How to Become Your Boss's Favorite
Your manager has a huge impact on day-to-day quality of life at work. If your manager likes and trusts you, chances are that you're going to find your work life more pleasant and fulfilling, and you'll probably advance more quickly, too. On the other hand, if your manager doesn't like you, consequences can range from daily tension to bad assignments to even being pushed out of your job.
While you won't click with every manager out there, here are seven things you can do that will significantly improve your relationship with the vast majority of managers – and will make you the beloved favorite of many of them.1. Think like a consultant. Quite understandably, employees tend to personalize their relationships with their manager, the feedback they receive, whether their suggestions are used, and generally how a manager responds to them. Consultants – who have clients instead of bosses – tend to have an easier job of approaching clients from a more emotionally detached place. Try approaching your work like a consultant, which means, for example, responding to critical feedback in the same way you would respond to a problem that didn't feel highly personal and emotionally charged (presumably by gathering information and collaboratively problem-solving).
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2. Make it easy for your boss to give you feedback. As much as you don't enjoy receiving critical feedback, your boss probably likes giving it even less; most managers feel awkward about delivering criticism, and some actively dread or avoid it. Your boss is likely to find you an absolute delight to work with if you make this easy on her by doing things like actively soliciting feedback via questions like "Do you have thoughts on how I could do X better?" And, of course, don't get upset or defensive when you get criticism, which will just reinforce any discomfort your boss had about delivering it in the first place.
3. Pay attention to your boss's "themes." Most managers have certain hot buttons or categories of things they particularly care about – whether it's responsiveness time, how to play to a particular political sensitivity or budget issues. By paying attention to the things your boss asks about most often or most closely manages you on, you can often draw larger lessons about the sorts of things she'll care about in the future. You can then use that knowledge to proactively address those things before she needs to ask about them.
4. Accept your manager's idiosyncrasies with grace. Most people, including managers, have a few weird preferences that might seem annoying or strange to others. For example, you might have a manager who wants everything printed in Courier 12 font without exception, or who insists on talking face-to-face about every little matter rather than using email. You could roll your eyes or push back or try to sneak in a different font, but by simply rolling with this type of thing rather than making it clear you think it's odd or ridiculous, you're likely to earn your manager's gratitude. (And you will be tremendously grateful for employees who do this for you when you're the manager.)
5. Don't get frustrated when you disagree. If your manager's perspective is different from yours, don't focus on persuading her to see things your way or get frustrated by the disagreement; instead, focus on figuring out why you see things so differently. Do you have information that she doesn't, which might change her perspective? Or does she have information you don't have, or is she prioritizing something differently than you are?
6. When you're confused, anxious or concerned by something your manager says or does, ask about it. Too often, people stew silently rather than simply broaching the topic and getting it resolved. For example, if you noticed your manager seemed uncomfortable with a topic you raised in your last meeting, don't second-guess and speculate about why. Instead, just say something like, "I thought you seemed hesitant when I brought up X last week. Do you want me to approach that differently?" Other helpful language to have in your pocket:
- "I realized I wasn't sure what you meant by X. Can you tell me more about that?"
- "I might be misreading this, but do you have any concerns about how I'm handling X?"
- "You said X yesterday, and it made me worry about what it means for the Y project."
Alison Green writes the popular Ask a Manager blog, where she dispenses advice on career, job search and management issues. She's the author of "How to Get a Job: Secrets of a Hiring Manager," co-author of "Managing to Change the World: The Nonprofit Manager's Guide to Getting Results" and the former chief of staff of a successful nonprofit organization, where she oversaw day-to-day staff management.