The number of hours (and bottles of wine) my friends and I consume complaining about bad bosses is immeasurable.
But the main theme of our conversations always came back to: How do you get on their good side when you can barely stand them yourself?
I’ve learned over time that it all comes down to a simple truth:
Not everyone will like you, and those who do won’t like you all the time.
Welcome to human nature. We are flawed individuals who don’t always get it right.
“How do I get my boss to like me, even if I don’t like them?” may be the prevailing question. But I’m afraid it’s not the right question. For one, it’s inherently flawed logic. You’re allowed to not like them, but they’re not allowed to not like you? That doesn’t seem right.
Let’s take this question and flip it around to look at it from a confident angle. The real question is, “What do I do when my boss doesn’t like me?”
Make Sure You’re Removing Yourself From the Equation
There will always be someone at work who challenges you, who pushes your last button. And it’s probably going to be a boss at some point or another. And guess what? You will be that person to someone else along the way.
People usually know when they’re not liked. If you think your boss doesn’t like you—and you don’t like your boss—it’s entirely possible they know how you feel and are responding to your negative energy and attitude.
Should they be? No. But if I can get one point across to you in this article, it’s that your boss is a human and they’re not always as in control of their behavior and emotions as they should be. (Who hasn’t snapped at someone or rolled their eyes and regretted it moments later?)
So, the next time your manager does something that you think indicates he or she doesn’t like you, put a mirror on yourself (metaphorically, of course) and note your response. How did your body language change? How did you respond? There’s a good chance you’re feeding off each other.
While being aware of that might not change how your boss interacts with you, you’ll at least know you’re not part of the problem.
Redefine Your Expectations of Relationship at Work
More tough love for you: Work is a transactional environment. You are compensated to provide a service or skill. Your boss is not required to like you.
Yes, you deserve to work at a company in which you don’t feel like you’re just clocking in and out. Work friends matter. Good bosses matter. But unfortunately, not every company and not every manager see it that way, and you might’ve found yourself working at a place in which that’s the case.
This doesn’t mean you should work in abject cruelty, but it should help you establish appropriate expectations for your time at this office. Gaining a working friendship with your boss is a bonus. An achievement. It is not a guarantee.
Instead of trying to convert a boss to a friend, make it a goal to make work friends who can fulfill that role (and this article will help you do just that).
Start moving from wanting to be liked to wanting to be respected—something that’s far more important than whether or not they like you.
Now, how do you get that respect? That brings me to my third point…
Do Your Work Well
The absolute best way to win your boss over—even if they don’t seem to like you—is to adopt a killer work ethic and turn out work products that exceed their expectations. Anytime you get criticism (or even lackluster feedback), make it a point to follow up and ask what you can do in the future to improve. This article will make that easier.
And when you’re setting out on new projects, make sure you get the goals, expectations, metrics, and anything else you might be judged on before you start. It’s harder to be outright rude to someone when they’re checking off everything you expected.
Unless you’re a truly terrible person, the fact that your boss doesn’t like you very rarely has anything to do with you. They might be miserable about something happening at home or elsewhere in the office and be taking it out on you. Or, maybe something about you is a trigger for them based on a past experience. Perhaps they’re just a curmudgeon.
To tie all of this together, you must understand the difference between self-esteem and confidence. Self-esteem (or lack thereof) says, “They will/must/don’t like me.” Confidence says, “I’ll be fine if they don’t.”
Challenge yourself to keep showing up, doing great work, and behaving in a way that makes you feel proud of yourself.
Remember this: You won’t work with this person forever. Either one of you will leave, move to a different department, or take on a new role altogether.
And you’ll hopefully be able to look back at your time together with a lot of lessons learned about what kind of manager you want in the future—and maybe even what kind of manager you want to be.
Photo of people working in conference room courtesy of Nancy Honey/Getty Images.
Meghan E. Butler is on a mission to create a more emotionally intelligent workforce. She’s written for Rhapsody Magazine and Austin Lifestyles Magazine, and her workplace articles for The Muse have been syndicated by Fast Company and Inc. Magazine. She is a seasoned communications professional and career mentor with close to 20 years of consulting, corporate PR, and agency experience. Check out her website or follow her on Twitter.More from this Author