Productive, respectful relationships between a boss and his or her employees is key to any company’s success. While the boss’ top priority is likely to have hardworking employees who fulfill his vision for the company, it’s a safe bet that he’d also like to have more than superficial relationships with the people he works with every day. After all, he probably spends more time with his staff than he does with anyone else.
Of course, there’s something in it for employees, too: The boss plays a key role in advancement opportunities, so the more he knows you, your work, and your work ethic, the more likely you are to be rewarded.
A healthy, respectful relationship with your manager can improve your morale and productivity, and ultimately, it can boost your career. If you want a relationship that goes beyond “we get along fine,” here are five suggestions for building a stronger alliance with your boss.
1. Take the Initiative to Set Up Monthly Meetings
When I first started my business, it was easy to meet with each employee almost daily, because I only had five employees. Now, with 19, it is more difficult to check in with every employee every day and keep tabs on all the tasks that each person is working on. So it’s important that my employees take the initiative to set up individual meetings with me throughout the month. This helps me know what’s going on in the business—and shows me that they care about their jobs and are keeping my goals and expectations in mind.
Your boss may be busy, but as an employee, you can and should take the initiative to meet with your boss one on one at least once a month. Use that time as an opportunity to discuss the status of your current projects, to present your ideas for the future, and to check in to make sure you’re on track with your boss’ goals and strategies.
2. Demonstrate Your Innovation and Initiative
Every CEO or manager wants a company full of motivated and productive employees. Showing that you’re excited to take on on new projects will help both you and your boss be more successful.
If you work in an office where people are constantly pitching ideas for new products, services, projects, or process improvements, don’t be afraid to raise your hand and volunteer to take the initiative on something. If suggestions aren’t free flowing, keep a running list of your own ideas and offer them up at your monthly meetings with your boss.
Being innovative and taking initiative shows your manager that you’re invested in growing with the company, and that is bound to lead to a better relationship between the two of you.
3. Strive for Open Communication
How many times have you told your boss that one of his or her ideas isn’t so great? It’s a scary conversation for any employee, but it’s an important one.
There have been a number of times that I’ve shared ideas with employees, and they’ve come back and suggested—politely of course—that my idea may not be the best route. The reason I don’t get upset is because, along with the rejection of my idea, they present a suggestion for something else. Or, better still, they consider how they can adapt my idea and make it work more effectively.
The key is to remember that you were hired because you have a specific set of skills that the company values and, often, can offer a different perspective than your boss can. Feeling comfortable enough to disagree with your boss and have an open line of communication will build a strong relationship—one in which you know the best ideas will always rise to the top.
4. Remember Your Boss Is Human, Too
Most leaders come to work with their professional game face on, armed with a to-do list a mile long. They spend their days focused on moving the company closer to its goals. However, even leaders appreciate when their employees see them as something more than the guy or gal who signs their paychecks.
In a previous article where I discussed the questions you should ask your employees to keep them happy and loyal, I suggested that leaders ask their team, “How was your weekend?” However, I think it goes both ways: Employees should take the time to ask their boss questions like, “How are you?” or “Did you do anything fun this weekend?” This isn’t about being best buddies or feeling like you need to hang out together outside of work—it’s about communicating on a more personal level.
5. Be Yourself
You’ve probably heard some of your co-workers refer to their “work wives” or “work husbands.” It’s usually said in jest, but there’s some truth to the sentiment—many of us spend more time with our colleagues than we do with our actual families. And sometimes that commitment can cause friction at home or resentment at work. But unless your boss is famous psychic Theresa Caputo, he or she will have no idea that there’s an issue brewing in your personal life.
I would always rather have employees tell me when something at work or at home is affecting the rest of their lives than to wonder why their productivity has suddenly dipped or why they’ve developed a bad attitude.
So, if you’re a parent whose office hours are taking a toll on your family, propose a schedule that allows you to work from home part-time. Or, if you’re a part-time college student who needs some extra time off during finals week, see if there is a way to make up the time elsewhere in your schedule. Ask for what you need and be willing to compromise, and your relationship with your manager will be better for it.
Keep in mind, your goal shouldn’t be to become best friends with your boss. Instead, focus on establishing good communication skills and building trust—and the rewards will follow.