In this economic climate, everyone wants to avoid getting laid off. The number one way to do this is to have a strong relationship with your immediate manager. Here are some strategies that have worked well for me over the years:
• Be humble. Don't approach your boss with a sense of entitlement, as though he is personally responsible for furthering your career. Instead, focus on learning what you can do to make his life easier, contribute to your company's goals, and make him look good to his boss.
• Be realistic. Keep in mind that your boss is a human being and that he is going to make mistakes. He is not trying to make your life difficult. The two of you are on the same team, so don't be overly sensitive or critical. Listen without judgment, make a sincere effort to understand your boss's position, and patiently explain your ideas. If you're unclear about something, ask for clarification rather than expecting him to read your mind.
• Be honest. Admit if you do something wrong, and then ask your boss how you can rectify the situation. Don't allow yourself to get caught in a maze of lies or excuses that will result in a loss of credibility.
• Be respectful of your boss's time. Appear in his office with a checklist of things you need to cover, and don't dwell too long on any particular subject. Your boss will be more receptive to meeting with you if he knows you'll be in and out of his office quickly.
• Be self-sufficient. Only approach your boss with a problem or complaint if you've explored all options for resolving it yourself. When you do, be prepared to have a solution at hand that you could implement with his help. Choose your battles wisely, and decide carefully if bringing an issue to your boss's attention is really necessary or if you would be better off letting it go.
• Be friendly. Encourage your boss to genuinely like you. If he expresses an outrageous political opinion or offers unsolicited advice about your personal life, nod and smile. You don't have to agree, but you don't have to disagree either. Your boss's feelings should be protected at all times. Compliment him on his tie or presentation, if it's appropriate, and thank him profusely for any efforts on your behalf. Do personal favors for him and brownnose all you want, but make sure you do it sincerely. Your boss will smell phoniness a million miles away -- and believe me, he won't appreciate it. Even if your boss isn't someone you'd choose as a friend, focus on the things about him you do like, and do your best to establish a positive working relationship.
• Be a "can-do" employee. When your boss asks you to do something, accommodate him, if possible. The words I don't have time should never escape your lips. If you know something needs to be done, do it without being prodded, and if your boss asks for help in a group setting, be the first to volunteer. Your boss will quickly come to see you as a huge asset to the team and as someone he can count on.
Try a few of these and see if your boss becomes a trusted mentor for life!
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