Career Talk 25.01.18

7 non-awkward ways to improve your relationship with your manager

They say sometimes you have to 'kiss up' to improve your relationship with your manager. We say, you're better than that.
Avantika Vaishnav
Avantika Vaishnav

Is your relationship with your manager okay? Could it be better than okay? It can be difficult to figure out how to improve such an important work relationship without being an obvious sycophant (that’s a fancy word for butt-kissing, vocab enthusiasts). Butt-kissing aside for one second, we at Debut think you’re better than that. There are better ways to use your talents than making a coffee for your manager when they come in every morning. Here are some ways to better your relationship that aren’t cringeworthy.

Communicate about your workload

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This might shock you, but you don’t have to do exactly what your boss asks you to do word-for-word. Communication is key, be sure what your manager wants done and when they want it done by. If you’re not sure, don’t be afraid to ask. Your manager will appreciate you being clear about what you can and can’t do, as opposed to you taking too much on and not completing tasks.

Set up a regular one-on-one

If you’re working in a large company, it can be really difficult to nail down your manager for a meeting. If this applies to you, try and take the initiative. Regular meetings don’t have to happen everyday, they can be every other day, weekly or fortnightly, even monthly. As long as you make the effort to become more visible to your manager, they’ll appreciate you for it and you’ll be able to better conceptualise what you need to do to move forward.

Find common ground

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You both work in the same place, so that’s a start. That could also mean that your manager and you are passionate about the same things. Try and find some common ground on your favourite parts of the job – even things outside work are fair game. Connecting with them on your favourite music and TV shows will make for a genuine connection that isn’t work-based and a much easy relationship.

Be trustworthy

One crucially important thing that will ingratiate your boss to you is if they can trust you. This isn’t something you can build overnight, rather it’s done by consistently doing things you say you’re going to do. You don’t have to be successful all the time, but succeeding in small ways many times in a row will make you the go-to person when your manager needs something done.

Ask for honest feedback

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Don’t let pride get the best of you. Don’t assume you’re doing a good job just because your manager hasn’t said anything. Talk frequently and ask them to give feedback at your one-to-one meetings. Your manager has the benefit of an outside perspective and will be able to best assess how the work you’ve done measures up compared to your key performance indicators.

Give them honest feedback

Kissing up to your manager and assuming they look after you perfectly will cause problems for your relationship down the line. If you don’t like the way you’re being managed, the best thing to do is be honest about it. Your manager will be seeking to improve just like you are and the best managers take feedback from above and below them. Caring about yours and their development will definitely improve your relationship.

Don’t fear them, empathise with them

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Your manager is a human being just like you. They’re going to make mistakes, they have fears about their job, and they have insecurities. It’s important to have patience with them. Nine times out of ten, they go home thinking about the little wrinkles in their performance rather than yours. Communication will lead to a better understanding, which in turn will mean a better time for both of you.

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