Bad Relationship with Your Boss? Overcommunicate

Not all direct report pairings are a match made in heaven. But while the two of you may not always see eye-to-eye, you each should strive to feel comfortable, and to feel heard.

The first step, according to Maureen Hoersten, Chief Operating Officer for LaSalle Network, is to determine the source of the problem. “The key to getting to the root of the relationship issue is to communicate,” she says. “For instance, you may think something’s going on at work, but the issue could really lie in your personal life.” The issue may be health-related, financial or a family issue, but the fact remains, the employee brings that to work with them, which may cause them to overreact or overanalyze the relationship with the boss.

“On the flip side,” she notes, “Personal factors could be affecting your boss. The less time and attention they’re providing may have more to do with their personal stressors than your work. But you won’t know until you communicate.”  

Hoersten suggests a candid, one-on-one conversation to ask if you’re not meeting his or her expectations. “Try to open up and be vulnerable to pinpoint where the problem is. It may have nothing to do with you and your work, but you must overcommunicate to get to the root of the problem.”

Once the source of the problem is uncovered, how do you fix it?

“Not only can the problem be determined by communication, it can be solved.” says Hoersten, reasserting, “The key is not just to communicate, but overcommunicate.”

“When your boss is running multiple groups or has a lot going on, little updates go a long way. No one wants to be left in the dark, and overcommunication can help your manager keep you on track as you go.” 

To mend a poor relationship with your boss, ask what you can do to get better. If it’s due to the quality of your work, what courses can you take, or books can you read to improve? Ask yourself: are you approachable? Do you unfailingly communicate? Do you come to the office a bit earlier or stay later to show that you care?

“If your boss doesn’t think you’re committed, show them that you can go above and beyond,” Hoersten advises. Take the opportunity to sit down and speak with your boss—or your employee­ if you are the boss—before it’s too late. An honest attempt to start a healthy discussion can go a long way.

Read our tips for starting a candid conversation in the workplace.