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How to build a relationship with your boss… without being a brown-noser

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We all want to keep our jobs and beyond that, I don’t think there’s anyone out there who doesn’t want to have a good working relationship with their boss. Sometimes we get lucky and it just clicks. Other times it is more difficult and we have to roll with the punches or work harder than we’d like to at developing a solid relationship with our boss. And on top of that – no one wants to be a brown-noser or be seen as one (yes it’s a little like high school, but that is the reality). So, sometimes it can be hard to know exactly how to handle improving this relationship in the right way.

When you are in a new job this is especially critical, but the advice applies regardless of how long you have been in your position. It is easier to start off on the right foot and establish a new relationship in the right way. It is still possible to change the direction of the ship so to speak if you have already been in your job for a long time. It is more difficult (and of course, there are situations where it is just simply better for you to move on than try to improve your situation). However, it can be done with persistent action. Remember, ordinary actions taken on a consistent persistent basis produce extraordinary results. So what can you do to improve your relationship with your supervisor?

First, communicate effectively as often as possible. Before you leave a meeting with them, review what was discussed to be sure it is clear and action items are well defined. If you feel you were not as clear about anything you said or they said, take a moment to ask for clarification from them. Or to repeat what you said in a more specific way.

Second, be clear, on a regular basis, about where you are with your projects and tasks. Make sure you have regular communication with your boss informally or formally (in arranged weekly meetings for example). As part of this, ensure that their expectations for you are clear. You know how you are being evaluated, when and how you can meet and exceed their expectations and you are giving them what they need as their employee (meeting deadlines, handling specific tasks in a certain way, etc).

Third, talk about how you talk. Discuss their management style, and what style works best for you as well. If they are different, see if there’s a way to compromise. Discuss how you can best communicate with and in a way, manage each other, so that it’s as effective as possible. But don’t be afraid to be the one to bring this up, just do so in a way that emphasis your intent to improve your work together.

Fourth, manage up. Ask for what you need, make suggestions about improvements (in the right way), keep them posted on your progress, help make them shine in their job and ideally in turn, they will help you do the same. Be direct and ask them how can you best support them. Find this out up front so you can co-create an effective relationship.

Fifth, connect on the personal, if it’s appropriate. Depending on the culture of the organization, your boss’ style and your relationship, it’s ok to connect on personal things you have in common as well. This can build a relationship just as a personal relationship can, just don’t cross the line and when in doubt, err on the side of keeping it more professional.