- Bake him a cake?
- Invite him over for dhanteras?
- Compliment him on his new toupee?
- Or find the secrets to a great working relationship?
The only right answer here is, you guessed right, the one where you try to improve the work associations keeping your self respect unharmed. And that is really what we will be talking about.
How to improve your relationship with your boss without turning into a minion?
Let’s lay our premise.
There is a reason why Office Space has become a cult classic. Thousands of frustrated employees everywhere saw their bosses in the micromanaging, TPS Report hungry, coffee sipping manager from the movie. It is indeed a reality for many. That feeling of constant surveillance, or perhaps even constant ignoring may lead to the birth of the hyper paranoid you.
Is he happy with what you are doing? Upset perhaps? What should you do to make him smile and get a “good job” pat? Is your job in jeopardy? Does everyone know something you don’t? Are they conspiring against you?
You have now officially stepped into Paranoiarnia.
Being constantly worried about your mutual relationship does nothing to improve your performance. It could lead to overwhelming stress and, in its worst, you being left without a job – willingly or unwillingly. In fact workplace studies (Gallup) have shown that as high as 50% of people who quit, do so because they don’t want to continue with their managers.
So it is quite natural that you would try to avoid such an apocalyptic ending to your job dream by doing whatever is possible to build a bond with your boss, getting him to recognize you as a positive contributor.
You see, your relationship, with your boss, can set the entire tone of your job – whether you are excited to head to office, feeling accomplished, or whether you have piled up stacks of folders all around you to hide in your file cave. If it’s the latter, you may be certainly suffering at the hands of one these kind of bosses.
-You may have a boss who doesn’t have a relationship with you at all. He may be the kind who barely recognizes that you exist. You get no feedback and you can simply forget about any mentoring.
-You may also have a boss who is there in your life all the time and not in the good encouraging sort of way. He is a control freak constantly micromanaging all your moves, always manages to veto every decision you make, fix every idea you suggest and runs a red marker riot all over your carefully drafted presentations or reports. He is the untrusting kind.
-And then you may be stuck with the bulliest of bosses who takes immense pleasure in humiliating you, belittling your achievements and essentially acting like someone who gets paid to make you cry.
So let’s get started on relieving that unloved stress you have been living with and see how you can get on your boss’s good side.
How to get your boss to like and respect you
Is there a problem at all?
Maybe we should have started with this question before getting deep into this discussion. ‘Coz it’s possible that the boss who is ignoring you is actually just gasping for air under his own workload. He may have no time to respond to the 15 emails you have sent him asking about his review on the 89 page report.
For all you know he may be having a bad week or a lousy month. Maybe his kids are going through an extra special tantrum week. Who knows? The answer is you cannot assume a problem if there is none. So maybe the right thing to do is to first consider the motivation behind such a conduct.
Is it really just you?
Is your boss singularly nasty to you? Or is he an equal opportunity abuser? That’s important to know ‘coz the latter would make this not just your problem. If everyone is feeling the pressure, then there is a problem at the source – your manager. The question then becomes whether you, and your colleagues are ready to endure this or do something about it.
Talk to him if he is receptive. Document all his episodes and if talking to him has yielded no results so far, you and your colleagues could take it to his boss or someone higher up. This is a risky move as this act will certainly bring your disdain in the limelight.
And if you don’t find people to say ‘aye’ with you, you have to decide whether to risk your own position to voice your opinion, keep a low profile and stay out of the way of your boss’s mayhem or just decide to leave, as many of the participants of the Gallup study did.
Maybe it is you
If it is not in your boss’s nature to pick on everyone and yet he simply can’t stop pointing out flaws in your work, there is a possibility that it is actually just you. It could also be that he simply has a problem with your face and hates your guts, but we will come to that can of worms later. For now, let’s see what all you can possibly do to get out of that spot.
Find out what your boss prefers
Again, not like a sycophant but rather with the motivation to know whether there is a particular style of work that could gain you more respect from your manager. Maybe your manager is looking at your emails, projects and pretty much every output with a magnifying glass simply because you have not shown any initiative to manage your own tasks. You may have had a history of simply doing what you were told. Or perhaps you are one who takes initiatives but has a certain style of working which doesn’t resonate with your manager.
- Try to look for a pattern. See what style is it that your boss keeps insisting on. Does he like presentations to be a certain way or emails to be addressed in a certain fashion? Does he want you to speak up in meetings and express your opinions more?
- Clue in from your manager’s response to your colleagues. Or maybe even find a clever way to find out what is it that makes him appreciate them. Be careful that you don’t sound like you are desperately seeking attention in a mera number kab ayega sense.
- Finally if you feel that your covert operations of acceptance are not bringing the desired effect in your manager, request to speak with him in private. Express your concerns in a professional manner (no breaking into tears please) and voice your intention to become an indispensable member of the team.
- And finally be prepared to accept constructive criticism. It is not personal, keep telling yourself that. And if your boss happens to get all riled up and goes off on you with a personal attack, handle the situation like you would handle a bully (Read How to tackle an office bully). Follow these simple habits of a responsible employee.
- Arrive early and try to not to be the first one to leave everyday.
- Those frequent emails of Out Sick Today get suspicious after a while. If you are feeling the need to call in sick to stay away from work, it is probably psychosomatic. Maybe it is time to take some action to change that – like follow the steps above to improve your relationship with your boss, look for efficient ways to handle the work load or perhaps dust off your resume ‘coz it is time for a fresh move. (Read How to resign gracefully and Resume Writing Tips)
- Don’t be a deadline pusher. Your manager naturally wants a team of doers. If you keep postponing your project, you may come off as an unwanted slacker of the team. And it is not a difficult concept to understand why that is a bad thing. Just try not to be a repeat offender.
- Only take up as much work you are convinced you can handle. Your manager has umpteen number of tasks on his plate to remember you had bitten off more than you could chew. And when you are unable to deliver, all he will probably take off from the experience is that you are unreliable.
- Be grown up about conflicts – whether with the boss or your coworkers. If something does arise, talk and be diplomatic. You don’t have to be pushed around but hearing out another opinion before jumping to any conclusions shows maturity.
- Speak up and express your ideas with a disclaimer of course – with regard and respect to others. Taking initiatives shows an interest which is over and above your call of duty. If your boss doesn’t appreciate that trait, he is probably heading to a root canal and not paying attention to the meeting’s proceedings.
- Be professional. While it is true that you are only human (reduced to 87.8% if you are in the Corporate world), you should try to avoid letting your emotions drive your behavior at work. Instead if you appear to be someone with clear priorities and well defined goals, un-phased by extraneous feely details, you will find yourself becoming the preferred choice of your manager.
Most bosses are looking to enhance their career by cultivating a good team and helping each member grow. But sometimes it just so happens that practical issues, stress, working incompatibility and even personality clashes can get in the way of good intentions. And so bosses begin to resemble career deterrents rather than mentors.
Since they have the power to make or break your career, the onus pretty much falls on you to repair the bond. The goal is to make it mutually respectful and also recognize that they probably have similar job concerns like you do. They are probably stressed with the responsibilities of managing a team and being answerable to the bigger fish.
Once you acknowledge the fact that they can have a bad day too, or that they too maybe seeking that appreciative pat on the back, they will seem less intimidating. And just then you will realize that as long as your boss doesn’t happen to be a horrible person, there is no reason why you cannot make your job, and hence his easier by simply building on a healthy relationship.
And if he is indeed like the boss from Office Space, we’d understand if you go postal on the copy machine and walk away with the red stapler.
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