How to Build a Strong Relationship with Your Boss

Having a good relationship with your boss is important, but sometimes it's easier said than done.

Lisa B. Marshall
3-minute read

Reader AC writes: 

How do you build a relationship with your manager, especially when he doesn't like you very much? Some people just don't get along. 

Dear A.C.

In a boss/subordinate situation, both parties should work at building a strong relationship. However, there are some managers that feel it's the subordinate who should do most of the communication flexing.  

How we communicate—positively (or not), persuasively (or not), with tact (or not), confidently (or not)—determines how effective we are at building relationships and meeting our personal and professional goals. Asking for more information on how to build your relationship with your boss is an important first step because people who communicate better have stronger relationships. People who communicate better also get promoted faster. In short, people who communicate better get the things they want—which in your case means a better relationship with your manager.

In fact, I would argue that effective communication skills are the most important skills for professional (and personal) success.

With that in mind, the first step is to assess if you are communicating in your manager's preferred communication style. I suspect it's not that your boss doesn't like you; it's just that you have two opposite styles of communication that make it difficult to develop a relationship. So my first suggestion is to take my free DISC communication style quiz to determine your style and then, based on the other episodes I recommend below, try to determine your manager's style. What I have noticed is that when people don't get along naturally at work, it is often because of a style mismatch. The situation is often worse if both people score very high in their particular style. (I have seen it most often with a high "D" [directive style] boss trying to work with a high "S" (supportive/steadiness) style. Or a high "I" [idea/influence style] trying to work with a high "C" [compliance/accuracy]. Once you understand your manager's preferred style of communication, you can start to make little changes in how you communicate.  If you are willing to flex, you'll be amazed at how you can transform your relationship. 

By the way, answering this sort of question is exactly why I wrote my best-selling book, Smart Talk. (It's been translated into three languages!) It includes several chapters that may helpful for you. The book has a 4.9 / 5.0 stars with over 59 reviews on Amazon. It also received a "Reader's Favorite" of 5 stars and won the Bronze Medal in the Business/Finance category of the "Readers's Favorite Annual Contest 2015." (If you buy the book and I will even sign it for you and give you a bunch of bonuses!) 

In the meantime, I have already written on this topic (the information in the book is more detailed than the posts, though). 

Of course you can browse the over 350+ episodes of my podcast/blog but here are a few that specifically relate to your question. 

Communicate Better with Different Types of People

How to Deal with People More Effectively

What Exactly Is Diplomatic Communication at Work? 

Can Body Language Build Office Relationships?

How to Build and Maintain Professional Relationships

I also recommend this piece by my colleague Get-it-done Guy Stever Robbins:

Express Gratitude to Build Relationships

After you take DISC the communication style quiz (remember it's free for a limited time) and you think you've determined your manager's style, write me back and let me know if I was right. If you need help to determine your boss's style or you want help learning how to flex your style, I'm here to help. I offer one-on-one coaching (I recognize it's not for everyone, but I wanted to at least let you know that it is available).

This is Lisa B. Marshall changing organizations, changing lives, and changing the world through better communication. If you’d like to learn more about leadership, influence, and communication, I invite you to read my bestselling books, Smart Talk and Ace Your Interview and listen to my other podcast, Smart Talk

As always, your success is my business.   

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

About the Author

Lisa B. Marshall

Lisa B. Marshall Lisa holds masters with duel degrees in interpersonal/intercultural communication and organizational communication. She’s the author of Smart Talk: The Public Speaker's Guide to Success in Every Situation, as well as Ace Your Interview, Powerful Presenter, and Expert Presenter. Her work has been featured in CBS Money Watch, Ragan.com, Woman's Day, Glamour, Cosmopolitan, and many others. Her institutional clients include Johns Hopkins Medicine, Harvard University, NY Academy of Science, University of Pennsylvania, Genentech, and Roche.