Getting Along With The Boss: How To

You need to understand the rules of engagement with your boss
You need to understand the rules of engagement with your boss
Image Credit: Mark Turnauckas

As a manager you are in charge of a team of people who have to do what you tell them to do. However, at the same time you work for a boss who can tell you what to do. What this means for you (and your career) is that you’d like to be able to use your manager skills to create the best working relationship with your boss that you can. However, the mystery here is just exactly how to go about doing that. It turns out that it’s pretty easy, you just need to know what steps you need to take.

You Need To Adapt

When it comes to your relationship with your boss, you need to keep in mind that he or she is the one who is really in charge. This means that if there is any changing that needs to occur, you are going to be the one who will have to change. When it comes to how your boss likes to communicate, it’s going to be up to you to use your manager training and take the time to figure out how they want to communicate and then adapt your communication style to match theirs. One way to go about doing this is to watch how your boss communicates with others and then emulate it.

Agreement Is Key

The quality of the work that you do will have an impact on your bosses career. What this means is that they will care about the work that you are doing and they will want to be updated on your progress. It’s how you do these updates that will have the biggest impact on the quality of the relationship with your boss. You need to come to an agreement with them on both how they would like to be updated (email, face-to-face, etc.) and how often they want an update on your work.

Understand Tensions

No relationship is perfect. Your relationship with your boss will at times have tension become part of it. You’ll need to understand how to deal with this when it happens. When tension shows up in your relationship with your boss, you are going to want to take the time to ask yourself if the root of the problem might be in clashing styles rather then deeper issues. If so, then this will be easy to resolve.

Don’t Escalate

The reason that your company hired you in the first place was to have you solve problems. When problems arise, and they always do, you are going to want to sit back and study them. Your goal should be to create a solution to any problem that presents itself to you. You are going to want to try to avoid escalating any of your problems to your boss if they are the ones that you can solve yourself.


Your boss is going to be a key resource that you can use to solve the really big problems. However, you will have a role to play when these types of problems show up. Before you take a problem to your boss, you are first going to have to identify at least one workable solution to that problem. This way you are not hitting your boss cold and if they so choose, they can simply approve your solution.


You will not always get along with you boss. You will not always agree with the direction that they want to go in. When events like this happen, it is going to be your responsibility to disagree with your boss in private. When you are having these types of discussions with them, make sure that your voice remains calm and only hold these types of discussions during low-stress times for both of you.

Do Not Do’s

In order to have a successful relationship with your boss, there are a number of things that you must never do. Chief among these is that you must never bad mouth your boss behind their back. If you ever do this, it will eventually get back to your boss and that will severely damage your relationship with them. Likewise, you are never going to want to do any thing that would embarrass your boss in front of others. He or she is not likely to forget this and it’s going to have a harmful effect on your relationship with them.

Don’t Overload

All of us eventually run into a situation where we simply have too much work to do. This is generally the same time that our boss will come around with yet another task that they’d like us to take on. When this happens it will be how you handle it that will determine the impact on your relationship with your boss. Instead of simply telling them “no, I have too much to do already”, instead engage in some team building and ask for help in prioritizing the work that you are dealing with. Get their input so that you know that you will be working on the right things.

What All Of This Means For You

In the workplace we are all parts of different relationships. One of the most important relationships that you are going to have will be the one that you have with your boss. Since this relationship is going to be so important to your career, you need to have a good understanding of the do’s and don’t s regarding how best to manage it.

You need to keep in mind that you are the one who works for your boss, not the other way around. This means that you are the one who will need to adapt to their style of communication. You’ll need to get their agreement about when and how they want to be updated on your status. If tensions arise in the relationship, you’ll need to ask if they are being caused by a clash of styles. You don’t want to take all of your problems to your boss. Try to solve them by yourself first. If you do take a problem to them, make sure that you already have a possible solution to it. If you disagree with your boss, do it in private when everyone is calm. Don’t bad mouth your boss or embarrass them. If you become overloaded, then seek their help in prioritizing what you are working on.

Your relationship with your boss is possibly the most important relationship that you are going to have in your workplace. It is going to be your responsibility to maintain and grow this relationship. You need to take the time to understand how your boss wants you to communicate with him or her and then you need to take steps to implement that. If you can create a powerful relationship with your boss, then you will have ensured your career success!

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World IT Management Skills™

Question For You: If tension does come up in your relationship with your boss, what is the first thing that you should do to deal with it?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

As a manager, your goal at work is to get ahead. You want to be seen as a star performer who gets things done. You want your work to be viewed as being of the highest quality and you want your management to come looking for you when they have a slot open up for promotions. The big question that you are facing is the same one that we are all trying to answer: just exactly what do you have to do at work to be successful? It turns out that the answer may not be what you think that it should be.