You’ve got a hunch that you’re on the outs with your boss—it could be because of that deadline you missed, or simply because you dared to speak to him or her before they finished their morning coffee. Either way, things are tense, and it could spell trouble for your career. Use these pro tips to get back into your boss’s graces.
1. SCHEDULE A TIME TO MEET.
The best way to work through your issues with your boss is to talk things over face-to-face. But don’t spring this meeting on him, because he may take this as an ambush, says Art Glover, director of Human Resources at the Douglas County Libraries. During the talk, approach things tactfully and deferentially. “Talk openly, and say things like, ‘I’m feeling like things aren’t working too well, and I want to make sure I’m meeting your needs,'” Glover suggests. Or, “I want to hear what you’d like from me.” It sounds simple, but this is an incredibly difficult conversation for some people to have. You may want to practice first.
2. MATCH THEIR COMMUNICATION STYLE.
Your boss could be having a hard time working with you because she likes to skip the details and the chatter and get right to the point, but you’ve been filling her inbox with stories rather than quick one-liners. Or maybe the reverse is true. “Instead of making assumptions about the person, act like a detective as you study their behavior,” suggests Christen Bavero, coach at the brand management and executive coaching company ThinkHuman.
“Once you study their behavior, match their communication style,” Bavero says. Do they send just two to three sentences in an email? Or does each email include five paragraphs explaining each process? Do they like to have animated face-to-face meetings that involve conversations about family, or is a quick instant message chat more their style?
3. GET TIPS FROM A TRUSTED CO-WORKER.
Surely your boss gets along with someone. Ask that person what he or she has done to get along with the boss, advises Susan Heathfield, a management and organization development consultant who specializes in human resources issues. Heathfield also recommends asking that person what she thinks you should be doing differently. Maybe the boss confided in that co-worker about you—or maybe she knows that your boss just doesn’t like people who bring tuna fish to work because it stinks up the break room. Really, it could be anything, and your co-worker could know the secret.
4. DON’T ENGAGE.
In moments of real conflict with your boss you need to make sure you don’t say something you’ll regret. The best way to do this? “Breathe,” says Jody Michael, CEO and founder of Jody Michael Associates, an executive and career coaching company with offices in Chicago and Atlanta. “Deep diaphragmatic breathing is one of the easiest and most effective ways to regain your composure. The last thing you want to do is to engage in the frenzy that your boss might be creating, and to say or do something you later regret.” Also, she says, remember that your boss is human, which makes him or her vulnerable to pressure and stress. Try to understand the situation from his or her perspective and the factors that might be driving your boss’s behaviors.
5. MAKE A CHANGE.
Sorry to break it to you, but your boss might have a good reason for disliking you. Maybe you botched a project or are always late to work. If you are determined to change, then you should apologize for your behavior. If you’re sincere, your boss will eventually come around, Glover says. “Generally, we human beings, once we’ve been given negative info, take a little while to see that you’re going to turn that around,” he says. “Actions speak louder than words.” If your actions are consistently positive, and your boss is a reasonable person, then you should be able to mend the relationship.