Have you ever struggled to make small talk with your boss or raised your hand for a high-five when her intention was a handshake? Awkward moments like these happen to everyone, smooth-talkers included. Navigating a healthy relationship with your boss is possible with the right skills.
Here are four ways to be less awkward around your boss and instead, develop a rewarding and productive relationship.
Stop overanalyzing. Often times, one move made by an employee’s boss spawns a series of questions—did she sigh because she thinks my report is boring or because she is disappointed in my findings? Does she really think I’m finally ready for the next level or was she being sarcastic? Reading into every comment or move to ascertain its true meaning can be quite debilitating. For example, if during an annual review you become hung-up one point of constructive criticism, you will inevitably lose sight of where you performed well. To error is human, and your boss is a human being as well. At the end of the day, instead of isolating one comment, think about your total interactions with your boss over a month’s period of time. You will most likely let the comment go when you consider the overall picture of your relationship vs. one individual aspect.
Arrive on-time. It’s natural to feel awkward around your boss if you are frequently late. She takes her job very seriously and expects you to do the same. Whether you are late arriving to work or delivering a project, a natural by-product perception of this behavior is that you don’t take your job seriously. Being late not only sets your day out on the wrong foot, but in some cases, can create animosity among team members, especially if they’re waiting for you to arrive to a meeting. Demonstrate that you respect your fellow team members and your boss by being on time every time—even if it means setting your clock ten minutes forward.
Peruse her profile. Notice the use of ‘peruse’ vs. ‘pursue’ as the goal is not to stalk your boss, rather to familiarize yourself with her interests, alma mater, professional groups, hobbies, etc. Dale Carnegie said, “Talk in terms of the other person’s interests.” Knowing nuggets such as your boss is a huge baseball fan or has three young children will make it easier to have friendly, ad hoc conversations while driving to a meeting or standing in an elevator.
Partner to problem-solve. Nothing feels better than sharing a huge accomplishment with your boss, however when facing a challenge, people often become reserved and try to resolve the issue themselves. Instead, enlist the help of your boss to problem-solve—but make sure you have a few ideas to share when you present the problem. While you may not have the right answer, asking your boss for help while being armed with some ideas demonstrates your willingness to have solved the problem on your own.