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"Employees don't need to be friends with their boss but they need to have a relationship," writes Susan Heathfield at About.com's Human Resources site. "The boss is too much of an integral part of their daily lives at work for an uncomfortable relationship. ...a toxic relationship with the person an employee reports to undermines the employee's engagement, confidence and commitment. A bad boss is also the number one reason why employees quit their job."
This information means something different to you, depending on whether you're a manager or an individual contributor.
First and foremost, keep an eye on how many of your people leave. Even if your company doesn't do 360-reviews, and your own boss doesn't have a beef with your management style, a mass exodus is a bad sign.
Good managers know that their job is to look out for their employees' interests, as well as those of the company. They also don't expect (or want) to be best friends with their reports.
If you're stuck with a bad manager, your position is more difficult. Managing up is always a challenge, and you can't transform a bad boss into a good one just by being a good employee.
That said, there are a few things you can do to improve your relationship with your manager:
1. Get Everything in Writing
"Make sure you get a job description in writing and approved by you, Human Resources and your manager," advises Renee Sylvestre-Williams at Forbes. "Before you sign anything, ensure that it lists everything you do and is detailed and specific. If there is any vague or unclear language, make sure it is cleared up so your manager can’t use it to give you 'other duties as assigned.'"
Sylvestre-Williams also recommends documenting everything that happens between you and the manager, so that you have a log to show HR, if worse comes to worst.
2. Try to See Things From the Other Perspective
Even if your boss is legitimately horrible, you'll get along better if you try to connect with him -- and that often means putting yourself in his shoes. The worst-case scenario is that it'll be a waste of your time, but there's always the chance that being more empathetic will allow you to develop a better rapport. At least, you'll be less likely to react negatively and make things worse.
3. Make Connections
Networking internally is your best bet in a situation like this. Forging alliances with folks in your department (or others, in case you need to make a jump to another part of the company) will make sure you're not out on a limb, all by yourself, should things come to a head.
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