Few things are healthier for your career than having a boss who you consider a personal friend. And few things make your workdays more pleasant, fulfilling, and engaging. At home, 90 percent of your happiness will depend on who you decide to marry, and at work, 99.9 percent of your happiness will depend on the people you work for.
But since none of us have access to a crystal ball, and it's hard to learn much about your boss's personality during a thirty-minute interview, you may have to work hard to build this relationship from the ground up after you've already made a commitment to the job. Here are few guidelines that can help:
1. Earn respect first. Your boss's approval doesn't define who you are—it just makes your workdays easier. You don't need it. You have an entire life outside of this office. You know who you are, what you want from this job, and what you're great at. If all of these statements are true, then it's clear that you respect yourself, which is the first step toward earning the respect of others.
2. Care about the quality of your work. As your grandmother may have told you, your signature appears on every job you do, from drafting a proposal to sweeping a floor. Not everything you produce will be perfect of course, but with the limited time and resources available to you, do your best—on your first day and on your 500th.
3. Pay attention to the big picture. Before you tackle a project, (like drafting a proposal, for example) back up. Determine why you're being asked to do this, how your work will bring new business to the company, what the prospective client will want to see, and how all the pieces of your effort and that of your team will fit together. Don't just execute the task handed to you—apply your critical thinking skills. Try to complete your boss's job, not just your own.
4. Chat. If you don't know much (or care much) about the art of small talk, it's time for that to change. Small talk may seem superficial and trivial to you, but this kind of gentle and pleasant conversation makes the world turn. Here's a simple rule: Start by remembering something you were told the last time you spoke to the person in question. Ask politely for an update. Respond by sharing your own personal details at the same level of disclosure.
5. Be kind. Not just to your boss—that goes without saying. But also to your coworkers and those below you on the corporate ladder. Coach your direct reports wisely and discreetly, never raise your voice in the workplace, and never undermine anyone or call anyone out in public. Praise, thank, and work hard to keep the spotlight focused on others.
6. Recognize that your boss has a job to do and is a human being, just like you. If she's giving you orders and deadlines that are impossible to follow, don't just shrug helplessly and complain later to your friends. Her orders are not as implacable as the weather. Before your frustration boils over, sit down with her and calmly request the resources, time, and accommodations you need. Stay focused on the goals of the company.
If All Else Fails…
If you're struggling to establish a positive relationship with your boss and none of your efforts are working, then it may be time to start looking for another position. And as you take your career in a new direction, you'll need strong resume. Visit MyPerfectResume for tools and guidelines that can help you land a position where you'll fit it, thrive, and grow as a professional.