5 Ways to Make Your Boss Love You

By Sarah Winfrey on 17 May 2007 (Updated 26 March 2014) 9 comments

When I started my first "real job," I didn't realize how many situations I'd find myself in that were utterly different from most of what I'd encountered before. On top of learning the tasks specific to the job, I had to navigate office politics, figure out what it meant to be "professional," and make decisions about these things on the fly with only my intuition to guide me. I made a few mistakes while I figured it out, but eventually I learned to survie, thrive, and make my boss love me. While I'm still no expert, what I offer here are solutions to common problems that have worked for me.

Note: These suggestions will be particularly relevant to entry-level positions, but could be useful at other times, as well.

Make Your Boss Love You When You've Finished a Project

Let him know you're thinking about the future. Either ask him, "So, what's next?" or let him know you'll be needing some time to get things together before he approaches you with the next project. Something like, "I'm getting ready for the next project. Could we talk about it in an hour/this afternoon/tomorrow/next week after I tie up some loose ends? I've been focusing on getting this done but want to make sure I haven't let anything fall through the cracks." Both approaches let him know that you're focused on what is best for the company, and the second also makes you look responsible while also taking a short break.

Make Your Boss Love You When She's Pointing Out Little Mistakes

Remember that pointing out your small mistakes is part of her job, and it may be as distasteful to her as it is to you. If the criticism is particularly difficult for you to hear, remember to breathe before you say anything. A deep breath or so, when done surrepitiously, can give you the strength to respond calmly. Then, if it's appropriate, defend yourself. If her criticism is just, nod as she speaks. Tell her, "Thank you for showing me how you would prefer this to be done/how this should be done/whatever." If she persists, or is talking to you about something for the Nth time, say, "This seems to be something that you want me to work on/I should work on. Are there any resources available to help me improve?" Whether you need to be on time, make the webpage load faster, or something else, it's hard for a boss to fault an employee who wants to change. If she points you in a direction, follow through!

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Make Your Boss Love You When You're Swamped and He Wants You to Do More

Be honest about what you can do. Most supervisors appreciate hearing when their people are overworked and stressed. If he likes up front, honest people, say, "You know, I'd be happy to take that on, but realistically I won't be able to get to it until I finish with X, Y, and Z. Will that work for you?" He may take it to someone else, or he may give it to you, but either way he knows what he's looking at. If he's going to lay it on you no matter what you say, try, "I'll take that on. Right now, I'm working on P, D, and Q. Where does this fall in priority relative to those?" With this, he knows where he stands and what you have on your plate, and he can determine when you get to it.

Make Your Boss Love You When You've Made a Big Mistake

If you can't fix it before she would find out, be the first to let her know. Swallow the butterflies and make your weak knees walk to her office (or write that email). Most of the time she's going to find out anyway, so you're only prolonging the agony and creating a ton of anxiety for yourself if you don't tell her. Your poise and honesty will also make an impression, even if she's upset and there are consequences. At the very least, she'll have a positive sense of your integrity for any future recommendations. And you might save your job.

Make Your Boss Love You When You're Interviewing for a New Job

In a few companies, interviewing for a new job is considered tantamount to treason. If you work for one of those companies, keep your search under the table, but don't lie if you're asked directly. You might be asked to leave, but they won't be able to fault your integrity in a recommendation. But if you work for most companies (or, at least, most of the ones I've experienced/heard about), just be honest. If you're valuable where you are, you would be surprised how many times your boss will do all she can to get you a counter-offer. If she can't or if she has some other motivation to not re-hire you, she will appreciate not being blind-sided when you turn in your notice.

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Guest's picture

This ia great post, and very timely and relevant given the number of new college grads who will be hitting the workplace soon.

The one thing I would add to this list is to really get to know your boss. No, not in the we're-buddies-attached-at-the-hip kind of knowing, but being familiar with hot buttons, likes, dislikes, communication style, Myers-Briggs or DiSC profile. Watch how they've treated others in the situations you've just described (which are 5 of the biggies).

There are a couple of really practical books just entering the market right now that complement this post well. Besides my book on how to effectively manage office politics (GUST - The "Tale" Wind of Office Politics), Anita Bruzesse has a great book out called "45 Things You Do That Drive Your Boss Crazy"

Guest's picture
Dwight Schrutte

I really enjoyed this post, it reminded me to not be complacent.

If you write more about this topic and please do,
What if you have a boss that asks you for stuff that she never asked you about? I have a boss like that, I keep record of all the stuff she actually instructs me to do, but she regularly claims she asked me to do something that she did not.

