Nothing turns a good job bad like a dysfunctional relationship with the boss, and he or she doesn’t even have to be a monster for a problem to develop. Sometimes, it’s a lack of communication; other times, it’s conflicting priorities, or not understanding what each member of the team contributes. Whatever the issue is, you owe it to your career to try to solve it – before looking for a new job.
Here’s how to get the boss back on your side:
1. Be reliable.
Don’t commit to things you can’t deliver, and when you do commit, follow through. Reliability is a rare quality in a worker; if you possess it, you’ve got an advantage over most of your competitors, whether you’re trying to get hired for a new position, or promoted at your current employer.
From your boss’s perspective, reliability means trust. Be someone she can count on, and your manager might give you more space to do what you do, without a lot of micromanaging and second-guessing.
2. Don’t gossip.
Office gossip isn’t just idle chatter, or a fun way to pass the time – it’s potentially deadly to your career, and that of your co-workers’. Keep your lip zipped, and you’ll never have to expend energy rebuilding relationships with your boss and colleagues.
3. Listen more than you speak.
You know what your mom would say: you have two ears and one mouth for a reason. Don’t assume you know what your manager thinks on every subject, and if you catch yourself zoning out during a long explanation, consciously tune back in. Maybe your boss is full of it … or maybe you just don’t have enough information to recognize the wisdom of his ideas. In any event, listening to what he has to say will make him more willing to hear what you think, later on.
4. Verify in writing.
Even if your manager is the most trustworthy person in the world, and would never throw you under the bus, it pays to email after a meeting and ask her to confirm the plan going forward. You wouldn’t believe how often people leave a meeting with totally different perceptions of what was discussed or decided. Getting it in writing allows you to make sure that you’re on the same page – literally.
5. Show measurable results.
Data is more persuasive than emotion, especially in business, and if you can prove to the boss that you’re getting results, you’re much more likely to get that raise or promotion than someone who can’t. Track your accomplishments at work in the starkest, most mathematical terms possible. Bonus points if you can put a dollar sign beside them.
6. Do more than you’re asked.
No one likes that person who’s always trying to do the bare minimum. While you have to have good boundaries (and more on that in a second), you should also be prepared to give just a little bit more than you need to, in order to stay on good terms with your manager and teammates. Think of it like making a deposit in the bank of good will. Someday, you might need to make a withdrawal, and you’ll want to make sure you’ve got some social capital to draw from.
7. Know when – and how – to say no.
It sounds completely backwards, but knowing when to say no is one of the most important things you can do for your relationship with your boss. Why? Because if you never say no, you’re going to commit to too many projects and wind up unable to deliver on your promises.
The way to make sure your boundary-setting isn’t perceived as unwillingness to help out is to share your current priorities with your boss, express enthusiasm for the proposed task, and ask for help winnowing down your to-do list. If your manager really needs you to do XYZ project, perhaps he can take ABC task off your plate. In any case, you’ll have shown that you’re a team player and not a shirker.
Of course, if the relationship is irretrievably broken or your boss is just a jerk, you can try all these things and not forge a long-term alliance. But, you might make things more comfortable for the short term, and set yourself up for a smoother move to a new position.