The Key to Improving Boss / Employee Relations

Have you ever been in a work environment where you’ve had issues with your supervisor? Ever had disagreements with your boss? If you’re like most people, you probably have. Many factors can contribute to an uneasy work environment, but the most common is the employee / boss relationship.

In his book, The Truth About Employee Engagement, author and consultant Patrick Lencioni says there are three signs of a miserable job. 1. Anonymity – People cannot be fulfilled in their work if they are not known. 2. Irrelevance – Everyone needs to know that their job matters. 3. Immeasurement – Employees need to be able to gauge their progress and their level of contribution to the organization.

These three factors all relate to the employee / boss relationship. If your boss doesn’t really know you, if he doesn’t let you know you matter, if she doesn’t give you goals and guidelines by which to measure your work, you’ll most likely end up miserable.

Striving for a good relationship with your boss is vital if you’re going to be successful at work. And maintaining that relationship is directly related to how long you will stay employed.

Having worked for lots of bosses in my ministry career, I’ve found the key to keeping a great relationship with your boss. It’s just one word. “Distance.”

Physical Distance
The key question is, how close is your office to your bosses? I have a friend whose boss works in a different state, 400 miles away. Needless to say, this causes issues. I’ve worked in a large, church facility that had four different office locations in four different parts of the building. Again, this led to issues. If you’re in a multisite environment, your boss may be in a different building in a different part of town. While some of these issues can be worked through, suffice it to say the less physical distance between your office and your bosses, the better.

Emotional Distance
The main question here is, how comfortable are you around your boss? Is his door always open? Do you feel you can knock and walk into her office unannounced? Or do you need an appointment? The level of emotional distance indicates how much you can trust your boss.

My friend, David Horsager, in his book The Trust Edge shows how developing relational trust within an organization leads to better efficiency. Simply put, the higher the trust level, or the less emotional distance, the more apt you are to enjoy a good, productive working relationship with your boss.

Structural Distance
Here we consider how many people you share your boss with. What is your bosses span of care? Do six other people directly report to your boss? Does everyone in the organization report to her?

While the ideal span of care may differ among individuals and environments, bestselling author and business consultant Marcus Buckingham says the best span of care is the number of people you can check in with weekly. If you don’t have some face time with your boss weekly, there is too much structural distance.

Philosophical Distance
Finally, let’s consider how close you and your boss’s ideas are. How much do you see eye to eye on? Are you on the same page philosophically? If you don’t agree on much, you might need to consider if this is the right place for you to work. Ask yourself, how much do my boss and I agree on, and how much do we differ? And what’s an appropriate ratio? Should we agree on 60%, 70%, 80% of ideas? No one will ever agree on 100% of things, but this is something you and your boss will need to navigate through. Being on the same page, philosophically is crucial to your success at your work.

A Final Thought
As mentioned above, I’ve worked in many different environments and had many different supervisors. But I’ve found the key factor in having a great relationship with your boss is to reduce the amount of distance between you and them. So, consider the distance between you and your boss and make every effort to reduce that distance to bring efficiency, productivity and joy to your work environment.