Guest's picture
Guest

Dwight,

I had a manager who would claim that she assigned me tasks when she really didn't. At first, I had difficult figuring out if it was her fault or mine. Like you, I finally started keeping a record of what she had assigned me.

The final straw was when, on one occasion, she had asked me why we had a particular set of tasks lined up the way we did (releases under test). I pulled out my notes from our meeting the previous day and re-stated what we had discussed to which she had responded that 'that wasn't what she meant'. I pulled one of my project leads into the discussion and he had the exact same thing I had. She still insisted that wasn't what we agreed on and that we had gotten it wrong.

After that, every time I met with her or was assigned a task, I followed up in email with a list of my current tasks and where it fell in my priority tree. That provided a record to her of what I knew my tasks to be. She had the opportunity with the email to respond and correct it and, when I started doing this, I let her know that if she didn't, I assumed that I was getting implicit agreement from her.

A little while later, she tried to claim that she had assigned me something when she didn't. I showed her the last task email and it pretty much quieted her down.

In my case, my boss was really trying to manage up and assumed everything she was promising to upper management was being communicated down and it wasn't.

My method was a bit more work but saved me on more than one occasion. The important thing is to let her know (tactfully), that unless she responds with something different, that the email represents an agreement on your work.

Will Chen's picture

Your energy is better spent trying to impress the cute receptionist instead of your idiotic boss.

Sarah Winfrey's picture

I think that the email idea is a great way to go about solving your problem.  Like Timothy said, you have to know your boss to know whether or not something like this will work. 

Another idea would be to talk to her about it.  There are ways to do this that aren't confrontative or accusing...something like, "Hey, you came in a minute ago and asked me for Q.  I wasn't aware that I was supposed to be working on Q, and I'm afraid we miscommunicated.  What can I do to make sure that I'm on the same page you are?"  If your boss likes open, straight-forward communication, this gives him/her the chance to influence the process (and so feel more like the "boss") and it helps you avoid future, awkward situations.

And Timothy, I'm happy you brought up knowing your boss.  That is SO key to making these sorts of work-relationships...well, WORK.   

Andrea Karim's picture

When I'm in an environment in which I am expected to work on several projects at once, I keep a shared spreadsheet in a folder with all of my projects, ranked by priority (you can do this in MS Project if you have it, but Project can be hard to learn). I have a column for the project name, due date, what (if anything) is holding it back, and expected completion time.

My boss can check this spreadsheet to see where I am on projects as I go along. If they don't like what they see, they can contact me to change the order. There's no point in whining about bosses giving you more work and expecting deadlines to remain in place - it's your job to communicate what kind of impact any additional work is going to have on your other projects.

Not that I haven't had my fair share of bad bosses. But it's important to have the guts to say, "No problem. But that WILL push back Project A until Tuesday, OK?"

Guest's picture
Guest

My boss (the actual owner of the company) has decided that my request for a living expense increase was out of disrespect for his generosity. It was the first thing he mentioned before telling me he was changing my assisgnment. He also mentioned that since they ( his company) do not have to abide by certain stated and federal rules. He was willing to give me an office position for 20 hours a week. I designed and submitted a schedule as requested. It has been a week since any contact has been made on his part. I communicat via e-mail and get responses such as I will call you tomorrow to discuss the schedule; only to never receive a phone call.

What action can I take to supplement my income and are they truely able to not pay into unemployment? I've worked for this company for nearly 5 years.

Andrea Karim's picture

Hey, that sounds like a really awful situation. If you were asking me, I'd say your boss needs to be punched in the throat. But I'm not a lawyer (just a writer with a mean right hook).

My advice, which isn't actual law advice, is to do some research on your state's employment laws. Where I live, bosses can do whatever they want whenever they want, however they want, all without notice. But you might live somewhere in which you cannot simply be demoted for asking for a raise. If you can, ask a laywer who deals with employment issues (http://www.nela.org/NELA/index.cfm?event=showAppPage&pg=members) and see what kind of rights are afforded to you.

What your boss did is stupid, lousy, and retalitory, but may not be illegal. However, you may also want to look for another job in the meantime.

As far as supplementing your income, well, that depends entirely on what it is that you do. Some people walk dogs to make extra money ($20 an hour in most large cities). Some people do freelance or contract work. Some people pick up free stuff off of Craigslist and then refinish/repair it and sell it on eBay. There are TONS of web site dedicated to making money. Look around.

Guest's picture

LOL, I'm unemployed right now, so I just wish I had a boss to hack!