In any workplace, the relationship between manager and employee is crucial in maintaining smooth organisational relationships and processes. When you and your boss get along, this eases work processes and the cascading of plans and strategies that lead to a company’s overall success.
Whether you’re new to a job or you think your relationship with your manager could use some more greasing, you must be proactive in improving and maintaining positive ties in the workplace.
A manager needs to have a healthy relationship with their employees as it would directly reflect their management style and leadership's effectiveness. When a manager knows how to create smooth working ties with those under their team, it leads to motivated employees working towards their vision, creating a conducive and positive atmosphere for working. Even in workplaces with remote or hybrid work arrangements, this remains relevant.
That said, it would be remiss for you to leave the relationship-building to your boss alone. After all, your manager is responsible for any changes in your role – positive or negative – and wields a significant influence over your career progression within the company. They facilitate your performance reviews and endorse promotions or salary raises with the organisation’s higher-ups. You will want to be top of mind when those opportunities roll around.
Your supervisor should be doling out internal promotions based on merit alone. But the working world is complex and dynamic. While we’d like to think your workplace – and the people in it – are fair, perception can inadvertently go a long way in shaping how your boss thinks of you. Yes, your performance can be deserving of a raise or an internal promotion. However, a positive relationship with your boss could also give you an edge.
This is backed by research in the workplace as well. A study by the Harvard Business Review and the University of Bologna introduced the concept of a future relational self, which represents the image an employee reflects in building relationships with significant workplace stakeholders such as bosses and higher-ups. The study found that new hires who are more proactive in striking better relationships with their bosses experienced strong beneficial effects on their careers since managers tend to perceive more enterprising newcomers favourably, even in the long run.
In short, if you have high aspirations for your career and want to move up the career ladder, connecting and engaging with your line manager should be on your priority list. Learning how to do a little brown-nosing without being too sycophantic is a skill in itself – and one you should know your way around.
Want to know how you can improve your relationship with your boss? Here are some tips.
First, identify the type of relationship you want with your boss – and use that to plan specific action steps to make this a reality. It can include creating a road map for building a relationship founded on trust and mutual respect and specific milestones you want to hit.
You can also plan opportunities to work closely with your boss to facilitate better occasions to further your relationship. Schedule regular check-in one-on-ones so you can discuss what works and what doesn’t work with your senior and take note of lessons and areas of improvement. You can also use this opportunity to understand how they think and work. If they ask for feedback on their own performance, don’t forget to give them your constructive opinion. This way, you can both compromise and adjust to each other’s styles.
Speaking of adjusting, different bosses have different personalities, and your boss will likely look at you more favourably if you can get on the same wavelength without sacrificing your values. Does your boss favour a horizontal hierarchy where everyone can chime in freely? Or do they prefer a more traditional working environment? Many times, your boss dictates the predominant work culture, and it is up to you to respond accordingly. You can observe how your boss interacts with other people around the office and try to mimic them.
Some bosses will also have specific quirks or pet peeves, so watch closely. Some prefer all updates to be sent via email, while others may appreciate being given quick updates over messaging groups. You can modify to their preferred communication style to see what’s appropriate for them. If your boss prefers to communicate through phone calls rather than email, adjust accordingly.
Whether it’s true or not, people perceive those who come in early to work as hard workers. More importantly, showing up early to work shows that you value your job as well as the company’s time. When you show up early consistently, this demonstrates discipline and a strong work ethic – positive work traits for any employer or manager to appreciate.
Make a favourable impression among your supervisor and colleagues by being an effective and cooperative team player. When you show that you work well in a team and you can take initiative to help out your co-workers, they will naturally see you as a hard worker and know you can be relied upon when a difficult situation arises. If there is anything in the workplace that needs troubleshooting, you can volunteer first.
Managers and colleagues form perceptions about you based on the attitude you present at work. Hence, you must show them that not only do you have a can-do personality, but that they can trust you to get the work done.
Be resourceful and take charge, whether in putting together a new pitch for a client or organising your company’s offsite activity. When a challenge arises, formulate strategies and solutions so that by the time you report to your manager, you have a plan – if you haven’t solved the issue already.
Dressing well in the workplace makes others perceive you as more professional, competent, and serious about your work. It also helps cement yourself in the minds of others as you tend to stand out when you’re well-dressed. How you dress also sets a tone for how people interact with you. Whatever the dress code is for your particular job, make sure you look neat and appropriate when you come to work.
Do you have any common interests outside of work? Are you both fans of movies or television shows? If your boss loves to come in and talk about their kid’s latest soccer game, feel free to mention your kids as well if you have them. Having things in common outside the workplace can help cement your professional relationship. According to Forbes, it enhances your compassion for each other and improves engagement.
Every so often it’s a good idea to let your boss know what you’ve been up to. Share accomplishments and progress you’ve made in your projects and keep track of different things you’ve been working on. It will help to show your boss you don’t slack off even when they’re not looking over your shoulder constantly.
You’ll be more likely to stay on your boss’ good side if you meet the required deadlines and complete your tasks. If you slack off, no amount of sucking up to your boss will make up for it.
Doing well will improve your boss’s perception of you and position you well for a raise or promotion in the future. It can also make your work life more enjoyable if you have a good relationship with management. The key is not to suck up and lose your professional integrity, but to proactively build an enduring relationship with your manager built on trust and mutual respect.
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