Skip to main content

How to manage up

By Beth Braccio Hering, CareerBuilder
  • Marni Bobich, team manager from Administaff recommends periodically requesting face-time
  • Experts agree that you should always go to your boss is when there is a potential problem
  • Refrain from talking about your boss behind his back
  • Remember that bosses like a pleasant atmosphere as much as any employee

( -- When it comes to employee/boss relationships, John Ewert -- vice president at DRIVEN Public Relations in Temecula, California -- believes he has a fantastic one.

"For starters, I think the most important thing that makes the relationship between me and my boss so great is respect," Ewert says. "We are accountable for our actions, good or bad, and own up to our mistakes while offering credit where credit is due. We take great pride in agreeing to disagree, but not without discussing subjects in an open manner and exploring options to find solutions. I know it sounds cheesy, but respect and trust are the keys to any successful relationship."

As experts, supervisors and satisfied workers will attest, Ewert's "cheesy" advice is spot on. Here are some tips on how anybody can forge a better relationship with his or her boss.

Communication counts

"In many office environments, employees and management are so involved in daily job requirements that communication may be pushed aside. In the long term, lack of communication can damage an employee/supervisor relationship," states Marni Bobich, team manager from Administaff (a professional employer organization).

Daily e-mail exchanges are fast and oftentimes sufficient, yet Bobich suggests periodically requesting face-time. "While you don't want to become a nuisance, in-person communication can go a long way in displaying your desire to develop and maintain a positive working relationship. Determine the type of information that is best communicated face-to-face and discuss it during your meeting."

Building trust

Experts agree that one instance where you should always go to your boss is when there is a potential problem.

"If a project isn't going well, don't hide bad news from her for fear of looking bad," says Melinda Stephenson, cofounder of The Leadership Room, a unique development program for rising executives. "Let her know if a problem is brewing or if you're struggling with something. If your boss can trust you to give her a 'heads up' and to bring solutions to problems, you've built a solid relationship."

"And save your boss time!" says Anja Schuetz, a people management coach from The Netherlands. "When going to him with a problem, tell him all the things you have already tried to solve it. Anticipate his questions, and bring documents and proof along so your boss can see things through your eyes and is able to rule things out quickly, rather than thinking the whole thing through from scratch."

Other ways to develop trust include:

• Keeping confidential any sensitive information about your boss or the company.

• Refraining from talking about your boss behind his back.

• Pointing out his mistakes tactfully (and preferably in private).

Bosses are people too

It pays to remember that bosses like a pleasant atmosphere as much as any employee. While you needn't set out to make him your new best friend, developing a cordial relationship can strengthen ties.

"We always begin each conversation, whether it be by phone or e-mail, with a friendly greeting, such as 'Good Morning!' or 'How was your weekend?'" says Kaitlynn Carter, who works for a wedding-planning company in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. "It goes a long way when you show that you are considering the other person and that you are committed to having a friendly exchange!"

Other ideas for building a personable, yet office-appropriate, relationship include:

• Giving a genuine compliment. (I like your new coat.)

• Talking about a common interest. (Did you see the baseball game last night?)

• Expressing interest in a major life event. (How did your son's graduation go?)

• Showing gratitude. (Thanks for letting me leave early to attend my daughter's recital.)

• Offering kudos. (Congratulations on landing that new account.)

An occasional lunch together also can help. If the two of you travel for business, use the time waiting for the plane or riding in a taxi to get to know one another as individuals.

Remember you're on the same side

Chances are that you and your boss want many of the same things: a paycheck, recognition, a strong company, career fulfillment. Looking at situations as cohorts can help both parties.

"The bottom line: positive effort equals positive results," Ewert says. "Sometimes there are projects that we don't want to do, sometimes we have issues outside of work that are out of our control, sometimes our clients move up deadlines or change the focus for a project, but instead of harping on an issue and running away, we adapt and overcome. We view our clients and employees as partners, and we have a lot of fun helping businesses and employees be successful."

© 2011. All rights reserved. The information contained in this article may not be published, broadcast or otherwise distributed without the prior written authority.