Keys to a successful relationship with your supervisor
By Mary Massey
Five years ago, Liz Horsey, an administrative coordinator at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, started a new job. "In the beginning, my role was to please [the boss]," she says. "I thought that meant to do whatever I was asked, including having to clean the crud off of his keyboard." She was left feeling disrespected and humiliated. So she fought back. "I started looking for jobs in other departments," says Horsey, 44. But even that didn't suffice. "The next avenue was the Lord telling me to do it his way. When it was my way, I had to pay, but with his will, he pays the bill." Then things started to turn around.
A lot of this might sound like malarkey, but there are ways to keep your boss happy without sacrificing your self-worth. No, you don't have to be his or her best friend. But remember that "the boss is the most important person in your working life," says DeAnne Rosenberg, author of A Manager's Guide to Hiring the Best Person for Every Job (John Wiley & Sons Inc., $18.95). Here is a to-do list of how to keep your boss happy and maintain your sanity to boot.
• Always make the boss look good. Horsey accomplishes this by "staying two steps ahead of him. I always check his schedule for accuracy and interact with committees that he's on," she says. "If you make the boss look good, then the boss will appreciate what you're doing," says Rachelle Disbennett-Lee, P.C.C., a professional, business, and personal coach in Aurora, Colorado. "That way, when it's time for a promotion, you're the person that is looked upon."
• Keep your boss informed. Bosses don't like surprises. If you come across a problem like a wrong date in an important memo, be the first to point it out. Otherwise, he or she may feel like sabotage is in play. To keep the boss abreast, try a morning meeting or weekly reports. "I ask more questions now," says Horsey. "I stay interested in what he's involved in." Her efforts paid off. She got a new title, a $4,000 raise, and recognition in a manuscript.
• Seek feedback. "Ask questions of not only what the boss thinks but how to fix it," says Rosenberg. For example, if your boss says you're too emotional on the job, ask about the latest incident. But with feedback comes criticism, so take it constructively, not personally. Also, ask your boss what the goals are for the next three, six, and 12 months. Once you know the plan, take steps to meet the goals.
• Never speak against your boss to anyone. "It'll get back to the boss. It also gets back to other bosses, so any promotion opportunities might be dead in the water," says Rosenberg. In short, keep negative comments about your boss and the corporate culture to yourself. This applies for when you're outside of the organization as well.
• Support your boss in all efforts.
If your boss makes a recommendation (like suggesting you take a course), do it. "To not do it means that you've refused their coaching and guidance," says Rosenberg. Asking, "What can I do to help you be successful?" is key. It could be retyping a report or creating a Power Point presentation.
"With each new year, I tell him that I'm here to serve [him] and make [him] look good," says Horsey, whose boss is a professor and researcher. Experts say reassure him or her that you understand the nature of the relationship and how it can be advantageous to you both.
If the relationship is still unbearable, you may only have one choice-leave. Otherwise, talking and listening is your best bet