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Treat Your Manager Like a Client

In a world of increasingly casual work interactions, it's always a good idea to remember that your boss has control over a lot of things in your professional life, and you don't want your opportunities for advancement or recognition to be undermined by a less-than-ideal relationship with your manager.

Here are some tips to consider as you think about your relationship:

Pay attention to your interactions

With clients, we’re (ideally) on our best behavior. With our bosses, it’s easy to take things for granted. Sometimes we take shortcuts with our bosses that we would never take if we knew the client was watching. It’s a good idea to interact with and communicate with your manager in as clear and precise a manner as you would a client.

Be proactive

Identify opportunities to help or communicate with your boss before he/she can identify the need. And make sure to keep your manager in the loop on whatever proactive action you’re taking. As a manager there was nothing I appreciated more than initiative, except maybe a heads up about an initiative that I thought was inappropriate.

Use your manager’s style, especially if it’s different from yours

When you’re communicating with your manager, most of us use our own default styles, but it’s more effective to use your manager’s. Just because your default style is easier for you to express yourself doesn’t mean it’s easier for your manager to understand. Keep your audience in mind and work to be as effective a communicator as possible. Remember, if your boss doesn’t understand you, that’s your fault.

Don’t get lazy or overly casual

I've had very friendly relationships with employees in the past and some of them have made the mistake of assuming that, because we like having lunch together and enjoy the same dad jokes, it's ok to not turn in work on time or to give the first draft a halfhearted effort. Your manager will refer back to your notes, your recaps, your emails, and any interactions you have had over the course of the year to generate your feedback, and to recommend you for other projects.

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