How to have a great work relationship with your boss? (Spare her the details)

 In Effectiveness, Productivity, Work relationship

How to have a great work relationship with your boss? (Spare her the details)

One common complaint among leaders is that they feel bogged down by verbal details from direct reports.  For this reason, I have created a list of five tips for having a great work relationship and to provide direct reports with just the right amount of information to your boss.

(Bosses, I suggest that you offer your edition of these tips to your direct reports as soon as they begin working with you so that it is not taken personally.)

  1. Empathize

    While what you do is extremely important to your boss, how you do it and the details of the task are more likely not that important.  Your boss may have several people reporting to her, and if each one was to get into the weeds of every investigation or challenge with each of them, they could never get their work done.  Your job is to add value, which means getting it right the first time (giving them the information they need in an efficient way) and without giving them too much information in the form of details (waste).


  1. Listen

    When your boss is asking for information, listen carefully and proactively to their request. Go for the shortest, most direct answer first.  Let her request more details rather than assuming they want them.  If they ask a yes/no question, answer with a yes or a no. Unless your boss usually asks for more information, like why or what makes you say that, don’t get into details.  On the other hand, if you feel like they should be asking a different question because they are unaware of something specific, ask them about it.  Otherwise, they may feel like you were withholding important information instead of being efficient.

  2. Ask

    If you are not clear as to what they are asking you for, ask for clarification first.  Don’t hem and haw, feeling your way around some sort of response.


  1. Curtness shouldn’t be confused with irritability

    The relationship with a direct report shouldn’t be fussy. While we should always be polite, politeness has many forms.  With confidence between a boss and a direct report, there is a relaxation of pleasantries like saying please and thank you.  This is normal and creates bonding.  Let tone indicate irritability instead. If your boss sounds irritated with you, you can always check-in: “Are you irritated with me?” That should be enough of a hint to let them know that they may be overstepping their boundaries.


  1. Tone matters

    If you want to keep a good relationship with your boss and add the most value, don’t let your feelings and frustrations infect your tone or facial expressions when reporting.  While it’s fine to take up feelings and frustrations in a separate 1:1 with your boss, keep your daily or weekly reporting upbeat, positive and free of your challenges.


And finally, remember, the best way to train your boss is to give them an example to follow and give your boss the proper training.

If you are interested in work-life relationships. Check out this post on how to handle difficult work situations.


 Michael Hoffman

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