Would you say that your work would be a whole lot easier if only your boss was different? Based on a recent conference presentation I delivered, called Managing Your Manger, there are a lot of you who share this feeling. The bad news is that for most people you don’t get to choose your manager. The good news is that you can do something to build a more productive and less stressful working relationship with your manager.
The intent of the program was to help subordinates build productive relationships with their manager by learning how to build rapport. Rapport is the ability to relate to another person in a way that you create an environment of trust and understanding. Having rapport is the foundation of being able to work effectively with someone else. You’ve probably experienced rapport—and the lack of it. Have you ever met someone new and immediately felt comfortable with that person? That’s rapport. Maybe you met someone new and you didn’t feel comfortable. That’s a lack of rapport.
We’re comfortable with people who we perceive to be like ourselves — these are the ones with whom we establish rapport. Think about yourself. If you’re an extrovert, aren’t you more comfortable with other extroverts? So if you’re a more forceful person and your boss is a less forceful person, that’s a mismatch and that’s the start of a less productive business relationship. If you’re a people person and your boss is more task focused, that’s a mismatch. That’s also a challenging relationship.
Here’s what was so amazing to me. When I asked how many people mismatched their boss almost everyone’s hand went up. When I said, “Wow, almost everyone.” One audience member said, “Yes, that’s why we’re here!”
For many of the people, their relationship with their boss is very damaged and they have no strategy to make it better. That’s the biggest shame of all. If you find your relationship with your manager to be stressful, you have to start doing something about it.
First, notice where you differ. Does your boss move fast and you move slowly? Is he a loud talker and you talk softly? Maybe you talk slowly and he talks fast? You must pick one or two behaviors and modify your behavior to be more like your manager’s behavior. Your boss is not going to change. You must start to build rapport. You’ll be building rapport when you communicate very subtly the similarities that you share with your boss.
I don’t have many regrets from my business experiences. But I do have one. It’s that I didn’t do an effective job early on of managing a difficult manager. We were total opposites. He was slow. I was fast. He was a detail person. I was big picture. Do you think he was the one who was paying for the mismatch with health issues? Nope. It was me.
When I finally decided to modify my behavior, it was dramatic how my stress levels went down. Why? My boss felt more comfortable with me. So don’t you have any regrets that you didn’t do enough to create a better working relationship with your manager. Now is the time to start managing your manager.