Unless you’re lucky enough to work for yourself, we all have a boss we have to answer to. Provided they’re not the devil incarnate, there are quite a few ways to ensure you two have a good relationship. Here’s what you should keep in mind.
10. Boost Your Likability at Work
Now we’re not implying you aren’t already likable—you’re a nice guy/girl, right? (Most) everybody in the office probably likes you. But you can use a few tricks to make yourself even more likable to those around you, including your boss. That means avoiding negative body language , picking your battles , and even dressing the part . This doesn’t mean you have to be a suck up—just keep in mind that you want to give off more positive signals than negative ones. That way, you can offer criticism when it counts, but you aren’t seen as a negative nancy.
9. Make Yourself Indispensable
You’ve probably heard this one a lot, and it’s totally true: if the office can’t function without you, then you’re in a much better position to get bigger raises, promotions, and avoid layoffs. So if you aren’t indispensable yet, start working toward it : work on high-visibility projects, and if you can, gain some skills that separate you from the crowd—and help projects run more smoothly. A bit of extra training never hurt anyone.
8. Know Their Priorities
If it’s important to your boss, make it important to you. So make sure you talk to them regularly to get a feel for what their priorities are. They don’t have to match up perfectly with your priorities, necessarily, but make sure you’re giving enough attention to the stuff they want done. It’ll keep a bad boss off your back , and make a good boss like you even more.
7. Keep Them Updated
It goes without saying that face time is important—after all, your boss won’t love you if they never see you—but in particular, try to keep them updated with your work as you progress. Consider sending them a regular status update . Not only will this let them know what you’re up to, but if you’re being productive, it’ll also show them how much progress you’re making—which makes you look good. This is also known as “managing up,” which isn’t as manipulative as it sounds. All it means is that you communicate regularly so you’re both on the same page, which is particularly useful with busy or uncommunicative bosses .
6. Fix Your Problems Before They Do
Nobody’s perfect, and your boss probably understands that. But if you can fix your problems before they have to, you’ll look an awful lot better in their eyes. The best way to do this is with a regular self-review —or, if you wan to be less fancy with it, keep an informal work diary . Write down what you’re doing, what others think you do, and what you should be doing—then review yourself from your boss’ perspective. With honesty (and a little bit of luck), you should have a good idea of what problems you need to squash before your boss even comes to you about them.
5. Apologize (Correctly) When You Screw Up
For the issues you can’t fix ahead of time—or for the one-time screwups that just happen—you just need to recover gracefully. And that means apologizing—correctly . Make your boss (the wronged party) the focus of your apology, not yourself. Again, think about what their priorities are, and how this impacted them—not you. And remember: don’t stress out when you fail. It’s how you get better .
4. Command Respect
You may think the key to a loving boss is sucking up or being a pushover. In some cases, that may work, but the best way to get your bosses love—and not hate yourself—is to command real respect . That means putting out solid work, avoiding office politics and gossip, and being able to accept criticism when it’s given. Being likable helps (see #10), but the two are fundamentally different things. If you respect yourself , your boss and co-workers will generally respect you too.
3. Master the Art of Looking Busy
Let’s be honest: sometimes the best way to get ahead is to be just a tiny bit evil. And in this case, that means mastering the art of looking busy even when you aren’t. That doesn’t mean slacking off on the job, or outright lying. It just means ensuring your boss knows that you have a lot on your plate. So always have something you’re “working on” when they ask, keep them updated on your progress (see #7), and use Scotty’s Principle: pad your estimates for how long it takes to do things by about 25%. It ensures you’ll never get bogged down or turn in anything late—and if you deliver ahead of schedule occasionally, you’ll even come out looking good.
2. Give Honest (but Useful) Feedback
If you truly have a good boss, they’re okay with honest feedback—in fact, they probably want it . But when they ask for it (or when you’re given a chance to review them), don’t just start rattling off complaints. Figure out what kind of feedback they’re actually looking for , and give it to them. That doesn’t mean telling them what they want to hear (“You’re the best boss ever!”), it just means knowing what, specifically, they’re looking for feedback on. If they’re wondering how they handled the latest team project, let them know—but don’t start offering unsolicited feedback on their long lunches or regular tardiness.
1. Do Your Best to Work Together, Even If You Hate Them
Of course, no matter what you do, some bosses will forever be horrible. If you’re in that situation, we feel your pain, and we’re sorry. While the rest of these tips will only go so far, the best thing you can do is grow a thick skin , keep a log of their craziness , and—perhaps most importantly—don’t let it infect the rest of your life . (You should probably also make sure you’re not the problem). If you can make working with them bearable, consider it a win.
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