Tips for a Great Relationship with Your Boss

Tips for a Great Relationship with Your Boss

No work relationship is more important than the one you have with your manager. Your boss can be an important ally and resource: they have the information you need to be successful and can provide critical support at higher levels in the organization.  At the same time, your manager can’t accomplish his or her goals without your help – so it’s important to share equal responsibility for ensuring a positive, supportive relationship. Here are 5 tips to help you succeed.

  1. Set Expectations Early. During your first few weeks at a job, it’s a good idea to ask your manager two questions:
    • What are his or her goals? Your objective is to gain an understanding of your managers’ top priorities for the coming year and what you can do to help them achieve those goals. If you empower your boss, they will empower you.
    • What do I need to do to be successful? You may have many responsibilities in your job, but you will typically be judged according to how well you did 2 or 3 things. Find out specifically what your success looks like from your boss’ perspective. Write it down, review it, and bring it to your first review.


  1. Learn Your Boss’ Communication Style. Different managers have different communication styles, and some are better at communicating than others. Some managers like a daily informal chat while others prefer a detailed written report at the end of the week. Some do fine with spontaneous texts and emails, while others prefer a scheduled meeting. Find out what works best for your boss and then make sure they get the right information, in the right way, at the right time. Never assume that what works for you works for your boss, or you might become their most frustrating team member.


  1. Be Proactive. Do your best to communicate with your manager about your progress, and any problems, before they need that information. The goal is to prepare them for questions they could receive from their boss or a customer about a project or task. Being proactive also pertains to your career goals, so don’t wait for your annual review to find out how your boss thinks you’re doing. After you finish a presentation or complete a project, ask for constructive feedback. Along these lines, a boss who seems to be micromanaging you could be a sign that you aren’t being proactive enough about providing information.


  1. Don’t Surprise Your Boss. If your project is running behind, if you’re having a conflict with a coworker, if you need to take time off, if anything has happened that will impact productivity…always let your manager know as soon as possible. Never blind side your manager with a surprise. Tell them when you’ve made an error or a mistake has been made. Cover-ups erode trust, but being a source of timely information will increase your manager’s trust in your abilities.


  1. Ask for Feedback. If you work in a fast-paced environment, I’d suggest asking for a 6-month informal review with your manager. The goal is to make sure that your technical skills, accomplishments and communications are in line with your manager’s expectations. Perhaps skillset requirements or the company’s expectations have changed. If your organization does not schedule a formal annual review, ask for one. Bring your notes from your initial goal-setting discussion to your first review, and take notes during subsequent reviews to discuss in the future. This last tip is especially important if you work at an organization that does not require formal reviews, since the responsibility for documenting your accomplishments and building a case for a future promotion or raise has fallen on you. Either way, your manager will appreciate your efforts to align your role with departmental and organizational goals, as well as your ability to self-manage.

No relationship is perfect, and it’s inevitable that you will sometimes disagree with your boss’ decisions or actions. Expressing disagreement is fine; an emotional outbreak at work is not. If you are frustrated or dissatisfied, remember to keep it professional and get over it. Your manager has to consider the needs of the organization, customers and investors, so don’t assume you have all the information he or she does when decisions are made.

If you have an unprofessional or inexperienced boss, you may have to manage up. This can be a challenge, but stay focused on your future.  Strive to communicate, set realistic goals, understand what is expected of you and then perform. If you see that this is not working or appreciated, you may need to look for a new opportunity.

Finally, the importance of building a positive relationship with your boss goes beyond your immediate career goals. The trust and rapport you establish now can result in advancement, glowing references and great working associations for years to come.