A recent Gallup study found that half of workers leave their job because of their bosses. But, often it’s not because these bosses are overly demanding, or belittling, or like Meryl Streep in “The Devil Wears Prada.”
“I think many of these people are disappointed in their manager — feeling like their manager does not have their best interest in mind, is not paying attention to them, has their own agenda, or doesn’t have good management skills,” says Mary Schaefer, an empowerment expert, coach, trainer, speaker and consultant. That can be really frustrating.
A good boss can make you better at your job, can inspire you to strive for more, can be your champion with it’s time for a promotion or for a reference. So, getting along with them not only makes your day-to-day more bearable, it’s also essential for career advancement. But, even if your supervisor is remote or hard to read or just unhelpful, that doesn’t mean you should throw in the towel. Schaefer gives us some tips on how to make your relationship with your boss work for you.
The best way to get into your boss’s good graces: do your work while creating as little trouble as possible. “Here's my catchphrase: be high-performing and low-maintenance," says Schaefer. “High-performing means you deliver on the objectives given to you. As for the low-maintenance part — this may sound silly, but just don’t do things that cause friction points. If you have to do online training for ethics by a certain date, do it — don’t put yourself in a position that whoever is responsible for that is calling you, or worse calling your boss, asking when you’re going to get it done. ... So, don't surprise them; don't let them be surprised or hijacked by something that you did.”
Ask what they expect of you
Of course, being high-performing isn’t so easy if you have a hands-off administrator who doesn’t give you deadlines or set goals for you. “You need to be clear on what your objectives are and how they're measured,” says Schaefer. “I'll get employees say to me, ‘My boss tells me I need to do teamwork better; does that mean I need to go out and have beers with the team after work?’”
In those circumstances, just ask. “If your boss gives you vague feedback, you can ask questions like ‘What would that look like? What kind of communications would you hear from me? Who would you see me interacting with?’” says Schaefer. ”Get clear on what the standards are for what your boss wants you to do.” In addition to the duties your boss expects of you, you should know how often you can expect to meet one-on-one with him or her. Is it every two weeks, every month? Put a date on your calendar and make sure you go into the meeting with an agenda.
Another thing you should clarify with your boss early on: the best way to reach him or her, what kind of situation warrants a call at home and what terms like "ASAP" or "urgent" mean. “That’s one thing that can cause frustration: when the boss is not responsive to something that an employee sees as a priority,” says Schaefer. In those cases, you need to speak up: “If they seem annoyed or defensive, say ‘I’m asking these questions because I want to do a good job.’ Your boss may not like it, but they can’t argue with you wanting to do a good job.”
Sell your ideas
A lot of young people tell Schaefer that they feel like their ideas aren’t being taken seriously by their bosses. “It's important to learn how to manage their objections,” she says. “So, maybe come at your suggestions sideways: instead of saying ‘Hey, I have an idea,’ ask ‘What do you think about this? Have you noticed this problem? What have we tried so far?’ and go from there. I call that overcoming objections and selling your ideas, and it's under the umbrella of earning the right to present your idea.”
Have a Plan B
At the end of the day, it’s your career, and you need to do what’s best for you. “I don’t think this can be repeated too much,” says Schaefer. “But you need to own your career. Think not, what can my boss do about this, and instead what can I do. And have Plan B: Your employer really does owe you nothing except for that paycheck and the benefits promised you as long as you deliver.”