I'm always surprised by the number of people who complain they absolutely cannot get along with a boss. While there are some toxic bosses out there who should be sent to Asshole Island (Bob Sutton gets to pick the spot), the truth is that many employees could find it easier going at work if they just put some thought and effort into the boss/employee relationship. The boss, like anyone else, has joys and sorrows, and the sooner you figure them out, the better your work life will be.
One of the ways to do this is by putting yourself in the boss’s shoes. What are the duties and situations that set your boss off? These are the trigger points that you try to head off before they reach the boss’s desk. At the same time, what are the issues that the manager likes to get involved in? Those should also be your priorities. Because if the boss is happy, chances are the good times will roll for you, too.
Some other strategies to keep you on the sunny side of the boss:
• Managers don’t make mistakes. Or, rather, they make mistakes but don’t want anyone to know about it. Keep such news to yourself, and try and fix any errors quietly and discreetly.
• Never say “I don’t know.” Educate yourself about how your company functions, and who you can go to for answers on various subjects. If you don’t know, you can say to the boss “I know who to ask about that issue.”
• Be a good listener. Take notes if you have to when the boss is giving you an assignment. Most bosses won’t mind if you ask them to repeat something so that you clearly understand it.
• Be on top of key issues. Be aware of what is happening in your industry that will affect your boss’s work. Read industry periodicals, and keep your ears open at industry events such as conferences and trade shows. Keep an eye on what the competition is doing.
• Speak up. If you know of a way to streamline a process or cut expenses, tell your boss. Your good ideas reflect well on him and help him see you as a problem-solver.
• Be a cheerleader. If the boss or your department does good work, ask if you can send the information to an internal newsletter or an industry report. If it’s printed, make sure the boss’s boss gets a copy.
• Be trustworthy. Never repeat anything your boss tells you, and be discreet if you overhear something. If trust is developed with a boss, you may get a chance to hear inside information that will help your career and keep you an important part of your manager’s world.
• Don’t be a whiner. Most supervisor’s automatically shut out the sound of a whining voice. If you have a problem or issue, practice what you want to say so that it sounds logical, not lamebrained. Provide the boss with any date that supports your position. For example, if too many tasks are affecting the quality of your work, map out what happens for a few weeks so that you can present the evidence to the boss. This gives the supervisor hard facts when requesting more resources or personnel from her boss.
• Work on communicating. Much of the friction at work these days is caused by e-mail or voice mail overload, or reports or memos that don’t make sense. Always decide what is the best form of communicating your thoughts, not the easiest or fastest. That way, what you say or write will have impact, not just add to the clutter in your boss’s life.