As an employee (or boss), you can be proactive in clarifying roles and expectations – making you happier in your job and improving boss-subordinate relationships. You’ll know it in your gut even if you can’t articulate how you know it exists. You watch with a hint of jealousy and dream if only you could have a similar relationship with your boss. So many times a leader wishes for a better working relationship with a boss while feeling helpless in his or her ability to execute, perhaps waiting for it to magically happen as if wishing would make it so. It won’t. If this perfect boss-team member relationship describes your work world, read no further – oh, and congratulations.
If you are still reading, you know that it’s crucial to have a strong (or otherwise healthy) relationship with your boss. There are a variety of reasons including influence over workplace stress (real or perceived), the ability to advance or stall your career, micromanagement, friction, resentment, assignment of projects, etc. Your boss can make your workday one you look forward to, or one of dread. In simple terms, your boss has (at least some) effect on your personal health.
This effect could be positive or negative. According to Kronos, 69 percent of employees believe their managers set a good example in the way they behave, agreeing that they are ethical, honest, collaborative, creative, empowering, innovative, dedicated, and trustworthy. A whopping 92 percent of those who believe this to be true, also believe their managers adhere to those values on a regular basis.
A good example, however, does not indicate a good working relationship. Having values does not ensure good leadership. And, although you don’t have to have a boss as your best friend, you will need to work well with him/her for the host of reasons above. Besides, they hold a great deal of your future in their hands.
When both you and your boss aren’t clear in communication, when expectations aren’t met (or clear), it’s then that little issues can grow into large differences that make the relationship unbearable. This is the point where many employees place the blame squarely at the feet of their boss while abdicating their personal responsibility in the whole affair. Practice these steps to stop blaming and start contributing to the strength of your relationship with your boss:
- Put yourself in your boss’s shoes. Think ahead to your boss’s needs and you become an invaluable team member.
- Add value. Be willing to speak up about the realities and challenges in the business that need to be addressed. Be the person that speaks with facts, specifics, and actionable suggestions.
- Take initiative. When your company or team is small, it's easy to meet with your boss and know what's going on. As the team grows, it gets hard. Take the initiative to have individual meetings and show that you care about the team, goals, and expectations.
- Make your boss look good. "If Momma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy." When you make your boss look good, they will be happy--and if they're happy, you'll be happy.
- Decode the best way and time to communicate with your boss. Does your boss like one sentence emails, an outline of where your project stands with all of the details, or a quick text instead? Whatever they do with you is what they prefer.
- Ask for feedback. Many people shy away from speaking up for fear of an answer they won’t like. I agree that ideally your boss should already be providing feedback but experience indicates otherwise. Some managers are just bad bosses and some are just oblivious to what you need. As an A player, don’t be afraid to take the initiative by creating a Job Scorecard. Use it to start a conversation with your boss, and you’ll fulfill most of the steps above.
Begin the process with a Job Scorecard and you’ll have more control over your work destiny, greater workplace fulfillment, and you’ll help your company become a healthy workplace. Your goal shouldn’t be to be best buddies with your boss; instead focus on establishing a good communication rhythm, building trust, staying aligned —and a good relationship will follow. To gain a better relationship with your boss, use a Job Scorecard.
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