5 Strategies for Improving Your Relationship with Your Boss

When you picture the person at work who will most impact your future, who do you see? For most of us, our relationship with our manager is the most important relationship we have at work. I believe we need to work to get it that relationship right. Here are five tips that will improve your relationship with the person that supervises you.


  • Think about your boss as your client

Your boss has a problem that needs to be solved, and is hiring you to solve it. Learn what your boss’ problem is that requires hiring, and go about solving it.


  • Find out what your boss means

“My door is always open,” could mean they are available 70% of the time, or 110% of the time. “Your presentation went well,” could mean that they think your presentation was stunning, it just did the job it was supposed to do, or it could be that there were no problems with your presentation significant enough to merit the time it would take to address them respectfully. They are merely acknowledging that you did a presentation and don’t want you to feel bad about it at this point. Listen to your boss’s words, but watch their behaviour over time to determine what the words mean. If you’re uncertain what your boss means by something, it’s okay to check with them.


  • When you approach your boss, share your intent

Remember your manager has a lot of demands of their time. Tell your manager why you’re taking it up.


  • When you update your boss, adapt to their information processing needs

Deliver information in a way that works for them. Some managers:


  • Like to discuss things first; others want things in writing before discussing them.


  • Want detailed facts and figures; others just want an overview.


  • Want daily updates; others prefer to hear from you when there are concerns. 
  • Handle delegation deftly


  • Delegation conversations can be tricky. You get more work, your boss gets less, and a lot of information can be exchanged – all at the same time. Here’s how to get it right:Clarify: Ask questions to clear up anything you don’t understand.

    Prioritize: Find out how important this task is in relation to your other ones. If you think you can’t fit in the work, you may say things like:

    “Where do you see this task fitting in with my other priorities?”, and, “So, is it okay if some of the items lower on the priority list get postponed?”

    “In terms of the big picture for me, what do you think I should put aside so this gets done on schedule?”

    Record: Record their instructions as they speak, and read them back to check for accuracy. When you do this, you not only demonstrate that you’ve got it and it’s written down, but your boss hears back what they said and may notice important information they left out.

    Schedule: Dates and times are good, but for bigger projects you should also get a sense of how firm the deadline is. Note that in order to meet deadlines, you may have to request resources from your boss or others by certain dates. Clarify this upfront and let them know when you would need things by.

    Overall, understanding your boss’s needs and their role will go a long way towards your boss meeting your own needs, thereby making your relationship work. Your manager may significantly impact your future, so it makes sense to devote time and energy to building your relationship with them.


Mike Labun

Trainer, ACHIEVE Centre for Learning

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