How to Build a Positive Relationship With Your Boss and Colleagues
Mutual respect makes the office much more pleasant.
In the past, an employee’s relationship with their direct supervisor was found to be one of the most influential factors on whether or not the employee enjoyed their job. Over time, this dynamic has somewhat changed.
In recent years, relationships with colleagues have become increasingly influential in the perception of job satisfaction. Part of this has to do with younger generational workers highly valuing collegial relationships -- as demonstrated by their desire to work together on tasks more than Gen X or Boomers do. Another aspect is that, in many settings, there is a greater amount of cross-departmental collaboration that creates more than one reporting relationship. For example, a team member in customer service may work with marketing to give input on how to market to existing clients, and the marketing supervisor oversees the project.
Another factor that may reduce the importance of the relationship with one’s direct supervisor or boss is the myriad of ways an employee is assessed in today’s workplaces -- including 360 degree feedbacks and other objective measures of work. A few thoughts about how to build a positive reporting relationship, even in shifting times:
- Be appreciative. Bosses and supervisors don’t hear thanks very often. They hear a lot of complaining and problems they are expected to solve. Occasionally thanking someone -- and being specific as to why you are thanking them -- can go a long way to start to build a positive relationship.
- Be respectful. One of the most common complaints I hear from supervisors, especially in cross-generational relationships, is that they feel disrespected. Most of us aren’t sure what makes us feel respected, but we clearly know when we feel it. Having a general conversation with your boss about actions that lead them to feel respected or disrespected would be wise.
- If you are going to raise a concern, make sure it is specific, not vague and general, and that it is a behavior or issue your boss can address. Don’t whine about management or a colleague in another department, where your supervisor has no influence.
- Do your job well, and be willing to go above and beyond. Remember, you are there to accomplish tasks and do them well. When you do quality work and, at least occasionally, do more than is required, you make your boss look good to his or her colleagues and supervisor.
The goal of building a positive relationship with your boss isn’t try to suck up to them and win undue favoritism. The purpose is to develop a healthy, positive relationship of mutual respect, which will lead to better communication, the ability to work through disagreements and can build a partnership where you can support one another through difficult times.
Paul White is a psychologist, speaker and trainer. He co-authored Sync or Swim: A Fable About Workplace Communication and Coming Together in a Crisis as well as The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace and Rising Above a Toxic Workplace.