There is no relationship more important to get right at work than the one you have with your boss, manager or first in command; whichever label you use in your industry.
It’s a well-documented fact that 50% of people cite the relationship with their manager as their reason for leaving an organisation as documented in this article from the Wall Street Journal.
The statistics are almost identical in the UK and from our own experience here at Lucy Walker Recruitment.
Let’s take control and do it differently.
What about starting in your new organisation with the intent of developing a great relationship with your new manager?
Remember: They can make work fulfilling and exciting…or be a confidence-sapping exercise in misery.
Your career is quite literally in this person’s hands, so it’s vital to get it right.
Luckily, it’s in your hands to create a good relationship right from the start. And don’t worry; even if you’ve worked with your manager for a while, most of the following hints and suggestions can also apply to someone who is trying to improve relations with their current boss.
1. Show that you’re open to feedback.
Nothing gives a manager a bigger sigh of relief than when an employee shows they can take constructive criticism. You’ve just made their life easier and they’ll respect you for it. One of the key criteria new employers now look for are individuals that are coachable and open to feedback.
2. Ask them about your predecessor.
‘Anything you particularly liked or disliked about the way Jane or John did things?’
………….‘Oh, he was brilliant, but was often late.’ Or, ‘I found she dithered and procrastinated on projects she wasn’t keen on’, or ‘I liked that she had initiative yet always kept me in the loop.’
A few well-placed questions like this will be vital when it comes to finding out your managers, ‘foibles’. Let’s be honest we all have them and our managers are only human. Where possible if the request seems reasonable to ensure you make it happen.
3. Identify their working style.
Do they want everything in email, face to face or both? Long meetings or short? Are they impatient and short on time and niceties? If they write short sharp emails, respond in kind- don’t waffle. Also, note when their productive times of day are- do they get right to work as soon as they get in the door, or do they take the time to settle in? Match your style to theirs, where you can.
4. Under promise and over deliver
Even if only by a few hours, completing tasks before a deadline shows you are in complete control, keen, interested and a solid pair of hands. Your manager will have a good handle on how long things take and will appreciate that you are trying your best.
5. Admit when you’ve made an error.
There’s no other way to maintain respect than to admit when you have made a mistake.
Alexander Pope the well-known Poet is remembered for his well-known saying that; “To err is human”.
If you are new to the organisation no matter what your skill level, there might still be areas and systems that are unfamiliar to you, therefore any manager understands there might be some degree of error. Which leads me onto the next point.
6. Ask questions, but not every two minutes.
I will stick my neck out here and say any manager doesn’t mind clarification questions; especially from new employees. Important: Make sure you make a note of the response and keep a workbook or journal where you can keep a record you can refer to.
What managers don’t appreciate is being asked questions that they have given you the answer to on more than a couple of occasions. It gets in the way of their work and makes you appear completely uncertain. Only ask urgent questions as they come up; for the rest keep a running file open on your computer and ask questions all at once.
7. Keep them updated on projects.
If your manager is frequently asking for updates it’s a sign that you’re not keeping them properly informed and they’re worried enough about your progress to check up on you.
Even if your manager is more hands-off, be sure to say to them that ‘the Smith project’s going well- let me know if you want a progress report.’ This reassures them that you’ve made quantifiable progress and that they were right in trusting that you don’t need micromanagement.
8. Be 10 minutes early as a rule and dress smartly.
This shouldn’t really need to be said, but for some reason people still miss these basic rules of how to impress a manager.
Most managers hate lateness; it comes across as both disrespectful and implies you are dis-organised. If your contractual hours are 8.30am till 5. That means being at your desk at 8.30am coffee, tea or water in hand and your PC and email open and running.
The dress code is a whole other post and its important here to mention that dressing smartly for the role does a lot more than communicating your fashion sense.
9. Don’t bolt for the door at 5 every day.
Work late without complaint when you need to. In a similar way to turning up on time, packing your bag and shutting down 15 mins before home time doesn’t look good either.
However, be wary about always staying late- firstly, staying late is a dangerous precedent as it will often become expected (and you risk being taken for granted), but it also indicates that you can’t get your work done during work hours.
The early /late scenario is tricky I know. Imagine if you were your boss, what would you want, expect or appreciate; makes you think differently doesn’t it?
10. Don’t complain unless you have a solution.
We live in a society that complains a lot and social media seems to make it worse. However, don’t let that slip into your everyday work conversations. There’s no point bringing a problem up with your manager unless you have a solution to offer or at least a few practical suggestions.
It’s never too early or too late to create a strong working relationship with your manager that’s based on mutual respect. Why not start today?
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