Few things can be more unnerving than getting on your boss' bad side. To be disliked by a person who has so much control over your workday and your career is a huge stress builder driven by resentment, uncertainty and even fear.
Before getting ahead of yourself and imagining the worst without any proof, are you sure that your boss really has it in for you? Could it be that their lack of social skills cause them to be rude and that you have nothing to worry about? Maybe they are under personal pressure or enduring a string of bad days? There may be a whole host of other reasons that you get the feeling they are unduly critical or avoiding you.
Here are five signs that you need to win your boss over to make life at work bearable again.
You feel excluded
You are routinely excluded from meetings requested by your boss that also involve other team members.
They seem distant
While friendly and engaged with others, your boss avoids lengthy eye contact with you and appears distant and formal. They will take calls when in meetings with you versus turning their phone off, and spend a lot of time on the call talking about non-business matters.
You need to try and patch things up with your boss — quickly.
They're always annoyed
Performance reviews and work-in-progress meetings are infrequent and scheduled at the last minute. They seem mildly annoyed or impatient in your presence. Ask yourself if they have grounds for this. For example, do you sometimes dominate the conversation, arrive late for meetings, or do things that annoy them, some of which you are not aware?
They shoot you down
They call on other team members in meetings for ideas first and don't fully explore your ideas in team or one-on-one situations. They are often critical of your ideas in either situation.
Other people notice
Fellow team members notice that they treat you differently from other colleagues and ask you why.
If you see two or more of these signs over several weeks, you need to try and patch things up with your boss — quickly. Here are some tips on how to rebuild bridges between you.
Ask your boss to join you over coffee to discuss your role and how things are going within your team and the company in general. If they press for more details, consider saying, "I've noticed that your behaviour toward me has changed lately. It concerns me, and I am wondering if we could talk about it over coffee." That way, you are not apologizing for a situation that may not exist or going on the defensive. You are simply being proactive (versus threatening) and asking them to share their feelings — without judging them.
Have a (nonthreatening) conversation
It is best to meet face-to-face. An email or phone conversation won't reveal their body language and you won't fully understand what your boss is thinking. Be prepared to offer two or three examples of instances where you have sensed disapproval or criticism of your performance or something you said. Avoid being emotional and speak in a calm and reassuring tone.
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Apologize if necessary
If your boss offers reasons for their disaffection, be sure that you understand the circumstances that led to it. If you can't recall an incident or feel they misunderstood the situation and judged you too quickly, consider saying, "I recall that incident and regret that you misinterpreted my actions. They were not meant to be a criticism of you or the company."
If you fundamentally disagreed with a decision your boss made and your response to it in a meeting irritated them, say, "I appreciate that you were displeased by my comments. I didn't mean to offend you, but to simply respond to your request for feedback. If you found my tone inappropriate, I apologize."
It's best to get your concerns off your chest as soon as you sense trouble, rather than let them fester.
Invite to offer ways that your working relationship could improve. Avoid offering a series of complaints about your boss' behaviour and playing the dual role of accuser and victim. Be constructive by asking them to sketch out how a good working relationship between you would look (i.e. collaborative, trust between you, open communication, etc.) If they were rude or embarrassed you privately or in front of your team, you would be wise to broach the incident with them. If your boss offers no apology or explanation, propose that you both meet with a member of your human resources team. Going around their back will probably backfire and resentment toward you will grow. A moderate approach in this delicate conversation will serve you better than a confrontational one.
By staying calm, taking a leadership role and asking relevant questions and suggesting solutions (with your boss' input), you may turn a negative situation around. Unless you face an insurmountable personality conflict and simply clash at every turn, it is worth your while to restore your mutual respect.
It's best to get your concerns off your chest as soon as you sense trouble, rather than let them fester and give your boss tangible reasons to push you away further.
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