Win Over a Boss Who Doesn’t Seem to Like You

By Harvard Business Review
February 19, 2018

A quality that distinguishes those with successful careers is an attitude that there isn’t a supervisor that can’t be win over. You just have to understand why they act the way they do.

Chances are that at some point in your career, you’ll have at least one boss you just can’t seem to impress, or whom you tend to rub the wrong way.

Bosses like these don’t seem to trust you, or like working with you. And even a track record of stellar performance on the job doesn’t seem to help.

If you don’t act early to correct this perception, it is almost impossible to make a comeback. Once you’re pigeonholed, it will be hard for your boss to see the good work you do.

Remember that all bosses want to be successful in some form or fashion. Your mission is to figure out how to help them succeed and adapt thoughtfully.

Here is how to prevent the situation from escalating:

Look for warning signs: If your boss starts to lose trust in you, he’ll become very prescriptive in his guidance and start checking in sooner and more frequently. If he starts to think the misfit is serious, you’ll observe him correcting what you say or how you say it.

Act quickly: Pay attention to that first time the boss’s guidance feels very prescriptive. You are still in time to regain his trust.  Ask him whether there was something you did recently that triggered his feedback. Listen carefully and adapt your workflow to meet his expectations.

Understand your boss’s priorities: What’s the most likely cause of your boss’s dislike for you? You probably hit one of his “hot buttons” — his critical performance priorities or style imperatives. As soon as you start working with a new boss, one of your tasks should be to understand these "buttons.”

Watch your boss’s nonverbal cues: Not every boss may convey what’s important to him. In addition to asking directly what their performance priorities are, watch their actions in meetings. Observe what annoys them and what they praise.

 Copyright 2017 Harvard Business School Publishing Corp. Distributed by The New York Times Syndicate.

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