Yes, you can influence your boss. And knowing how can help smooth your daily interactions with her, and get her to regard you as a dependable employee. The bonus: You’ll be rewarded with her trust and confidence – big pluses when it comes to a pay rise and promotions. We ask experts to fill us in on key pointers to managing upwards.
Get in on time
“Many bosses like to see their team working when they arrive in the office, so show up early and eager,” says the managing director of Dale Carnegie Training Singapore. People tend to be more productive in the mornings when the office is free of chatter. By the time your colleagues stream in, you might have submitted that report already – brownie points, anyone?
“If your superior is swamped, offer to help,” says the managing director of a professional recruitment consultancy. It may be worth spending a few hours to review her Powerpoint slides just to win her trust and gratitude. But be strategic – offer help only when you know you can spare it. It’s no good messing things up because you too are swamped.
We often fixate on what we can’t do – crunching numbers quickly or giving great speeches, for instance. But don’t spend too much time and effort trying to be good at everything. The smart way to impress your boss is to concentrate on your strengths. “Know what you’re good at and what your boss relies on you for,” says the founder and CEO of a management development consultancy. If you excel at analysing data, making presentations or arranging travel itineraries, offer to do two or more of these jobs so you stand out.
Every boss has pet issues or areas of work, be it customer service or employee morale. When you pitch an idea or new strategy, appeal to those interests. For instance, if she’s a stickler for productivity, use that as the “clinching factor” when pushing for changes like: “If we could budget more money for a new printer and scanner, we’d save time and improve our workflow.”
The best time to influence your boss is when she needs something from you, says the founder and CEO of a management development consultancy. Look out for such opportunities. For instance, when she asks you to complete a task urgently, seize the chance to ask for extra resources that’ll help you do the job. When she needs information, get clarification on something you’ve been kept in the dark about. Say: “I’d love to help but just so we’re on the same page, can I find out who we are pitching this proposal to?”
By using similar language to your boss’, you’ll position yourself as a trusted ally, says the founder and CEO. Listen out for her favourite terms or catchphrases – does she like sporting metaphors like “going in for the win” or “reach the finishing line”? Use them too. It signals to her that you’re both in sync.
Your boss is human and cares about how she’s perceived. “Stay clear of the gossiping crowd in the office, which will put you on the wrong side of her radar,” says the managing director of Dale Carnegie Training Singapore. Chances are, she won’t trust you if you keep mingling with that bitter colleague who’s always complaining about the management.
“Don’t try and change your boss’ personality. Instead, complement her strengths with yours,” says the founder and CEO of a management development consultancy. For instance, if she is good at speaking or thinking on her feet but hates writing long proposals, offer an idea for a short proposal she can easily present at the next team meeting.
It gets lonely at the top, says the managing director of a professional recruitment consultancy. So make an effort to be pally with your boss. “She may be a career woman, but a simple ‘how are you’ can make her day,” she says. When she walks by your cubicle, make eye contact, smile and ask how her weekend went. Show genuine interest when she replies. Don’t overdo it by dropping excessive and insincere compliments – you’ll come across as a brown-nose.
To really score, share credit for good work with your boss when it’s deserved. Say “we” did it, instead of “I”, or highlight how she gave you a really good tip on that project. You’ll make her feel and look good, and she’ll see that you’ve got her back.
This story was originally published in the May 2012 issue of Her World.