How to Build a Better Relationship With Your Boss

Your boss. Like it or not, he or she plays an important role in your professional life. Why? Well, if you want to continue to climb the career ladder and make forward progress in your career, your boss’ favorable opinion is (very) important. Plus, when you spend so much time working with someone, it’s only natural to crave at least a decent rapport between the two of you.

However, you don’t need me to tell you that establishing and fostering a positive relationship with your superior isn’t always so easy. It can be tough to walk that line between overly professional and a little too comfortable.

Yes, striking that balance can be a challenge. But, it’s definitely still doable—as long as you take the right steps! Use these six tips to improve, grow, and strengthen your relationship with your manager.

1. Be a great employee.

Let’s start with the obvious, shall we? You can be the friendliest, most outgoing person in the entire office. But, if your work is sub-par and you refuse to offer any sort of contributions to your team? Well, getting your boss (and your co-workers, for that matter!) to think highly of you is going to be pretty much impossible.

Your first step is to ensure you’re an awesome employee that’s truly adding value to your organization. Do your best work. Chime in with constructive ideas in team meetings. Stay far away from office gossip. Your attitude and high quality work will be a constant reminder to your boss of why exactly she hired you in the first place.

It seems basic, but a positive reputation will lay the groundwork for a better relationship with your colleagues—especially your boss!

2. Ask for feedback.

Yes, all bosses are different. But, one rule holds true across the board: All managers love an employee willing to take initiative. Proactively asking for feedback from your supervisor is a great way to demonstrate that you’re constantly looking for ways to grow and improve.

One rule holds true across the board: All managers love an employee willing to take initiative.

Of course, you don’t want to take this concept to the extreme. Your boss will likely only grow annoyed if you check in for constructive criticism after every single email you send. However, setting up a time to discuss your performance every few months—or after the completion of a large project or presentation—should be enough to show that you’re interested in evolving, without being a pest.

3. Communicate effectively.

Communication is key in any relationship. But, it’s definitely crucial when it comes to relationships between superiors and subordinates. Your boss needs to be in the know about what’s happening! But, at the same time, you don’t want to overwhelm him or her with constant updates and unnecessary information.

It’s for this very reason that it’s a great idea to get a handle on how exactly your boss prefers to communicate. Does she like to have weekly or monthly meetings when you can update her on your progress and any roadblocks? Is she someone who relies heavily on email because she’s frequently out of the office—meaning she prefers you send her sporadic notes when you complete something or need more information?

I know that this can be a little challenging to discern, particularly if you’re somewhat new in the office. However, pay close attention to how your boss interacts with you. It’s human nature to communicate with others in the same way we’d prefer to be communicated with, so this can be a revealing clue you can utilize to bolster your communication skills with your boss.

If nothing else, don’t be afraid to set up a quick meeting to talk it out with your manager. Getting on the same page about preferred communication right from the get-go will only make both of your lives easier, and your relationship even stronger!

4. Make small talk.

There’s no official handbook that dictates what exactly the relationship with your boss should look like. Some people have very formal and professional relationships with their superiors, whereas others are much closer and more casual. Some never see each other outside of the office, while others are friends on Facebook and frequently hang out at work happy hours.

Regardless of your current relationship, there’s never harm in making small talk with your boss. Whether it’s about weekend plans or a half marathon you know she’s training for, chit-chatting about personal tidbits can help to strengthen the relationship with your boss by making things a little more friendly and a little less rigid.

Chatting about personal tidbits can help to strengthen the relationship with your boss by making things a little more friendly and a little less rigid.

No, you don’t want to waste precious work hours jabbering on and on about the latest episode of Scandal. But a few minutes of friendly conversation in the breakroom won’t hurt!

5. Offer to help.

Your boss might seem like she’s always on top of everything—she never makes a mistake and never loses her cool. However, we all find ourselves in situations when we could use a little bit of help. So it’s important to note that your boss may not always be willing to admit it.

If your supervisor seems stressed and overwhelmed, go ahead and step up to the plate and offer to help. Perhaps she mentioned a client report that she’s trying to get out the door, even though she’s pressed for time. If you have the know-how to take care of it, explain that you’re happy to handle a portion for her so she doesn’t have so much on her plate.

Even if she ends up turning you down, the fact that you were willing to reach out and offer help will carry a lot of weight.

6. Practice empathy.

Often, it’s all too easy to jump to conclusions and assume your boss is just out to get you. That daunting project, tight deadline, or dreadfully boring conference call—they’re all your boss’ attempts to punish you. Not so.

It’s important to take a deep breath and always give your supervisor the benefit of the doubt, even when things get tough. Remember, your boss isn’t only responsible for her own pieces of the puzzle—she’s also in charge of ensuring the quality of work produced by you and your co-workers.

Having to manage others can be a tough job—remind yourself that your boss is only human. That sense of understanding alone is enough to shift perspective and drastically improve your relationship with your manager.

All in all, we want great relationships with our bosses. It certainly helps to make those 40+ hours you spend in the office each week that much better! But, sometimes, fostering a positive bond with your boss can involve navigating murky waters. Put these six tips to use, and you’re sure to notice improvements right away!

Did we miss any tips? What steps do you take to strengthen your relationship with your boss?