Dave Conrad: Repair a bad relationship with the boss

Dear Dave: Unfortunately, I have a bad relationship with my boss and I know he doesn't like me. I have not done anything to upset him, I think it may be a personality incompatibility thing. Any advice? I don't want to get fired and I am doing my best to work hard. — J

Dear J: First, I will say that, your relationship with your boss is a significant factor of your emotional well-being at work. Good relationships also increase the likelihood that you'll get better assignments, meaningful feedback, more involvement in planning, and recognition for your contributions. Bad relationships mean just the opposite.

I first advise you to not get into the "blame game" — assigning blame doesn't help fix relationships. So assess your part in any negativity between you and your manager. However, you need to focus on moving forward and being effective on the job — that will do more than anything.

Also, be analytical and consider the source of your manager's feelings. To do this, try to put away the negatives of feeling disliked and instead focus on understanding what's going on. Before you even conclude that your boss doesn't like you, explore the possibility that you're falsely attributing what is just rushed, stressed-out behavior as disdain for you personally.

In any case, step back, be calm, and stay objective by listening closely to what your boss says and the way he says it. It may be that he treats most people harshly and you are one among many.


It takes two to tango. This means it takes two people interacting and exchanging words, feelings, and actions to create a relationship (good or bad) — so before you think about how you want to change your boss, you must look at your own behavior first — both your actions and your attitude.

As I stated, you have to know what makes your boss tick. Do your research and get to know your boss' unique characteristics, likes and dislikes, and work-related preferences. It is very important to learn your boss' work style, work language, including the best time to engage with him – and when to leave him alone.

It also is always useful to have your boss clarify expectations and his/her definition of good versus excellent work. I believe you cannot perform admirably — and be seen as an excellent employee — if you do not know your goals and performance standards.

Also, try to envision what a good relationship with him would look like to both you. Relationships mean different things to different people, so you need to know what you're driving towards, what actions and words you need to use, and how you'll know when you are successful.

Next, dig in, stay positive and committed, and start working smarter and harder, because no one can argue with excellence. Get things done quicker and be more communicative and responsive. Start delivering earlier on deadlines. Ask (prudently) for more work. Show your boss you can help out and deliver.

Try to engage your boss with advice questions. Find opportunities to ask him how he would approach a given problem. Ask question like, questions like: "How do you see this situation?" "What experiences have you had that might be applied to the problem?" Listen to and learn from your boss, but be genuine and non-patronizing.

It's tough when think that your boss doesn't like you. But, no matter what the situation, or the cause of the issue, get stuff done, share the credit, and ask how else you can help. Your behaviors may speak louder than your words.

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