12 ways to make your boss love you

by Ask a Manager on May 7, 2012

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Improving your relationship with your boss isn’t about sucking up or manipulation; it’s about knowing how to work with her effectively, and understanding what a manager wants from you.

Over at the Intuit QuickBase blog today, I talk about 12 habits that are pretty much guaranteed to lead to a better relationship with your boss. You can read it here. (Please comment over there if you can!)


Jamie May 7, 2012 at 3:36 pm

I am sure there is a simple answer that will make me feel like an idiot, but how do you comment over there? In Firefox I saw no comment block or section so I opened in IE and it’s the same.

Ask a Manager May 7, 2012 at 3:38 pm

They use Disqus as their commenting system, and apparently it was down this morning. It should be back up now though — you should see a comment box just under the “related articles” section below my bio. Let me know if you don’t, and I’ll pass it on to them!

Jamie May 7, 2012 at 3:41 pm

No, I tried again just now in both browsers and there is no comment box – just an expanse of white page where it should be.

Ask a Manager May 7, 2012 at 4:41 pm

Hmmm. Have you tried refreshing your cache? It’s working for me in Firefox and Safari, but I’ve also passed this on to them.

Scott M May 7, 2012 at 4:06 pm

My comment applies mostly to the technical fields. Many of the items on this list require skills that only the manager will have, not necessarily the employee. I’m thinking about communicating expectations, desired communication methods, instructions,etc. Generally,a manager is supposed to be better at communication (soft skills) than your average ‘widget maker’. The employee may not know how to decipher what the manager wants. So, for those items, the manager needs to explicitly tell the employee what they want.

Ask a Manager May 7, 2012 at 4:40 pm

I’m confused — there’s no reason that a non-manager employee couldn’t do every item on that list.

Jaime May 7, 2012 at 5:01 pm

I think Scott’s saying that many of these (communicating expectations, desired communication methods, instructions,etc) are more of your boss’s bailiwick than the employees. For example, if your boss communicates their expectations poorly and then doesn’t appreciate you pursuing clarification, then there’s not much you can do.

Which is not to say that you, as an employee, can’t still attempt all of your suggestions, I think he’s just saying that the boss has a bigger impact on their success than even how well the employee implements them.

Ask a Manager May 7, 2012 at 5:16 pm

I can see that with #1 … but not with #2-12, all of which are within the employee’s control!

Scott M May 7, 2012 at 6:08 pm

Sorry, previously commenting with my phone – couldn’t write long sentences! :)

And I only focused on my pet peeves, completely ignoring the fact that MOST of the suggestions I agreed with. Sorry about that!

My comments are really about #1,2, 7, and to a lesser extent, #3. Essentially, I’m seeing too many management responsibilities pushed down to employees, because managers aren’t getting adequate training about how to really manage people.

#1: “Make sure you’re on the same page about expectations.” It’s up to the manager to make expectations clear. And to ask for updates. And to set priorities. And to , well .. manage things. That’s their job. People will never meet your expectations unless you tell them what you expect of them. And it’s the boss’s job to make those expectations clear.

#2 : “Pay attention to what kinds of questions your boss asks so you get a better understanding of the types of things she cares about”. If my boss cares about something, I expect him to flat out say “These are the things I care about”. I don’t want to have to guess based upon the frequency of what he asks about day in and day out. I don’t have time to tease out meaning by reading between the lines of what he says. I’m not a mind reader or a psychologist.

#7: “Use the communication methods she prefers.” Again, I expect my boss to tell me how he wants me to communicate. If I keep sending emails and he never responds because he doesn’t LIKE emails, then I think that’s more his issue. He’s the manager, the communicator, the people-person. He needs to explicitly say “Hey, I prefer you to come down to my office and talk rather than emailing.”

#3 “Make your boss’s job easy.” OK, I can see this. Unfortunately, often I see it applied as – “I (the manager) am empowering you to make your own decisions. Now go away and figure it out”. It’s a manager’s job to direct, manage, coach, train and essentially tell people what to do. If people aren’t “making their boss happy” it might be because the manager isn’t doing these things. Of course they could just be bad employees – I admit that.

Again, this may apply mostly to people in technical fields who are more literal-minded and have poorer communication and social skills (such as myself).

Ask a Manager May 7, 2012 at 6:12 pm

In a perfect world, yes, managers would do these things perfectly. In the real world, there are many less-than-perfect managers — but even the great one appreciate employees who do the things on this list. Focusing on feeling that you shouldn’t have to do this stuff because your manager should do it won’t really get you anywhere … but doing it can make an enormous difference in how you’re perceived at work, your reputation, and your effectiveness. In fact, it goes to #6 — focus on the stuff you can control, not the stuff you can’t.

Charles May 7, 2012 at 10:52 pm

Yes, in a perfect world we would all fly like eagles; but in the real world many of us work with or for turkeys!

Yea, Scott M, it sucks; but take for instance, I always ask “what is the deadline on this project?” Now, normally, a manager should be telling staff something as important as this; but, often if I don’t ask then I am the one with a surprise because no one told me the deadline was tomorrow. Yea, it sucks big time; but if you want to be able to cover your-you-know-what; you sometimes have to be the proactive one.

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