminder to your boss of why exactly they hired you in the first place.
It seems basic, but a positive reputation will lay the groundwork for a better relationship with your colleagues—especially your boss!
2. Ask for feedback
All bosses are different, but one rule holds true across the board: All managers love an employee willing to take initiative. Proactively asking for feedback from your supervisor is a great way to demonstrate that you’re constantly looking for ways to grow and improve. Of course, you don’t want to take this concept to the extreme. Your boss will likely only grow annoyed if you check in for constructive criticism after every single email you send. However, setting up a time to discuss your performance every few months—or after the completion of a large project or presentation—should be enough to show that you’re interested in evolving without being a pest.
3. Communicate effectively
Communication is key in any relationship, but it’s definitely crucial when it comes to relationships between superiors and subordinates. Your boss needs to be in the know about what’s happening! At the same time, though, you don’t want to overwhelm them with constant updates and unnecessary information.
It’s for this very reason that it’s a great idea to get a handle on how exactly your boss prefers to communicate. Do they like to have weekly or monthly meetings when you can update them on your progress and any roadblocks? Are they someone who relies heavily on email because they’re frequently out of the office—meaning they prefer you send sporadic notes when you complete something or need more information?
I know that this can be a little challenging to discern, particularly if you’re somewhat new in the office. However, pay close attention to how your boss interacts with you. It’s human nature to communicate with others in the same way we’d prefer to be communicated with, so this can be a revealing clue you can utilize to bolster your communication skills with your boss.
If nothing else, don’t be afraid to set up a quick meeting to talk it out with your manager. Getting on the same page about preferred communication right from the get-go will only make both of your lives easier and your relationship even stronger!
4. Make small talk
There’s no official handbook that dictates what exactly the relationship with your boss should look like. Some people have very formal and professional relationships with their superiors, whereas others are much closer and more casual. Some never see each other outside of the office, while others follow coworkers on Instagram and frequently hang out at work happy hours.
Regardless of your current relationship, there’s never harm in making small talk with your boss. Whether it’s about weekend plans or a half marathon you know they’re training for, chit-chatting about personal tidbits can help strengthen the relationship with your boss by making things a little more friendly and a little less rigid. No, you don’t want to waste precious work hours jabbering on and on about the latest episode of Yellowstone, but a few minutes of friendly conversation in the break room won’t hurt!
5. Offer to help
Your boss might seem like they’re always on top of everything—they never make a mistake and never lose their cool. However, we all find ourselves in situations when we could use a little bit of help, so it’s important to note that your boss may not always be willing to admit it.
If your supervisor seems stressed and overwhelmed, go ahead and step up to the plate and offer to help. Perhaps they mentioned a client report that they’re trying to get out the door even though they’re pressed for time. If you have the know-how to take care of it, explain that you’re happy to handle a portion for them so they don’t have so much on their plate. Even if they end up turning you down, the fact that you were willing to reach out and offer help will carry a lot of weight.
6. Practice empathy
Often, it’s all too easy to jump to conclusions and assume your boss is just out to get you. That daunting project, tight deadline, or dreadfully boring conference call—they’re all your boss’s attempts to punish you. But that’s not always true.
It’s important to take a deep breath and always give your supervisor the benefit of the doubt, even when things get tough. Remember, your boss isn’t only responsible for their own pieces of the puzzle—they’re also in charge of ensuring the quality of work produced by you and your coworkers. Having to manage others can be a tough job—remind yourself that your boss is only human. That sense of understanding alone is enough to shift perspective and drastically improve your relationship with your manager.
All in all, we want great relationships with our bosses. It certainly helps in making those 40+ hours you spend in the office each week that much better! But sometimes, fostering a positive bond with your boss can involve navigating murky waters. Put these six tips to use, and you’re sure to notice improvements right away!