Worried what your boss thinks of you—if they like you, trust you, and think your contributions match up to their expectations?
If so, you’re not alone. Considering you’ll end up spending 10 years of your life at work, getting along with your boss is not only critical to succeeding in your career, but matters for your overall happiness and engagement at the office.
With that in mind, here are three easy ways to develop an effective, productive, and mutually rewarding relationship with your manager (even if they’re a tough cookie to crack):
1. Stop Using Email to Have Important Conversations
Is email your go-to forum for everything? In certain cases, it could be hurting your relationship. Even if it’s your manager’s favorite medium, it’s time to break the pattern of always relying on this.
Opt for in-person meetings if the conversation’s beyond a task or agenda-setting item—for example, if you’re asking for something or apologizing for a mistake. Not only is it just polite, it’ll most likely lead to a more productive discussion and help ensure you and your boss are truly on the same page.
“All of us are the worst possible version of ourselves in digital media,” adds Celeste Headlee, journalist and author of We Need to Talk: How to Have Conversations That Matter. “We might think we are persuasive in email, but scientifically, we are so much more persuasive in person.”
2. See Your Relationship With Your Boss as a Two-Way Street
Too often, we see ourselves as the executors and our managers as the creators of work, forgetting that our manager is also responsible for their own assignments.
So, if you want to immediately improve your relationship, ask them this simple question: “What can I do for you?” By opening up this conversation, you open the door for them to delegate projects they may not have otherwise considered. And, taking on stretch assignments can improve your visibility and lead to career advancement.
Wondering what else you should be talking about with your manager? Read this: 8 Questions You Should Be Asking Your Boss.
3. Be a Good Recipient of Feedback (and Ask Pointed Questions)
Get in the mindset that you want actual, honest feedback—and be physically ready for it.
Even if the feedback seems insensitive, kindly explain how the approach hurt your feelings, but then ask questions to get at the root of the problem, making it clear you really do want to improve. If you’re a good feedback recipient, your boss will be more likely to share valuable advice with you, which will ultimately help you grow.
And, if you’re finding that you only getting positive feedback, ask your manager to be more specific, or try mentioning something you wish you’d handled differently.
“If you open a dialogue with self-reflection, you give your boss—who might be uncomfortable giving you criticism—the opportunity to go on the learning journey with you,” advises Denise Cox, VP of Technical Services at Cisco Systems.
Finally, don’t wait for periodic reviews to get constructive feedback. If you can, ask your manager to schedule time to meet one-on-one weekly or monthly.
Research by Gallup shows that 50% of employees leave their job “to get away from their manager to improve their overall life at some point in their career,” which means building the right kind of relationship with your boss can make a real difference to your job satisfaction and career progression. Plus, it’ll make your friends and family find you much more enjoyable to be around outside of work.