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Improving the Relationship with the Boss

Posted by Daniel Feerst, BSW, MSW, LISW-CP, Publisher on

If one's relationship with the boss can impact a career and emotional well-being—on and off the job, then it makes

Improving Your Relationship with the Boss

sense to offer guidance to employees on keeping these relationships effective

While a good relationship with one's boss can improve workplace efficiency and career growth, a poor relationship will impair long-term ability to succeed. Fortunately, there are some strategies we can offer employees to ensure positive and productive relationships with the boss.

Why Problems Occur

When not communicating well with the supervisor, employees may grow increasingly uncomfortable with the relationship. This syndrome is the beginning of most long-term relationship problems. Personalities sometimes clash, but far more often, early struggles with communication lay the groundwork for what can feel like irreconcilable differences.

Common Problems with Supervisors

Communication difficulties often top the list of problems employees have with their bosses. Other common problems that appear in relationships with supervisors include:

▪ Disparities in the amount of work assigned to employees
▪ Minimal praise or no recognition for a job well done
▪ Dissatisfaction with pay and refusal to address it
▪ Personality style and performance style differences
▪ Minimal or no constructive feedback

The Relationship Fix-up Meeting Formula

  1. Prior to meeting with your boss, define the real issue that is creating problems in your relationship. Consider whether you played a role. Did communication issues play a role? Own your stuff before you meet.
  2. Write down your concerns. (Forget the small and petty stuff for now.)
  3. Meet with your supervisor and explain in plain, unemotional language your observations and concerns about the relationship, and state your goal is to improve the relationship.

    Example: "When I meet with you to discuss an issue or concern about my work, my time with you is often interrupted by the open door to hallway distractions, phone calls, or other people walking in unannounced. This causes me feel frustration because it appears that my concerns are not important, and I would like to..........."

    Note that the above is the classic assertiveness formula described here:

    When ___________ happens I feel _______________because ___________________ and I would like _____________.
  4. Be positive in your energy and demeanor—not cocky, passive aggressive, or acting as if you are cornering your boss. Be excited because things are going to change for the better. Critical: This is going to be an "I - thou" conversation without the "parent-child, I'm okay, you're not okay dynamic." Do not become a critical parent to your boss.
  5. Wait for your supervisor’s response. He or she may agree or may have another opinion. Hang on every word. Do not be defensive.
  6. Own your “half” of the relationship problem. It is unlikely you will get very far if you don’t accept the universal principle that each party in conflict plays a role in contributing to relationship problems. Go ahead and own your stuff.
  7. Your goal is an improved relationship, not to find fault. Don't enter a meeting of this nature feeling angry.
  8. Ask for constructive feedback on your performance in this meeting as a step toward wrapping it up.
  9. Let your boss have the last word in this conversation.
  10. Initiate regular contact with your boss going forward and do not let "a tree" grow between you.


    Get a reproducible tip sheet for employees to help them improve relationships with the boss
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