News

Bridge Building

2 Sep 2020

Is the interaction with your boss not as positive and straight forward as you would like? Are you concerned that your manager seems to get on with other members of the team but there is tension when working with you?

Research shows that the relationship with your manager is an important factor in your fulfilment at work. If there is no connection and you are struggling to establish one, it is important to look for ways to rectify this situation. Whilst it should be your manager who takes a lead in improving the engagement with you, do not disown the responsibility of building this bridge.

In our role, we occasionally see a major disconnect between a boss and their colleague. It can often arise from a period of positive interaction, but a recent promotion, for example, could unsettle the dynamic. The cracks which start to appear can develop to become much larger issues, often resulting in the employee leaving. The manager may try to improve the situation but ends up discouraging and alienating the person. The boss and perceived lower performer become entrapped in a vicious circle which is costly for the manager, the subordinates, team and the wider organisation.

The following short article will look at some of the challenges we all face in the work place when it comes to a lack of ‘click’ with a manager and how best to overcome these issues in order to get back on track both personally and professionally.

Lack of Trust:

Does your boss lack confidence in your ability to do the job? This can be further exacerbated with the challenges we currently face through remote working. An indication of this happening is that you are being assigned lower-quality projects compared to your colleagues. Your boss may choose to ignore your efforts to engage and even though you might be light on work, you just don’t get the opportunities. You may experience an increase in micro-management. Some managers are like this by nature but if not, then often micromanaging is done because of dissatisfaction with the employee.

Re-engaging your manager will require a number of stages.

  1. Clarity of expectation: It is important to open the channels of communication to your boss and try to prevent the situation from escalating and one which can often be the beginning of the ‘documentation cycle’ that can precede termination. At the next meeting to discuss a project or development plan, ask for clear specifics on what your manager is expecting and what kind of contribution they are looking Ask what areas they see as most important, then state back to them that you will proceed with the agreed expectations.
  2. Build trust: Arrange casual check-ins with your This will reinforce the idea you are on top of things. Indicate to your boss that you are taking a particular approach to a task. Be careful not to keep looking for direction or micro-management as this can be highly counter- productive. But equally, do not plough on blindly trying to ‘fake it, ‘til you make it’. Be transparent about areas you are struggling – do not hide issues. Make steady progress as it will take time to build trust and confidence.

Broaden Your Focus:

Do not assume that your boss does not like you but consider the possibility that they are not good at connecting with others or that they are genuinely under extreme pressure. Do not try to further ingratiate yourself as this can exacerbate the issues. Instead, work on building your connections with your colleagues and develop trust and reliance with each other. Do not gossip about your boss and try to focus on the tasks you were employed to carry out – demonstrate your talents and abilities in the role. Feeling under-appreciated can take a toll so engage with friends outside of work who are your cheerleaders.

Lack of Connection:

What if you have a manager who just doesn’t like you. If there isn’t a natural connection with you but exists with others, how do you manage this? Firstly, establish if this is a specific issue between you both or if it is a general theme in how the manager connects with others.

To strengthen this connection, do not try to engage in small talk but focus on real business and work-related issues. This will provide common ground which you both can share. Pay attention to what your manager values and try to adapt your interaction to fit in to their style. If they are uncomfortable with eye contact, don’t force it but think of other ways to engage. To be blunt, if you want your boss to like you, like them first.

If all else fails, deal with it head on:

If your manager is not responding in a way which suggests that you are improving the connection, then maybe it is time to have a direct and honest conversation. Consider asking them that you have seen a change in attitude towards you and in order to continue working harmoniously, you want to understand what concerns might exist. Ask for feedback on whatever you need to improve so you can be comfortable about your actions.

It is difficult when the person who should be providing you with a platform for success is actually trying to prevent you from progressing. There are no assurances that you can get back into your boss’s good graces, or that you can shore up an individual who feels threatened. But by using the above approaches, will give you the best chance to show them that you’re on their team and that your intention is to work towards mutual success.

References:

Davey, L. Harvard Business Review,  July29 2020, What to do if your boss doesn’t like you. Manzoni, JF and JI Barsoux. INSEAD, 96/14: Set up To Fail.

Korn Ferry Dec 21 2018, WhenYour Boss Shuts You Out