Trying to impress your boss might feel like a strange goal at first. Maybe you don’t want to falsely cozy up to someone just to get ahead professionally — and that’s absolutely right. Your career will stand primarily on the legs of your own abilities and efforts.
However, having a strong relationship with your boss will support your progress in countless ways. It will make your working life easier rather than harder. So, it’s a really good thing to try to cultivate.
Here are a few specific reasons why getting on your boss’s good side will support your career success:
- You’ll be happier. A lot of people quit their jobs because they don’t get along with their boss. A Gallup poll reported by LinkedIn found that a bad boss or immediate supervisor is the number one reason people quit their jobs. As a general rule, workers don’t quit jobs — they quit bosses. Getting along well with yours should help you to stay happier at work. And, you’ll leave when you’re ready — not because of a challenging relationship with your boss.
- You’ll learn more from feedback. One of the awesome benefits of having a good working relationship with your supervisor is that you’ll get better feedback. It’s easier to hear — and learn from — constructive criticism when you’re confident that your boss respects you. You’ll also be able to manage expectations a little better when you have a good relationship.
- It will help you expand your network. Your boss will introduce you to different opportunities, and different people, when they’re impressed with you. You’ll likely expand your professional network as a result of these experiences and that could lead to all kinds of future possibilities.
A note on difficult bosses:
If you’ve ever worked for a difficult boss, or maybe even a toxic one, then you already know that impressing especially challenging bosses tends to be extra complicated. There are a few things to keep in mind if you find yourself in such a situation.
First, remember that there are actually some hidden benefits to working for a jerk. (Knowing this might help you to get along better.) Working for a demanding boss will push you to be your best self and learn and grow like never before.
However, it’s a different story if the relationship becomes toxic. It might be best to look for other employment opportunities in these cases.
Some bosses aren’t quite toxic, but they’re not exactly supportive, either. If you work for a boss who’s cold or elusive, adjust your expectations accordingly. You can still work to better your relationship, but they probably won’t become an ally.
Finally, a lot of difficult bosses earn their label not because of how they treat their workers but because of how they do their own job. Working for someone who is basically incompetent can be frustrating and it can take a toll on your motivation.
Instead of focusing on their lack of ability, focus on yourself. Take the lead when appropriate and fill in gaps as needed. Ask for help from other managers and coworkers as needed. And, keep in mind that the problem just might take care of itself. Incompetent bosses don’t tend to stick around forever.
Thankfully, not all bosses require a special touch. Here are some strategies that tend to work well with just about any manager:
Bring solutions not problems
It’s true that your boss is there, in part, to help as needed. However, that doesn’t mean that it’s always a great idea to go to them with your problems. There’s a right and a wrong way to go about soliciting your boss’s assistance.
Think about how many people must go to them every day with an issue. They probably have dozens to knots to untie and disputes to mediate. So, do what you can to avoid throwing another log on that fire.
When you encounter a problem at work, do everything you can to come up with a solution. Then, when you talk to your boss about the matter, explain both the problem and what you’re thinking about doing to solve it. You aren’t there to ask what you should do. You’re there to keep them informed and get their input.
Your boss will be impressed by your ability to solve problems independently. And, they’ll be thrilled that you value their energy and time enough to not take advantage. Bringing your boss solutions, not just problems, can really set you apart.
Be happy and have good work-life balance
Your boss will be impressed with you if you manage to be excellent at your job while still maintaining a solid enough work-life balance that you come to work feeling good. A positive attitude goes a long way professionally, just like it does personally. Who wants to be around someone who’s negative or otherwise miserable?
Your boss wants you to be diligent and productive, of course. But, they’re also hoping that you’re happy enough with your job that you’ll stay a while. Therefore, simply demonstrating that you’re hard-working and capable of doing the job isn’t enough. You also want to show that you can handle the demands and the pace of the work. If you seem overwhelmed all the time, you’re sending the opposite message.
So, make taking care of yourself and having some work-life balance a priority. Make a point to take breaks from work, so that you can rest and replenish your energies. Maintain friendships outside of work. Take time to enjoy a hobby once in a while. Get plenty of sleep. Exercise. Eat well.
Your boss will be super impressed if you’re able to really thrive in this way. You may even notice an effort to get to know you better. They might be trying to learn your secret.
Help your boss impress Their boss
Most likely, your boss isn’t at the absolute top of your company’s structure. They probably have a boss, too. So, one of the best ways to help your boss to see you as an asset rather than a liability is to be aware of this dynamic, and do what you can to help your boss impress their boss.
Simply maintaining an awareness of these dynamics is a great place to start. You’ll notice when your boss has a big presentation coming up, and you’ll be encouraging and supportive. Most importantly, be sure you know what goals your boss is working toward so that you can have them in mind, too. Your boss will likely take notice if you stay mindful of those priorities and the big picture.
Finally, it generally isn’t helpful to bad-mouth your boss, especially to higher-ups. Plus, everyone has their faults. So, if you’re asked, try to find a way to emphasize the positive. Your boss will appreciate you taking extra care where their reputation is concerned.
Learn Their communication style
Everyone communicates differently. Be sure to learn what your boss wants in terms of communication methods and styles. You might ask if they prefer email updates, texts or in-person meetings, for example. Would it be best to meet regularly or just as issues arise?
Some bosses like to have everything explained to them, and others want less information and for their employees to handle problems independently. It’s important to know what your boss expects so that you can hit the mark.
It’s also important to discern how your boss prefers you to communicate information. Do they like everything to be said bluntly and flat out? Or, does it make sense to take some care to cushion blows a little?
You’ll learn more about your boss’s preferred style of communication over time. Ask questions when you can. And, pay attention. Learning to talk with your boss the way that works best is a great way to impress them.
Be reliable and consistent
Being good at your job sometimes — but not all the time — isn’t going to cut it. In order to stand out from the crowd, you need to be more than competent — you’ll need to be consistent.
Think about how much you value those coworkers, or managers, whom you can really count on. You know they’re going to do what they say they’re going to do. They never say they “forgot” to get the job done nor do they offer any other excuse. They simply do their jobs reliably and consistently well. And, you can predict how they’ll respond to challenges with some accuracy as well. (Being emotionally reliable matters, too.)
You may be given special opportunities because your boss will know they can count on you to handle the challenge. Great leaders often work with this kind of consistency. If you want to better your professional relationships and get ahead at work, or if you see yourself moving into a leadership position in the future, it’s a wonderful attribute to cultivate.
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