There’s an old adage when it comes to difficult relationships – they say “you can choose your friends but you can’t choose your family!” – true enough, but it’s also highly unlikely you can choose your manager either.
We spend a lot of time at work – around 100,000 hours over the course of an average person’s life – and that’s a LOT of time to be spending with bosses you struggle to get along with. If you’d like to change your current manager/employee relationship – or you’d just like to make sure you’ve got the skills to keep your boss onside in the future, we’ve got you covered…
- Practice your empathy skills
It’s going to sound condescending to say this – but the company you work for doesn’t revolve around you. Now, we realise that you don’t really think that – but it’s important to remember that you’re one cog in a complex machine for your boss, the more you understand that, the more you’ll be able to put yourself in his or her shoes.
If you find yourself feeling short tempered or frustrated with your manager, take some time to think about all the metaphorical plates they’re spinning – when you realise how complex their role is, bundled upon all the life stuff most people take to work – you might be able to cut them a little more slack.
- Understand HOW to communicate with them
It’s easy to think of a boss or manager as just a job role – but they’re a real person with the unique likes and dislikes of anyone else. It’s going to pay off if you can learn what they are when it comes to communication.
For every person in the world who likes a brief overview of what’s happening on a project, there’s another person who likes a detailed PowerPoint presentation with annotated diagrams. If you can find out what your boss prefers and deliver your information in that way, you’re either going to stand out as someone who listens and applies that knowledge – or at the very least, someone who doesn’t annoy them!
- Understand WHEN to communicate with them
There’s a subtle difference to tip number 2 here – once you’ve worked out their preferred method of communication it’s really helpful to work out when it’s appropriate to communicate with them.
Now, don’t misunderstand, if you’ve been asked to call we wouldn’t suggest putting it off because you’ve got an inkling they don’t like Monday morning calls – but for non-requested communication you should act tactically.
Some people like to talk on the phone when they’re travelling, others prefer evening emails so they can digest them without distraction – then the next person is up and replying to emails at 5am. If you can work out when and how to communicate, you’re on to a winner.
- Show value
There’s every chance that your boss is someone who sees a lot of financial figures that relate to your company or department – and even though people matter an incredible amount to any good organisation – money and time also speak volumes.
It can be tempting to get your feet under the desk and assume that treading water will keep you afloat – but don’t be fooled, if you’re not contributing value of some kind then you’re likely to be a bit of a thorn in your boss’s side – something that’s never good for the relationship!
Reference your job description as much as you can and ask yourself if you’re ticking all the boxes to a decent level – if you’re not, up your game to make sure you stay onside.
- Make them look good
It might sound counter-intuitive to make your manager or boss look good rather than taking the praise yourself – but if they’re happy and you’re the person they’ve got to thank for that, then it’s highly likely that you’ll be happy too!
This isn’t just about passing praise upwards though – it’s also about showing some tact and discretion when you’re communicating with your boss with others around. You might not agree with everything that’s being said – but rather than shoot him or her down in flames (even if you’ve got good reason and the temptation is there!) hold off until you can pull them aside and discuss with them privately.
No one likes to lose face, if they know you’re not someone who puts up big challenges when their bosses are around, you’re building a strong working alliance.
- Show interest
It’s not always possible or preferable to be friends with your boss – but that shouldn’t stop you from being friendly. If you know it’s a special occasion or there’s something noteworthy happening for them outside of work – ask them about it.
Whether you’re small business owner or a top-ranking CEO of a Fortune 500 company, you’re still a human who for the most part will enjoy interaction with others. As long as you’ve sussed out how and when to communicate with your boss, some polite and interested conversation will go a long way.
- Offer your help and support
Although delegation is desirable skill for managers everywhere – it doesn’t mean they’ve got that skilled really dialled in! There are millions (no exaggeration) of people who don’t like to delegate – whether that’s because they feel they’ll do a better job or they just feel like they’re putting on you to ask.
There are few people who turn down the offer of support when the going is getting tough – if you’re the one asking then you’re scoring metaphorical gold-stars in the professional relationship stakes!
- Under-promise, over-deliver
When your manager’s asking you when you’ll have a report back to them – it can be tempting to dutifully reply with “lunchtime!” even though you know that’s going to involve living in an imaginary world where the phone doesn’t ring, emails don’t exist and your office has no distractions.
Rather than over promising then falling short – give a longer timescale than you truly anticipate. By doing so you’re setting the bar over which you’ve got to jump – and you can’t lose. Deliver on time and you’re recognised as someone who does what they say they’ll do – and if by some miracle you do get it done by lunchtime, you get to be the person who’s exceeding expectations…