Managing Director of PDSi MEA
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Your boss hates you and it’s your fault

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Your boss is the most important person in your work life. PDSi MEA MD Dawn Metcalfe offers advice on building a strong work relationship with your boss.

13th May 2021
Managing Director of PDSi MEA
Columnist
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What’s the most important factor in determining your success and happiness at your job and, ultimately, within an organisation? Despite what many think, it’s not your technical or functional skills or knowledge – that’s what gets you the job in the first place. It is your relationship with your boss that’s most crucial to how much you enjoy your role, what you learn and where you go next.

This isn’t about “sucking up” or playing politics or changing your personality. It’s about building a healthy and productive working relationship based on mutual respect and understanding. And this is work – it takes time, effort, energy and thought. But it is worth it because, without someone in your corner,  all the good things you do are unlikely to get you the notice you deserve. 

1. Clarify your ambitions

You need your boss to help you develop your career, but don’t expect her to take responsibility for this – it is your job to think about what you need, share it and then ask them to commit to helping you achieve this.

2. Be reliable

Following through on your commitments is a large part of building a mutually trusting relationship. 

It also makes it more difficult for your boss to ignore their commitments to you if you can point to where you’ve done what you said you would. 

3. Get real

Perhaps paradoxically, working virtually has enabled more personal interactions. Seeing your boss as a real person, getting some insight into what makes them tick allows you to better understand the decisions they make. 

Knowing a little about what interests your boss also gives you both something to talk about that is not directly work-related.

4. Don’t assume you know everything

When your boss makes a decision you do not agree with, it is important that you understand the rationale behind their decision. Respectfully asking your boss to explain their rationale can help build trust and shows you are keen to improve and develop your understanding of the business. 

It also shows why you’re at the table. Asking questions is part of making better decisions and that’s your ultimate job.

5. Keep your boss in the loop

We typically underestimate what our bosses need to know. And at the same time, we assume they are aware of what we’re up to. Remember you’re not their main focus but keep your boss informed about both good (you already got the sale) and bad news (you’ve spotted a potential problem)  in a way that suits their style. Some bosses prefer to be briefed in person so they can ask questions, while others want to process written information first, and then meet to discuss.

6. Track your progress

Self-promotion doesn’t have to be slimy. Keep track of everything you’ve accomplished or initiated lately so that you’re prepared when you are asked how things are going and for your performance review. 

Don’t forget to make an explicit link between what you’re doing and their goals as well as those of the team or organisation. 

7. Speak the truth

Integrity, dependability and honesty are valued by any good boss. That means you can’t shade the truth or play down difficult issues. 

When asked your opinion give it – don’t be a “yes” man. If your opinion isn’t valued or you don’t feel you can speak up (despite your best efforts) then look for a way to get out and work somewhere you can.

8. Bring solutions

Your boss is busy so don’t approach them simply with problems you have identified. Have a couple of possible solutions ready and be prepared to explain their strengths and weaknesses. This is how you get noticed and how you win respect. 

9. Say thank you

When your boss follows through on a commitment or helps you in any way don’t forget to say thank you. We all need to be told when we do something right. And we’re more likely to do it again. 

To get the most out of any relationship we need to make sure that we manage it  – that we’re clear on what we want and what we can bring to the table. But, too often, we don’t do this and so don’t make the best of what should be one of our most important assets. 

And remember, although we’ve focused on how to make sure you get the best out of your most important relationship  – the one with your boss  – these tips will also make you more productive, more likely to learn and more likely to be fun to work with. 

And that’s important too: your boss is not the only person who can influence whether you get fast-tracked up the corporate ladder or fall off it and so take care to follow the above tips to make sure everyone you work with is on your side

Replies (2)

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By Justin Bryant
18th May 2021 09:08

All good advice. The best advice I had re bosses I think was "flattery gets you everywhere" (assuming boss is not a nasty outright bully etc.)

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By AndyC555
24th May 2021 12:38

One of my old bosses used to say:

"I used to say 'don't bring me problems, bring me solutions' but now I say 'don't bring me problems OR solutions, just bring me a cup of tea and a cake'"

That was in his last year before retirement.

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