16th October is marked as the ‘International Boss Day’, and is observed in several countries (India included). The idea is to appreciate the bosses for their support, mentorship and guidance and to thank them for the same. But, as we all know, not everybody shares the best of working rapport with their bosses, for reasons that are all too common.
It is natural that your dynamics with your boss not only affects your day-to-day activities, and productivity but also impacts on your career in the long run, yet, the most critical reason for you to have a respectable and functional working relationship with your boss is because you spend the bigger part of your day working directly with them. If your boss is aware of your weaknesses, strengths, work ethic, potential and skills, they are likely to guide and mentor you better, and help you progress; both inside and outside the organisation. But, if your working relationship with your boss could give Elsa a run for her money, consider the following to improve it:
Check your ways: First off, make an unbiased and objective assessment of how you have been doing your job. Are you habitually late to work or meetings? Have you been consistently missing deadlines? Seek feedback and opinion of colleagues and team-members to understand how you have been faring; for sometimes we become oblivious to our own short-comings. Once you have pinned the reason as to why your boss might not be your fan – work towards undoing it. It could be something as (seemingly) trivial as replying to emails and communication on time, or your overall performance and efficiency.
One-on-One Meetings: It is recommended that you hold at least one face-to-face meeting with your boss, all by yourself, once a month. Take the initiative to set it up, and use it effectively to discuss your performance, apprise your boss of the progress, get feedback, and understand the long-term vision of the team or organisation. It doesn’t have to be an elaborate half-a-day session using the white-board and post-its, and it can be done in half an hour over lunch or coffee, but it is essential. Remember this is not to become his favourite employee, or show off how you have exclusive access to information, but genuinely ensure that you and your boss are on the same page.
Display your genius: A lot of people restrain themselves from sharing information, knowledge or experience that might be crucial in a meeting or otherwise (and be smug about it) – simply because it isn’t their domain or role. This can prove to be a colossal mistake. You were hired for a reason, and doing the bare minimum to scrape through your job will not win you any support or appreciation. Be vocal about ideas in your head, suggest solutions and alternatives when you criticise, support your stand with facts and not opinions. You need to prove your value, and demonstrate your genius at every opportunity that you can; not suppress it.
Be Honest: The generic nature of this point doesn’t diminish its importance. You could be going through some trouble in your personal life that could impact your work or your mood at office. A new policy or process might be failing the purpose with which it has been set up. Your boss is human too, and is susceptible to making mistakes; but will you tell them so? Even during an average uneventful day in office, you will get a dozen chances to be honest and truthful about things that affect your work – but what is more important is how you choose to deal with them. Do you choose to toe the line and say what your boss wants to hear, or do you say what you actually want to say?
Communication: An important key to having a successful working relationship with your boss is to understand how, and when to reach them. Figure out what is the best way to elicit quick feedback and approvals from them, and how much detail they like to have. Understand how they communicate – and try to do it in a similar style. Is there a certain time in day, or certain day in week, or a particular time of the month when the stress is low and they are more approachable? Furthermore, it is essential to keep them informed of big challenges, and obstacles, and not cover them. Planning to take a vacation in the future or having trouble closing a deal – make sure your boss knows!
Seek support, not dependency: Last but not the least, the danger of being overly dependent on your boss, to direct you, is very real (and often creeps in without realisation) when you share an amicable relationship with your boss. You need to carefully balance your independence at doing your job, along with being compliant and cooperative with your boss. Assuming that your boss will jump in at the last minute to save the day, or will mediate in an ongoing conflict with a colleague to help you will create a false sense of support and set unrealistic expectations from your boss. Make sure your boss plays the role of a mentor, a guide, and doesn’t actually do your work for you.
Having a cordial and professional working relationship with your boss doesn’t mean you have to be their best friend, or socialise with them on the weekend. You can have a great work relationship with your boss, by simply being able to work well with them, and ensuring mutual trust and learning. A difficult relationship with your boss not only impacts your current well-being and peace of mind, but can also adversely influence your career. And for those who lay the blame squarely on their bosses – don’t give up before you give it a try.