3 Ways to Build a Better Relationship With Your Boss | Kelsey Ashton, Jefferson County Public Library

March 14, 2019


Several friends have complained recently about their bosses. One boss is a micromanager, another isn’t timely in responding to emails, and another doesn’t seem to realize how much they ask of their employees.

This got me thinking about the idea that people don’t leave jobs, they leave bosses. I wonder, if my friends don’t want to look for another job, can they become happier with their current work situations? I believe that they can, and part of the answer could be learning to manage up.

Me, manage my boss?

What is managing up, anyway? Let’s start by clarifying what it is not. Managing up doesn’t involve changing your boss’s behavior or perceptions. It also doesn’t mean telling your boss what to do or how to do it.

To manage up is to find ways to work with your boss that lead to the best possible results for you, them, and the company. This involves adapting your work style and adjusting your expectations. A little effort on your part can increase your work satisfaction and make it less stressful, all while building professional rapport.

Start small with these 3 pointers:

Clarify priorities and expectations

How can we be expected to do a good job if we’re getting mixed messages (or none at all) about priorities and expectations? A good solution is to talk to your boss and ask for clarification.

How important is this new task compared to others on your to-do list? Is there a deadline? How will they measure success?

Side note: If you don’t already keep a to-do list, start one! It’s a great way to show your boss just how much you’re responsible for. Plus, it’s satisfying to mark items off! I use Wunderlist and Evernote, but there’re many free options available.

Communicate what you need and by when

Adjusting how and when we communicate helps to smooth things over. If you need a response to an email, begin the subject line with “Response needed.” If it’s urgent, pick up the phone or pay a quick visit to the boss’s office instead of sending an email. Finally, if you’re waiting on specific information, respectfully remind them and offer an “I need this by…” deadline.

Don’t take it personally – your boss is human, too!

Bosses want their employees to succeed. Chances are good that they haven’t thought about how what they do or say impacts you. Do your best to remember that they have a life, too, and are juggling responsibilities you’re not aware of. Maybe they really do think they hit “send” on that email you’ve been waiting on or maybe their dog ate that report they needed to review!

We all have the ability to influence our professional relationships. Being more flexible and understanding in how we interact with our bosses can make life at work more pleasant and productive.

Curious to learn more? Check out It’s Okay to Manage Your Boss by Bruce Tulgan or What Your Boss Really Wants From You by Steve Arneson or take advantage of free skill-building courses on Lynda.com (it’s free with your library card!). Need a library card? Email Kelsey Ashton at the Jefferson County Public Library and she can set you up!


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