A significant cause of workplace stress is dealing with your manager. Much like personal relationships in the other areas of our lives, creating a comfortable working relationship based on honesty and respect is ideal. Although this is not always 100% attainable due to personality differences and other issues, it’s an important skill set to learn.
Let’s do a quick review of the current relationship you have with your boss or manager.
Do you get anxious or nervous when you need to ask for a day off, feedback on a project or when your next promotion or pay raise will be?
Do you tip toe around your boss’s mood and busy schedule?
It’s absolutely normal to feel this way.
It can be challenging to ask the tough questions, especially if you are not sure how to best communicate with them.
Here are 10 things to keep in mind when you approach your manager.
- Listen: Turn on your active rather than “passive” listening skills. Too often we tune out something our boss said the other day, or sit in meetings thinking about what we plan to say instead of really hearing the person that is doing the talking. Really tuning into the concerns, ideas and thoughts of our coworkers and managers will guide you in how you approach your boss.
- Be Brief: Managers typically have limited time due to meetings and phone calls throughout the day. If you need them for something immediate I recommend getting to the point instead of rambling on. If it’s a longer conversation that’s over 5 minutes, schedule a time on their calendar so you won’t feel rushed.
- Be Patient: A lot of times the pressure that managers are under can be intense, and there’s usually much more going on that employees are not aware of. If they’re in a foul mood one day, let it go and don’t take it personally.
- Be Solution-Focused: Avoid complaining about something without providing a potential solution. Demonstrate your willingness to help and provide some ideas. Even if those ideas do not work out, at least you are showing your boss that you’re trying to be solution-oriented instead of only focusing on the problem.
- Be Confident: When you talk with your boss, come across as confident and capable, rather than nervous and timid. 93% of communication is non-verbal, so your body language should show that you know what you are talking about, and you want to bring value to the company.
- Get to Know Them: Some appropriate casual conversation can go a long way. Rather than just talking to them when you “have” to or during meetings on a professional basis, ask how their weekend was, say hi, get to know their preferences in terms of work style/communications/etc. Get friendly – HR approved friendly that is.
- Meet Regularly: If regularly scheduled meetings are not part of your routine, arrange weekly 1-on-1’s for guidance, support, mentorship, etc. This ensures you get time each week with your boss so you can get the direction you need to continue to move forward in your role. If you have a quick question, ask them how they prefer to communicate; whether by email, phone, chat, text messages, etc.
- Be Honest: Part of building your relationship is being honest, transparent and respectful. Most people’s intuition can gauge when we’re being told half-truths. It helps to use phrases like “I feel” instead of “You are not doing XYZ”. This way your manager is more open even when your giving constructive feedback.
- Clearly Define Goals and Expectations: Do you know the expectation of your role? Have you discussed your career goals or annual goals? Ensure that these are clearly understood and that there are no surprises when it comes time for a mid or year-end performance review. By having regular check-ins with your boss for feedback and direction, you know what to strive for and hopefully can get that promotion or a pay raise at the end of the year.
- It Goes Both Ways: The boss and employee relationship is a two way street. Ultimately, you are both human beings that make mistakes and are just trying to make a good living. Both parties need to put themselves in the other person’s shoes, which will ultimately help build a strong foundation for your working relationship.
A solid relationship with your manager is key. If you aren’t happy with your boss, chances are you won’t stick around at your company for long.
Hopefully your manager is receptive to developing a relationship; however, make sure you are continuing to put in the effort. Always do your part no matter what because your colleagues, coworkers and other senior managers will notice.
I’m confident if you use the above tips that your relationship with your manager will get easier and you will be able to communicate more freely.
I highly recommend that every manager read, The New One Minute Manager by Ken Blanchard and M.D. Johnson Spencer.