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Not everyone loves their boss. In fact, it might be the case that people who even *like* their boss are the exception, not the rule. But your manager is a person with huge influence over both your day-to-day life and your longterm career. So while you don’t have to have a good relationship with them if you don’t want to, it’s usually worth it to try.

And here’s a secret: you have the power to control your relationship with your manager. Just because they have the title and the power doesn’t mean they have all the control. You can change the dynamic.

So today, we’ll show you how to take the first step to repairing an imperfect relationship with your manager.



It Takes Two

Are you ready to get real? The first exercise here might make you a little uncomfortable — but that discomfort will hopefully lead to serious perspective and better solutions.

Every relationship has two sides, whether it’s between you and your spouse, you and your neighbor, or you and your boss. It takes two people contributing words, feelings, and actions to create a relationship — so before you think about how you want to correct your manager’s behavior, it’s really important to look at your own behavior first.

Any problem that exists between you and your manager is based not just on things they have done, but things you’ve done too. What have *you* done to contribute to a negative relationship? How have you made things harder for them? In what ways have you made it more difficult for them to help you or made an effort to undermine them?

Don’t get hung up on who started it, or why you had a good reason to ignore their directive or go over their heads on a project. Assigning blame doesn’t help fix relationships, so get ready to acknowledge your part in any negativity between you and your manager.

Being objective — about your behavior and theirs — is the only way you’ll have enough clarity to really repair your relationship.

You need to be able to see this situation through your manager’s eyes. What have they seen you do? By knowing this, you’ll be able to create meaningful solutions based on what you already know about your history together.


Look Into The Future

Another really important exercise to do before entering into a relationship repair session with your boss is to think about what a good relationship with them would look like to you. It’s not the same thing for everyone, so it matters a lot that you know what you’re driving towards (and how you’ll know when you get there!)

  • Are you looking for a boss who is a mentor or coach?

  • Do you wish you had more freedom and less micro-management?

  • Does your ideal boss praise your work loudly, or do they reward great work in other ways?

An easy trap to fall into is thinking in negative terms. “I know I don’t want a boss who’s looking over my shoulder all day.” “I hate it when my manager doesn’t recognize my contributions.”

Okay — you know what you don’t like. That’s helpful — but it doesn’t give you something to work towards. How is your boss supposed to know what you want them to do, if you only tell them what you *don’t* want them to do? You need to be able to give them a map. You need to know where you want them to go, if you ever want them to get there.

And when you’re envisioning your future, don’t forget this relationship will always be a two-way street. You may not get everything you want — because your boss has job requirements as well as personal preferences of her own — so you should be prepared to negotiate and compromise, and not give up if you don’t get everything you hope for.

Relationships will always need attention and fine-tuning. Your boss is a person, just like you, and they’ll mess up sometimes and so will you. But this relationship is one worth making better, right? You have everything to gain by trying.


Your Job Today

This week, you’re going to give some good, serious thought to the current state of your relationship with your boss. Below, we have some questions to help you make sense of your thoughts and start formulating a vision of a restored relationship. As you answer these questions, write out complete sentences instead of just a word or two.

Forcing yourself to be specific helps you build a fuller understanding of your relationship, what it needs, and where it should go. The more you do, the more you’ll get out of it.

  • What have you done to contribute to the negative relationship (or lack of relationship) you currently have? Remember, this can include things you *haven’t* done too.

  • What do you think your manager thinks you have contributed to your negative relationship?

  • What kinds of relationships have you had with past managers? If this is a pattern, are you the common denominator? What behaviors are you exhibiting regularly that may upset relationships?

  • What does your ideal manager look like? How do they spend their day?

  • How often would you like to meet with your manager? What would you like to discuss — your career? Your goals? Your recent work? Feedback? Coaching? Ideas for the company? Ideas for your team?

  • What do you most want from your manager?

  • What are your baseline expectations of a manager? Think: if I got only these things, and nothing else, I would be satisfied.

And once you’re done, take a break and clear your head. This can be tough! But don’t forget that things are about to go in a positive direction, and you’re making awesome progress already!

Good relationships, here we come. :)

Tags: better leader, communication, leadership, management, reflection,

2 Responses to “Managing your manager: how to repair an imperfect relationship”

  1. Thomas Lockney

    I notice here you list the price for this guide as $20, but when I click through to sign up, it says $40. You might consider updating this page to avoid losing potential customers.

    • Kate Stull

      Hi Thomas — thanks so much for letting us know about this error. We have been growing our content and adjusting our prices as such, and must have missed updating this section. Thanks for the heads up. :)