Career Advice: How to Get Along with Your Boss

career advice bosses

We all know the stereotype: yelling, man-eating bosses who are about as easy to get along with as a ravenous tiger. In my career, I’m happy to say that my fantastic bosses have far outnumbered my less-than-fantastic ones, but even if you don’t have a bad relationship with your boss, that doesn’t necessarily mean you have a good one either.

The truth is that most people settle for a mediocre relationship with their manager. But it doesn’t have to be that way! If you’re ready to make some little changes that will create big differences in your career, here are five ways you can become the kind of employee that your boss will not only trust but love:

1. Be positive—even when your boss isn’t in the room

This is a big one. When you’re talking about your boss with your fellow coworkers, try as much as possible to be a leader for positivity. Even if you don’t agree with your boss’s style or their priorities, look for reasons to like and respect them. You can’t force yourself to respect someone, but you can make an effort to notice admirable qualities that deserve respect.

Naturally building respect for your manager is exactly what you need to build genuine loyalty in your workplace. Create an atmosphere where you don’t say anything behind your boss’s back that you wouldn’t say to their face. Especially if other people in your office are being negative. Your positive attitude will make you stand out as a trustworthy, ethical employee. And that is a huge factor of your boss liking you.

2. Always keep your word

Be honest. Uphold your deadlines. If you say you’re going to keep something in confidence, then for heaven’s sake keep it to yourself! The goal here is to not just appear trustworthy but actually be trustworthy. It may not gain you a lot of attention in the beginning, but I promise you that not being honest will do a lot of harm in the long run, especially in your relationship with your boss.

So what if you’ve been dishonest in the past? And your boss knows about it. Well . . . rebuilding lost honesty is an uphill battle, but it can be done. First you need to admit that you’re aware of your mistakes. Then you need to share what you’re doing to overcome your weaknesses now. Once you’ve voiced your goals, keep your word on them and you just built some trust. Simple.

3. Set realistic boundaries

Along with having the honesty to keep your word, you need to know what “that word” should be, even if it has to be no. Transparency is key. Be realistic and open about what you can get done so your boss will know what to expect from you. And if you can’t realistically get something done, then say no positively. Let your boss know that you can’t get that project finished by tomorrow, but you’ll make a special effort to get it completely done by Friday because it’s important to you.

This is all about expectations. If you set them properly, your boss will know that they can depend on you and you’ll also be protecting yourself from burnout. The key to a healthy relationship with your boss is creating an atmosphere where you’re both getting what you need. That’s what we’re aiming for here.

4. Take their feedback seriously

When your boss tells you something you need to improve, accept their criticism gracefully. Even if you don’t agree with their feedback, ask for specific ways they would like you to improve and take notes. No matter what, make sure you listen respectfully and nail down a game plan of how you can improve.

Once you walk away from that conversation, send your manager a quick email thanking them for talking to you. Then set up daily reminders of what you need to change. You can write sticky notes or add notifications to your smartphone. Then the next time you meet with your manager, reiterate the steps you’ve taken to internalize their feedback. Trust me, this effort will pay off.

5. Find out what your boss values—and deliver it!

Different managers have different priorities. Does your manager value being on time above everything else? Or being included in all your emails to clients? How about organization? Good presentation skills? Artfully crafted spreadsheets? Ask around your office and keep your eyes open to find out what your boss wants more than anything else.

And once you do find out what your boss values, make an effort to give it to them. This also includes high priority projects. Keep your boss in the loop to let them know you’re spending your time and resources on what they think is most important.

Want to know even more ways you can make your career awesome? Check out this blog post about transitioning into civilian work culture. Or this one on networking tips for your post-military career.

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