There are many reasons why your relationship with your boss can become strained, and sometimes without even knowing that it has.

For example, your boss may not be the best at communicating their expectations with you or, they may be too light-handed in providing you with needed direction or correction. As a result, you may, in their eyes, be falling short in your performance.

Other times, you may not accept what your boss is telling you because it doesn’t align with how you view yourself.

It might even come down to the fact that your boss sees you as a threat. Being perceived as a threat happened to me a long time ago with my boss Peggy. While we had an amicable relationship on the surface, Peggy resented the fact that I put in long hours and worked hard because she believed I was going after her job.

Whatever the reason for the disconnect, there is one thing you have to realize and accept; whether your boss is right or wrong, is irrelevant. They are your boss, and they, for better or for worse, have a good deal of influence over your future.

Having learned this immutable truth, as an executive coach, one of my first tasks when taking on a new client is to seek feedback from their boss.  However, it frequently becomes an eye-opening exercise. When I say “eye-opening,” I am talking about the client’s reaction to the boss’ feedback, which often results in an expression of shock, surprise, and even anger. It is as if their boss’ comments are coming entirely out of left field.

In trying to understand why this disconnect between employees and their bosses occur, I have identified seven signs that there is trouble in paradise.

The key is to recognize the signs regarding your current situation, and then take the appropriate measures to “right” the relationship with your boss.

So, what are the signs? Read on.

The Seven Deadly Signs

  1. Your boss has promised to promote you but has chosen your colleague instead
  2. Your boss procrastinates discussing career opportunities
  3. Your boss has not given you a performance review in over a year
  4. Your boss only provides you with negative feedback or criticism
  5. Your boss has favorites, and you are not one of them
  6. Your boss intentionally puts a barrier between you and senior executives
  7. Your boss takes credit for your work

Now What?

In and of itself the presence of just one of the above signs is not an indication of an imminent threat to your position.

However, each of these signs individually is an early warning that your relationship with your boss is heading in the wrong direction. As a result, it is important that you nip the disconnect in the bud by taking the following measures.

Establish A Dialogue

When I say to “establish” dialogue, I am not talking about a confrontation whereby you storm into your boss’ office and demand an explanation for why you didn’t get the promotion or why they took credit for your work.

Instead, do your homework and with a calm but firm demeanor, indicate to your boss that you would appreciate a scheduled meeting to discuss some concerns you have.

The reason I suggest doing your homework first is that their response may be “sure, let’s sit down now” or, “yes, what would you like to talk about.”

Instead of fumbling or stammering for an answer, you will have the opportunity to prepare concrete examples for your concerns and feel more confident in the meeting.

Gain A Clear Understanding Of Where You Stand

Remember, a meeting is not a resolution, and talk is nothing more than a lot of words if it doesn’t lead to a meaningful and mutually beneficial outcome.

With each point that you raise, you have to provide the reasons why something upsets you. Determine if anything can be done to get things back on track and “heading” in the right direction again.

Here are some tips for conducting courageous conversations with your boss:

  1. Explain up front that the purpose of your asking is not to question their authority but rather that you would like to have a better understanding.
  2. When you are expressing your thoughts, use “I” rather than “you.” In this way, you will not put them on the defensive nor look like you are assigning blame.
  3. If your boss provides you with feedback that feels more surface than substantive, take the initiative to ask if they could provide you with more information.
  4. Ask what needs to happen for your boss to shift their perceptions if they are dissatisfied with your performance.
  5. Manage your emotions. If you make a conscious decision to speak slower, it will help you to stay calmer in the midst of a challenging dialogue.
  6. Be impeccably polite. As long as you take the higher road, you will never come across as being aggressive, emotional or difficult.


Don’t Just Talk And Forget About It, Follow-Up

Talking with your boss about an issue and deciding on a course of action is great, but how did things turn out?

The outcome is the ultimate measurement of your success.

How is your relationship with your boss? Is it better or is it the same?

If you now have an open and productive dialogue with your boss on an everyday basis, then you will not likely fall prey to the “where did that come from” scenario I referenced in the opening paragraphs of this post.

If nothing has changed, then it is likely time for you to consider a change of scenery.

Take Ownership of Your Future

Even though talking to your boss about an issue may not be the comfortable thing to do because you might hear something you don’t want to hear, it is both necessary and liberating.

Putting your cards on the table will “clear” the air and allow you to see for the first time the actual lay of the land.  You will then be empowered to make the best decisions regarding your career and future.

After all, your future is yours for the taking, own it!

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