How to win over your boss
A good working relationship with the boss is crucial to enjoying a positive and fulfilling work life − after all, most people spend two-thirds of their life on the job.
Here are 10 steps to help win over your manager and improve your career.
- Talk about it
Only one in four Australians feel confident discussing their long-term career prospects with their boss, but this can have a big impact on employee productivity and engagement: Talk the Talk: How Ongoing Career Conversations Drive Business Success, a recent international study from global career experts Right Management, reveals two-thirds of individual performance drivers are tied to effective and continuing career conversations.
- Do your job, and do it well
Some of us forget to carry out the basics, such as getting to work on time. If you put in the effort, your boss will notice, says Al Coleman, author of Secrets to Success: The Definitive Career Development Guide for New and First Generation Professionals. “If you don’t do great work it’ll be difficult, if not impossible, to win over your boss,” says Coleman. “Employees who do good work, consistently, efficiently and professionally are a joy to manage and ultimately allow their manager to focus on critical issues within the organisation.” So don't be late to work, don't take a slew of personal calls, and don't be rude to your boss and co-workers (even better, build good relationships with them).
- Offer solutions, not problems
Don’t rely on your boss to fix everything. “When a problem arises don’t just point it out,” Coleman says. “Instead, offer suggestions. And, if appropriate, roll up your sleeves and try to address the problem.”
- Manage up and down
Dr Harold Resnick, founder of the management and organisational consulting firm Work Systems Associates, says clarity of purpose is vital: “The first step in managing upward is ensuring you and your manager have agreed on short-term results and longer-term strategic objectives that define your success, as well as the measures for determining whether they have been met.”
And when managing down, it’s all about leadership with a personal touch. The ability to inspire others to join you on your journey is an art, not a skill reserved for those in the executive suite. Knowing your employees’ strengths, skills and likes is crucial.
- Dress for success
Look professional. Wearing smart, clean and appropriate clothes gives you confidence and reflects well on you and your boss − if the pack looks a mess, it's bound to cause them anxiety.
- Become a mentor or mentee
Impress your boss with reciprocity. Australian organisations are above the global average in career development planning, according to surveys of people in 13 developed countries. But we lag behind when it comes to other areas of development, including access to formal mentoring programs, new work experiences and project-based work assignments. Dazzle your boss with your civic mindedness, and enrich your own life by passing on your skills. Mark O’Farrell, director of curriculum at Waverley College, Sydney, praises the mentors who come in to speak to students: “While each of our speakers has a different career journey, there are some common messages – each loves what they do.”
- Ask questions
Just ask former US First Lady Michelle Obama. She says putting yourself out there and asking questions is a great way to show you’re engaged and interested. Asking questions shows you’re “driven by curiosity”. And a curious worker is a good worker.
- Say yes
Put your hand up when opportunity knocks, whether it's to sit on a task-force or working group or share your knowledge. Helping others shows you're a team player.
- Be prepared
Luck, or success, is the outcome of preparation meeting opportunity, according to Roman dramatist Seneca the Younger, whose wise words have survived centuries. And you can help bring about success for you and your boss when you deliver projects on or before deadline.
- Be accountable
Accountability means taking responsibility for your failures as well as your successes, and this touches on a key habit to avoid − making excuses. A boss understands some situations can’t be helped, but the difference is in how you react. Accountable people don’t offer excuses; they do what needs to be done − and that’s why accountability is one of the habits bosses love.