What’s Your Most Important Relationship at Work?

Your most important relationship at work is with your boss. Why? He or she is just one of the many people you interact with on a daily basis. What makes this relationship so important is that your manager/supervisor can change your career trajectory.

If your interactions with the boss are good, he or she will see you as someone they can rely on.  You’ll get more leeway, more benefit of the doubt, projects that you’ll appreciate and opportunities to excel. Your boss will speak highly of you to their superiors and up the chain. Your reputation will benefit from your boss’ support.

On the other hand, if your relationship is not good, your career can be stalled or even blocked. The characterization of you to others by your boss can cause irreparable damage.

What to do if you think your relationship with your boss is not as good as it could be?

First, stop wishing your boss was other than who he/she is. You cannot control their character. What you can control is how you relate to him or her. We all know there are some challenging bosses out there. Some are downright destructive. Hopefully, that is not the situation you find yourself in. If it is, your task will be to minimize the damage on you and your career.

Second, see yourself as an active participant in the relationship. That way you won’t fall into the trap of feeling “victimized.”

Nothing is worse for your career than complaining to others about your manager/supervisor. You could come off looking like a “whiner.” Even worse, if the boss gets wind of your comments, (which he/she inevitably will), the boss will not forget what you have said. It’s a career limiting move.

Many of us have fallen into the trap of offloading our frustrations onto fellow co-workers. It’s easy to do. I’ve done it myself and it rarely brings good results.

Here’s some steps to improving your relationship with your manager/supervisor:

1) Get to know what makes your boss tick. How does he/she like to interact with staff? What is his/her management style?

2) What motivates your boss? Is it fast results? Looking competent? Not rocking the boat? Figure it out and then you can adapt your approach.

3) Find out how your boss views you.  You can ask directly – “what do you want more of or less of from me?” Watch your boss in action – what does he/she reward? What does he/she dislike?

4) Talk to your boss about wanting to improve your relationship. Let him/her know what you are willing to do to improve the relationship. In return, ask for more of what would make it easier for you to do your job.

5) Whenever you get a chance, support your manager. This could be agreeing with him/her when you have common ground or talking up his/her successes to others. This helps build a strong foundation for your relations with him/her.

If things are irreparable, perhaps other choices need to be made. Can you transfer to another department? Do you need to move on and find yourself a job where you fit better? Are there other options?

Remember to ask yourself -“what can I do to improve this situation?” – then constructively put it into action. Having a good working relationship with your boss can have huge impacts on your life and your career. Take it in hand.


(For further reading, I suggest – “What Your Boss Really Wants From You” by Steve Arneson.)