Your Second Most Important Relationship

Jan 24, 2019

By Pete Leibman

The most important relationship for your career (and your life) is the relationship you have with yourself. The second most important relationship for your career is the relationship you have with your boss. No matter what you think of the person you report to, he or she will have a significant impact on your professional development and the quality of your career now and in the future.

Here are seven secrets for building a rock-solid relationship with your supervisor:

  1. Make Life Easier for Your Boss
    Send occasional progress updates, ideas, or good news to your boss to keep him in the loop. Volunteer whenever your boss needs extra help, and always do more than expected. Always ask your boss what you can do to improve yourself and your organization. If you are ever without something to work on, ask what else you can do. You should also never create unnecessary work for your boss. In addition, never display a poor attitude; you are only hurting yourself if you are difficult.
  2. Make Your Boss Look Good to Her Boss
    Unless you report directly to the owner of your organization, your boss will have a boss also. Ask yourself, “How is my boss’s performance being measured, and what can I do to make her look good to her boss?” Your subsequent actions will not go unnoticed. In addition, if someone ever asks you about your boss, always remain positive, even if you think your boss is a moron. It does you no good to badmouth the person who has more influence over your career than anyone else. If your boss is an idiot, the person above her surely knows it already anyway.
  3. Never Go Above Your Boss
    There is no faster way to violate trust. The only exception is if your supervisor is doing something illegal or very alarming.
  4. Propose Solutions When You Encounter Problems
    You should always handle problems (with projects, colleagues, or customers) on your own as much as possible. If that’s not feasible, always be prepared to offer some potential solutions, rather than expecting your boss to solve your problems.
  5. Ask Questions Intelligently
    As a new employee, you will likely have lots of questions. Rather than harassing your boss every 15 minutes, keep track of your questions, and ask them at one time as much as possible. Also, make sure you never ask the same question twice.
  6. Accept Your Manager’s Pet Peeves or Weaknesses
    One of my former managers had a huge pet peeve for lateness and for using the Internet for personal matters. Rather than accepting his policies on these issues, many employees in the department whined publicly and privately. The result? My boss dug his heels in and actually started suspending people when they violated his “rules.” One of my colleagues actually lost all Internet/email privileges on his computer for a six-week period, forcing him to use the intern station whenever he wanted to use the Internet! Every boss has some pet peeves, and no boss is perfect. Deal with it.
  7. Choose Your Words Carefully
    It takes only a few words to make your boss hate you. Make sure you never utter these words to your supervisor:
    “Sorry, I’ve been busy.” (Everyone is busy. Being busy is never an acceptable excuse at work.)
    “I’ll try my best.” (Your boss doesn’t want you to “try your best.” Your boss wants you to get it done.)
    “That’s not part of my job.” (If your boss asks you to do something, it’s part of your job.)
    “Why do I have to do this?” (Do you want to know why? Because your boss said so.)
    “Sorry, I forgot.” (You are not allowed to “forget” at work, unless you want your employer to “forget” to keep paying you.)
    “I didn’t know that’s what you wanted.” (Your boss does not expect you to be able to read her mind, so she expects you to ask if you are not sure.)

© 2012 Pete Leibman. Excerpted by permission of the publisher, from I Got My Dream Job and So Can You, by Pete Leibman, published by AMACOM, a division of American Management Association.

If you would like to explore ways to improve your relationship with your boss, consider this AMA seminar: Partnering with Your Boss

About the Author(s)

Pete Leibman networked his way into a job with the NBA’s Washington Wizards when he was only 21 years old and later went on to become their number one salesperson. He is founder of the Dream Job Academy ( and the author of I Got My Dream Job and So Can You (AMACOM).