There’s one person at work you need to have a good relationship with for the sake of your career: your boss.
But not all of us do.
And working remotely could cause additional strain to an already-tense relationship.
“If the conflict is around work, then working remotely may actually make things worse or at best, create a certain amount of confusion,” said Marie McIntyre, a career coach in Atlanta and author of “Secrets to Winning at Office Politics.”
If you found your boss to be annoying, working separately might actually improve the relationship.
A change in work settings could also be a good opportunity to redefine your relationship with your boss. Here’s how to get started:
Determine the problem
Figuring out what the issue is between you and your boss is the first step toward mending the relationship.
There are usually three reasons that cause a rift between a boss and a worker: work quality, loyalty or team player issues, and a difference in personality or work style, according to Steve Arneson, author of “What Your Boss Really Wants From You.”
If the problem is your performance, then making an effort to improve will go a long way. Look for ways to go beyond expectations, hit deadlines early and help with other team projects.
Start taking on more responsibility, raise your hand for new projects and ask your boss for ways you can help ease their workload.
If the issue concerns loyalty or being a team player, Arneson suggests showing support to the boss and company and trying to be more supportive and collaborative with your colleagues.
“Lean in to this issue in a very positive, public manner so they see you turning this around,” he said.
If it’s a difference in work styles, take some time to self-reflect and try to be more adaptable to other people’s work preferences.
If you can’t determine the root of the problem on your own, Arneson suggested approaching your boss and saying something like: ‘Our relationship isn’t at a point where I’d like it to be, can we chat about that?’
Hopefully that gets the ball rolling. If not, ask a trusted peer with the same boss about what they think the root cause might be.
Know their work style
If your boss prefers emailing over meeting and you are constantly calling them, that’s going to cause an issue.
If you don’t already know your boss’ work preferences, use this new world of remote work to your advantage.
“This is a great time to have a conversation with your boss and team about how they prefer to work,” said Mary Abbajay, president of Careerstone Group and author of “Managing Up: How to Move Up, Win at Work, and Succeed with Any Type of Boss.”
Take a look at what has and hasn’t worked while working remotely over the past several months and use that to guide the conversation. Maybe your boss prefers longer weekly check-ins instead of short daily ones or would rather hop on the phone to chat real quick than discuss an issue over Slack.
If you don’t know what your boss wants, it’s going to be hard to meet expectations.
At the start of a project, McIntyre suggests talking to your boss about how often she wants progress updates, how much she wants to be involved during the process, who else needs to be kept in the loop, along with her priorities and deadline expectations.
If your boss tends to be more hands off and you need more clarity, McIntyre recommends framing the request like: ‘It would be helpful to me if we had regular meetings about project XYZ’ or ‘Can we agree on a time every week to touch base?’
“Initiate the request and put it in terms of how to help you get the work done. Not in terms of how you never communicate with me,” she said.
Avoid trust issues
Don’t give your boss a reason to think you aren’t working hard.
Trust is a big part of working remotely, and some bosses, particularly micro-managers, have a hard time with the shift to not knowing where their employees are.
Many workers have competing priorities working from home right now and many companies are offering flexible schedules, but don’t leave your boss guessing about when you will and won’t be available.
“Make sure they know your schedule,” said Abbajay. “If someone is trying to reach you and they can’t, they often assume the worst.”