How to repair a rocky relationship with your boss
Are you a young professional who has a sneaking suspicion that your boss doesn’t like you? Sometimes the warning signs can be pretty clear. For instance, are they terrible about approving your vacation and sick day requests? Do they offer snide remarks instead of sincere compliments about your work? Or do they simply not seem to notice you at all?
If this is the case, you might be wondering if now’s the time to quit your job. After all, you’re not getting the respect you deserve… so you might be better off looking for greener pastures. Unfortunately, quitting your job isn’t always possible, nor is it always smart. You’ve got bills to pay, and you also don’t have a guarantee that your next boss will be any better than this one.
What’s more, some of what your boss believes might be tied to the fact that you’re a young professional in the workforce. Since you’re newer, they may not entirely trust you with jobs and responsibilities that you’re more than equipped to handle. If that’s the case, the right move might be to repair your relationship with your boss, instead of terminate it.
But how do you go about doing that? We’re so glad you asked. Without further ado, let’s look at six ways to improve your relationship with a boss that doesn’t like you.
Assume positive intent in your boss
When you have a communication breakdown with your manager, it can be easy to paint them as the bad guy. In many ways, making your boss out to be a mean or bad person makes it easier to deflect their criticisms of you. After all, why trust their opinion if they’re a jerk, anyway?
The problem with that mindset is that it reinforces a series of negative beliefs that will only contribute to further problems with your boss. Instead of shaming your boss behind their back, try assuming positive intent within them. That means presuming that your manager ultimately means well and comes from a good place.
Maybe they’re not especially kind to you, but they act the way they do because they want what’s best for the company. Or maybe they’re acting out because they’ve got a difficult home life, or their relationship is faltering, or they have a sick family member… the list goes on. Whatever the case, “checking” your thoughts at the door and assuming good things about the people around you helps you understand them better — and understanding someone better is the first step toward improving your relationship with them.
Start journaling about your relationship with your boss
If you’ve never tried journaling before, now’s the time to start. Journaling about career difficulties is one of the best ways to assess and overcome hardships related to your job. If your boss is being particularly difficult, consider writing about them in ways that help you clarify what you want out of your job going forward.
For instance, imagine if you manage to repair your relationship with your boss. What will your career look like a year from now? What kinds of projects will you be working on? How will the rest of your coworkers envision you? And will you be up for potential promotions and job advancement? Writing down all the good things that might come out of a better relationship with your manager is a great way to inspire you to make the changes needed to really feel connected to your job down the road.
Alternatively, you can use the difficult relationship you have with your boss as a tool to decide what you DON’T want in a job going forward. Consider making a list of all the things you don’t like about your current manager, and what an “ideal” employee-employer relationship would look like instead. By definitively stating all the things you don’t like, you’ll have greater clarity about what you do like… and that’s valuable information you can use to make decisions about your future, too.
Either way, journaling is going to be your best friend when it comes to repairing your relationship with your manager.
Understand the difference between communication and thinking problems
When people have a bad relationship with each other, they often attribute it to communication problems. Many of us say that others just don’t understand us, or that we haven’t fully developed our communication skills enough to get others to do what we want. If that’s what you believe, you might be partly true… but there’s more to it than that.
The truth is, what we say is a reflection of what we think, and that’s why it’s so important to critically assess the way we think about others and ourselves. The moment our thinking changes to help us see new possibilities, our communication will improve, too. So, if you think that you have the skills and abilities to improve your relationship with your boss, chances are pretty good that that’s true.
Be understanding of a different management style
We have this saying in the coaching business that goes, “you can’t get water from a wall.” It’s pretty self-explanatory: just like how a wall doesn’t pour water out of it, some things in life just are the way they are, and they’re not going to change.
Chances are good that’s true of your boss, too. Whether they’re a hands-on manager, a laidback overseer, a detail-oriented boss or someone who just can’t take the job seriously, their management style isn’t likely to change. Worse, telling them to change their behavior is only going to make them more defensive and hard to work with.
The first thing you should do with your new boss is to stop comparing them to an old manager. Maybe your last manager wasn’t a micromanager, but your new boss could be better at other things. Think about what you like about your current boss, and the ways in which the two of you could get along going forward.
The best part? While you can’t change how your boss behaves, performing consistently and earning your manager’s trust is far more likely to make them want to change how they treat you.
Increase the amount of meetings you have
You can’t improve your relationship with your boss if you never see them. And as much as we’d all LIKE to pretend our managers simply don’t exist, the best way to get them out of your hair is… you guessed it… to get in their hair instead.
That doesn’t mean you should be constantly bugging your boss, but finding time to schedule regular meetings with them is a way to show you’re interested in improving your relationship. Put 10-30 minutes on your calendars every few weeks and talk not only about all the things you’ve done well, but also the struggles you’ve had. Doing so keeps your boss from hearing about your mistakes from other coworkers first, and prevents them from assuming negative things about you before you’ve had a chance to explain yourself.
At the same time, those 10-30 minutes are a crucial time to get really curious about your boss. Don’t just talk about what you’ve been up to — ask what they’ve been doing, too! Your boss will appreciate you taking an interest in what they do. Not only do people genuinely enjoy being asked about, but asking about their work signals that you’re curious about other facets of the business. Being proactive and interested is a good sign that you’re looking to sharpen your skills and consider advancement opportunities.
Work on building up emotional resilience
A bad relationship with a boss can be emotionally draining. Worse, it can deteriorate our own sense of emotional resilience. When that happens, we bounce back less quickly from adversity, and we let minor inconveniences shake us more than they otherwise would.
Having emotional resilience means that when we fall down — such as when we make a big mistake at work — we find a tool on the floor that helps us stand back up with speed, grace, dignity and agility.
In the context of your employee-employer relationship, that tool could be anything. Whether you rely on new thinking patterns, journaling, scheduling more meetings with your boss, communicating more closely with colleagues or even finding a new job, finding what’s right for you is your key to succeeding in your career going forward.
Improving your relationship with your boss starts with YOU
It’s not always easy to repair your relationship with your boss as a young professional. Countless things can get in the way of a good work dynamic, and it’s not always easy to see your way out of a difficult employer-employee disagreement. Fortunately, however, the tools to repair that relationship are at your disposal.
Still need a little advice on how to keep your boss on your good side? We’re here to talk, 24/7/365. Drop us a line and we’ll have your working relationship soaring to new heights in no time.
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