You and Your Boss: Solidify Your Most Important Work Relationship in 4 Steps

The relationship between employee and manager is complex. A good report with your boss can unlock tremendous opportunity and exposure. He or she can become a key ally in your current role and beyond as a mentor throughout your career. How do you go from just a general report to a collaborator and right-hand woman? We’ll break it down for you.

Every Monday morning at 9:30 begins the same way for me: “Hi Beth! How was your weekend?” Before we dive into our weekly agenda, Beth, my manager, updates me on her weekend with her family, while I tell her about my activities in the city. Our weekly check-ins are always enjoyable – even friend-like – but it took time, effort, and lots of trips to Starbucks to develop our particular relationship. Becoming trusting partners with a boss or supervisor can be challenging and nerve-wracking – let alone getting to know him or her on a personal level. However, with the right communication skills, a can-do, detail-oriented attitude, and a humble outlook as a team player, you can transform your relationship from co-workers to collaborators. It makes all the difference.

1. Set Up Weekly Check-Ins
Regular communication with your manager establishes an open dynamic. Effectively serving your manager and building trust means strategically implementing various modes of communication. Check-ins are great for starting any employer/employee relationship off on the right foot. Whether they are in-person, on video chat, or by phone, check-ins will not only help you prioritize your weekly workload, but will also help you and your manager develop a report. This will set the stage for positive morale. Executive Coach M. Nora Bouchard in Forbes says, “See these meetings as development opportunities, not just opportunities to ‘check in.’ Decide that you are going to use the time to learn about each other…” It might initially feel uncomfortable to know an upper-level colleague on a familiar, conversational level, but breaking down those initial barriers eases the flow of communication during the rest of the week.

2. Embrace Regular Correspondence
Everyday correspondence calls for a variety of other strategies. For longer, lower priority messages that cannot be easily conveyed in person or on the phone, stick with email. Responding to queries in a timely manner proves that you are reliable and can juggle many projects at once. For quick questions, opt for instant messenger, if your company offers it. IM is convenient if your boss is away from the office or works remotely, and you have a time-sensitive question that does not require the formality of an email. Tread lightly, though. In Business Insider, Vivian Giang points out that while instant messenger encourages a more casual interaction, there are still some basic rules to etiquette to follow. Remember, you are still at work! The multitude of communication methods can seem daunting, but utilized in the right way, they will strike a chord with your boss and set you apart as responsive and responsible.


3. Sweat the Details
No, you will not come off as obsessive, and no, you will not be overreacting. When you hustle, your boss will notice. Whether you take notes during a meeting, proofread writing, stay late to finish a project, or ask questions when you do not know the answer, being thorough is an asset. Caroline Moss of CNBC suggests that bosses should provide an incentive for employees to go above and beyond: “If [a boss needs] someone to go above and beyond for [him or her], immediately introduce how they’ll benefit in return.” While incentives can encourage productivity, self-starters ultimately attract the notice of a supervisor the most. If you think on your feet and do not substitute speed for accuracy, you will prove yourself worthy of increased responsibilities.

4. Be an Indispensable Team Player
Regardless of your title, you’re part of a team. The measure of any team is the strength of its players, so show your manager what you bring to the table by playing on your greatest strengths. After all, according to Lindsay Olson of U.S. News, bosses are encouraged to “Assess each team member’s strengths, and try to give assignments that play to each.” For example, if you excel in public speaking, volunteer to conduct the next team meeting. When you assume more responsibilities and contribute to the overall objective of the team, your boss will trust you to take on bigger tasks, which will ultimately move you one rung higher on the corporate ladder.

Armed with these four steps, a successful and collaborative relationship with your employer is yours for taking. Now go and unleash your inner right-hand woman!

Allison Graco is an aspiring book editor navigating NYC one library, museum, and coffee shop at a time. 



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