How is your relationship with your supervisor? Have you spent time thinking about this yet? Hopefully all is well in this area but if not, what do you do?
If things are not going well with your boss you might just be figuring that you can hang in and endure the situation until the term of your contract ends. This is not a productive strategy to use in managing this problem. In many instances it is much easier to focus in on how someone else needs to change, verses focusing in on the things that we ourselves can do to make a situation better.
If things are excellent with your boss, there are things that you can do to continue to enhance this relationship.
Through readings and my own personal work experience, I have come realize that building a good working relationship with a supervisor has extraordinary benefits ranging from increased freedom of action to feeling more appreciated. Consciously working toward this goal will also help you be more effective. Failing to work toward this goal will almost assure that you are ineffective. I’ve worked with some supervisors I’ve liked and I’ve worked for supervisors that I didn’t like very much at all, but I never felt that I could not work with that person or do my job effectively. I just needed to find the right strategies for working with them – strategies that could accomplish goals and strategies for making myself feel good. So here are a few tips for building a good working relationship with your supervisor.
Your supervisor is a person too – When we think about supervisors, we have a tendency to view them as monoliths of perfection. When they do not conform to our expectations, they are a “bad” supervisor. But recognize that your supervisor is a person too. Even the “best” supervisors make mistakes, we just have a tendency to be more forgiving with them because they have earned our respect. In fact, your supervisor is just like you in many ways. They have good skills, great skills, and skills that need improvement. As an example I worked with a supervisor that I thought was excellent. This person was terribly unorganized however. I jokingly called the filing system the piling system. However, my supervisor almost always knew what was happening throughout the campus and motivated other staff to do incredible things. This individual could lead, motivate, and recruit the people he needed, resolve conflict, make people feel good, but didn’t keep a very good calendar or a very clean desk. Oh well. Also try and keep in mind that all individuals are at different stages in their personal careers. Some are experienced and others are new to their positions. They feel the same things that you do and ask themselves the same questions. Am I doing a good job? Did I do the right thing? How can I do that better next time?
Get to know your manager – This does not mean that you need to become best friends with your supervisor. It means understand what is expected of your supervisor. What is your supervisor’s role in the institution? Who do they report to? In the same way that you have things to do everyday and every week, so does your supervisor. Your supervisor also has a boss who asks them the same types of questions that you answer for them from time to time. If you understand their responsibilities, chances are you will begin to understand the types of decisions they make and you can more readily understand and process why the disagree with you about some issues.
Meeting deadlines and fulfilling your position responsibilities – Nothing pleases a supervisor more than a staff member that meets deadlines consistently and manages their position in a responsible fashion, presenting information to them the way they want it. This includes accuracy and formatting. Get to know how your supervisor likes information presented to them and give it to them that way. This is a guarantee – if you don’t provide your boss with information in a thorough and timely fashion, be sure that they’ll be asking you again for the information, at a time when it may not be convenient for you. The end result of meeting deadlines and managing your position in a responsible way will be greater freedom and flexibility.
Manage information effectively – As I mentioned above, get to know how your supervisor likes information presented to them and give it to them that way. Also work to determine when you supervisor is most fresh and on top of his job (for some this may be the morning, for some afternoon, for some late evening.) Here’s my point, your supervisor is not stupid, but every human being has a limit on his or her time and cognitive capacity. You cannot expect your supervisor to be at their peak when they are at their limit.
Supervisory transitional changes – Also keep in mind that not every supervisor processes information in the same way. You may have transitioned supervisors from last year to this year, or perhaps you’ll be managing a supervisory change at some point in the future. If problems with a supervisor occur as a result of a staffing change, then the best way to find out what your new supervisor needs is to listen carefully to what they tell you, change your style as needed, and ask them if you need additional information or clarification.
Your own attitude – Two important factors will help you maintain a good working relationship with your supervisor. Try and make contact with your supervisor, to the greatest extent possible, when you are at your best, not at your worst. Be careful about what you choose to vent and how you choose to do it. Always keep your remarks professional and to the point. Secondly, even if you dislike your manager, never forget that you need them. They have access to knowledge and information that you don’t. Purposefully excluding yourself from communicating with your supervisor because you don’t like them and want to avoid them will only cause you trouble. It increases the possibility that you will not be able to do your job effectively because you don’t have information that is critical to your success. If by chance you do not like your supervisor, never forget that you need them. Whether you think your supervisor is good at their job or not, you still need them!
So much of what we experience everyday is not within our control, but as I hope I have demonstrated above, there is a great deal of what we do that is entirely within our control even though we might feel that it is not. Make the time to look at your relationship with your supervisor and ask yourself how you can make that relationship stronger. Building a good relationship with your supervisor is critical to your success and is an important part of creating and maintaining and environment in which you can be happy. If you ignore this relationship, you will find that the work that you do may not be as fulfilling as you hoped that it would.
Gabarro, John J. and Kotter, John K. “ Managing your Boss” Harvard Business Review. June 1993, Vol. 1, No. 3
“Rapport with Top Execs: 15 Point Road Map for Accounting Managers” Accounting Department Manager’s Report. August 2002. www.ioma.com
Brown, Tom. “Managing Your Boss: It’s Critical.” Apparel Industry. Jan 1998, Vol 59. No 1
Submitted by Anthony Fusari, Associate Director of Residential Life and Services at SUNY Downstate Medical Center