When leading a team, it’s natural to want to focus most of your attention on them. After all, they are the ones you are meant to be supporting, motivating and developing.
At Thoughtful Leader, I receive emails from managers around the world who are struggling with various issues. A common problem I’ve observed is that many leaders are getting stuck because of the working relationship they have with their own bosses.
A Poor Working Relationship With Your Boss Limits Your Effectiveness
Unfortunately, we can’t just forget about our bosses, even when things seem to be going well. The working relationship we have with our boss sets the tone for what we can achieve with our teams.
A Poor Working Relationship Results in Micromanagement
Micromanagement is a common problem. If your boss is constantly monitoring your actions and your calendar, and sticking their head into your business every day, you’ve got a problem.
Firstly, this isn’t all your fault. Some bosses have a tendency to micromanage more than others. You might not be able to fix this completely, but you can reduce its impact.
Often when a boss micromanages you, it’s because they are missing something. There is something they aren’t getting from you which is causing them discomfort. The problem is, many bosses won’t tell you what that is directly, and they leave you to figure it out.
The root cause of micromanagement is usually because your boss:
- Doesn’t think that you have the skills or capability to do the job; or
- Finds it difficult to trust you.
You might say that your boss is just insecure. (For more on this, read: Are You an Insecure Leader? Watch for These 10 Signs).
You can’t help it if your boss is an insecure person. But they are missing something from you which is reinforcing this, and your life will be easier if you can help them feel more secure.
A Poor Working Relationship Stops You From Making Change in Your Team
One of the most common problems is that leaders are prevented from making changes in their team, because their boss stops it from happening.
You might have a disruptive, poorly performing team member. It’s clear that you need to performance manage them.
But guess what? Your boss happens to have a good relationship with this person, and you can’t do anything.
Or perhaps you want to bring a new person into your team, but your boss doesn’t think you need it.
Maybe you’d like to introduce a new tool to improve productivity in your team, but your boss won’t approve it (and they need to approve everything!)
Before you know it, you are not working independently. You’re having everything checked twice by your own manager.
With no autonomy, this almost defeats the purpose of your role in the first place.
How to Improve Your Working Relationship With Your Boss and Release the Shackles
Improving your working relationship with your manager can be quite simple. Sometimes, you need to compromise and adjust your focus from your team for a moment.
The magic question in the workplace continues to be “What’s in it for me?” and your boss is no different than anyone else. Below are three simple steps you can take to try to improve your working relationship.
1. Improve Your Attitude to Improve Your Working Relationship With Your Boss
We have all had bad bosses at one time or another. They annoy you, frustrate you and “they don’t get it”.
You have a simple choice to make. You can make the best of it and improve your attitude, or you can find a new job, because it’s likely that your boss isn’t going anywhere.
Sometimes, we get into a pattern of adversarial thinking with our boss.
“He doesn’t understand”. “She won’t leave me alone”. “They don’t let me do my job”.
While these thoughts may be true, they won’t help you. Keeping these thoughts in your head will make you more likely to self-sabotage by doing the same things that haven’t been working.
Sometimes, the reason you are struggling so hard against your boss is because you aren’t giving them what they need. They won’t give you autonomy, because they don’t trust you.
Your boss might just be a horrible person. But unless you can shift the obstructive attitude and start scratching them where they itch, you’re going to be in for a battle which you won’t win.
2. Improve Your Working Relationship With Your Boss by Removing Their Pain Points
Your boss is probably worried about a few things. They have targets they need to achieve and senior people breathing down their necks.
Once you find out what those pain points, you need to ask yourself:
“How can I help to take some of these problems away from my manager?”
The solution is not necessarily to pile more work onto yourself and your team. After all, you already have a job to do.
But if you can adjust the work that you do to help your boss, you’ll likely build a better working relationship.
If your boss is constantly pestering you about something, sit up and listen.
This is often a sign that they are in pain. In other words, somebody is hassling them, which is causing them to hassle you.
If you make your manager’s life a little easier, they are more likely to let you work with more autonomy. Find out what’s hurting your boss, and see how you can relieve some of that pain for them.
3. Improve Your Working Relationship With Your Boss by Aligning Your Goals With Theirs
There are probably a lot of things you want to do with your team. Perhaps you want to work more efficiently, or introduce new ways of doing things.
This is all good. But only if the goals you are aiming for are also going to help your boss in some way. Otherwise, your boss will not see them as important things to be focusing on.
You need to be helping your boss get to where they want to go. If your team goals are at odds with theirs, then you won’t get any traction.
If you want to use a new task-tracking system to improve the visibility of work in your team, how does this help your manager, and why should they care? Does this help them get to where they want to go?
Your goals and your manager’s don’t need to be perfectly in line, but there must be at least some common ground. Because that’s when your team is going to seem the most helpful.
How have you improved your working relationship with your boss? And what struggles have you had? Tell me your stories below and help other leaders!
Alternatively, if you'd like to know more or need some help on this topic, simply send me a private message through my contact page: