how to become your boss’s favorite

featured-on-usnYour manager has a huge impact on day-to-day quality of life at work. If your manager likes and trusts you, chances are that you’re going to find your work life more pleasant and fulfilling, and you’ll probably advance more quickly too. On the other hand, if your manager doesn’t like you, consequences can range from daily tension to bad assignments to even being pushed out of your job.

While you won’t click with every manager out there, there are things that you can do that will significantly improve your relationship with the vast majority of managers – and will make you the beloved favorite of many of them. At U.S. News & World Report today, I talk about seven of them.

{ 16 comments… read them below }

  1. LBK

    #6 is so critical. There’s this oddly pervasive fear of talking to managers like humans – such as asking questions when you don’t understand something. The percentage of managers who are actually going to react badly when you do that is extremely minimal, and even for those that do I’d say it’s still better to try and seek clarity than silently guess at their motives and potentially invoke even more ire if you guess incorrectly.

  2. Amber Rose

    My supervisor is pretty irritated with me and my billion doctors appointments think. I caught the tail end of her complaining to our accountant last week. Some things just can’t be helped.

    1. LBK

      I think it can be helpful to separate out personal frustration with situational frustration. Even if your manager is sympathetic to you on a personal level and is willing to be flexible with your schedule as a result, it can still put a strain on them and the department. The frustration isn’t necessarily at you (“it’s so annoying that Amber is doing this”) but at having to deal with the situation (“it’s stressful to try to accommodate this need and still make sure my team gets all their work done”).

      Ideally they would just accept that it’s part of being a manager and be able to roll with it (particularly when it comes to unavoidable medical issues) but I don’t necessarily blame a manager for being frustrated with a situation like that as long as they’re not directing it at the employee.

      Or maybe your manager is actually frustrated with you for having a medical issue, in which case she’s just a jerk.

      1. Amber Rose

        We have a lot of people on vacation/one person fired and she’s taken on a ton of extra work, so she’s probably just tired and stressed. I don’t hold that against her at all, rather I feel guilty that I can’t do more to alleviate her workload. I’d love to step up now but there’s just no way.

        1. Ann O'Nemity

          Sometimes it helps to just acknowledge the issue and if possible, identify some solutions. Such as, “I know my frequent doctor appointments are causing some inconvenience, and I appreciate the support I’ve gotten from you and the team. In the meantime, I’m also doing X, Y, Z to alleviate the workload.”

  3. The Other Dawn

    As a manager, I can say that #7 carries the most weight with me. That’s what helps me sleep well at night.

    The importance of having capable people I can trust to get the job done right and on time was driven home when I attended a banking management school. The final project was a bank simulation. Each group had to create and run a fictitious bank; I was the CEO of mine. I quickly learned how important it is to have people that can be trusted to do what they’re supposed to be doing and are on top of things. It definitely opened my eyes to certain people at the real bank for which I worked; it was pretty clear that someone people couldn’t be trusted to do their work without a ton of mistakes or letting important things fall through the cracks.

    1. Ann O'Nemity

      I agree. Especially if the employee is being proactive about their area and not just doing the minimum assigned tasks.

  4. Cat

    I’ve accepted my boss’s insane preference for double justified documents, but I’ve not yet given in on capitalizing the word after a colon.

    1. Mallory Janis Ian

      My boss preferred double-justified documents, too. I don’t like to type the document with justification on, because it drives me crazy to see the text spacing squirming and moving about as I type. So I work with the document left-justified, and if my boss sees me, he always reminds me that he wants the text justified. He never listens when I tell him that turning on full justification is the last thing I do to the completed document.

      1. Wanna-Alp

        Does he listen if you tell him that it drives you crazy to see the text squirming as you type?

        (Sympathies, by the way, it would drive me nuts too!)

  5. JJ

    This article was timely. I just started a very high pressure job with a new boss. Thanks for the tips.

  6. OneWomanShow

    Great list of suggestions, Alison!

    One issue that I find myself needing help with is how my boss deals with his frustration. He often blows up–usually via an email with all caps, aggressive language and tons of exclamation points–and then acts as though nothing transpired when you next engage him.

    This truly throws me for a loop because I don’t know if the issue is truly resolved or not. In my mind, he may still be holding frustration and planning to release it in the near future. It makes me reluctant to talk with him, and he actually called me out for avoiding him after a recent very strongly worded email.


  7. NicoleK

    I’m doing everything on this list….but I have a feeling that I’m about to become her problem child. New coworker isn’t working on anything I need her to do. I’ve brought it up twice with my supervisor. The first time-I got shot down. The second time-was about two weeks ago and nothing came out of it. I’m starting to check out…

  8. hbc

    Oh, number six. After a year, I finally have people overcoming their training that questions are bad. I may be surprised by the question, but usually because people apparently worked in terrible environments before, so “Are we getting paid for the off-site, all-day meeting?” was something I never imagined hearing.

    You might not like the answer, but I’ll give it to you respectfully. Even if you just asked me to have a public dressing down of your team lead based on her asking you not to adjust the air conditioner setting–in which case I’ll just quietly bang my head on my desk after you leave.

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