It’s an obvious reality that having a good relationship with one’s boss is a great enabler of career success. After all, they’re the person most likely to vouch for us in terms of promotions, great performance reviews, exciting project opportunities, and more. When you’re working from home, however, building that employee-boss relationship can require a few tweaks.
The good news is that the fundamental quality of boss relationships is similar to the pre-pandemic world. In Leadership IQ’s study, The State Of Working From Home In 2020, 58% of people say that their relationship with their boss is the same working from home or in an office, so a lot of us haven’t seen much change. However, 27% say their relationship with their boss is much, or a little, better when they were working in an office. And 16% say their relationship with their boss is better now that they’re working from home. Taken all together, nearly three-quarters of people found that their relationship with the boss is the same or better than it was when they were in an office.
Even though the quality of the relationship is similar, the way we’re achieving that has changed. According to a recent study from Paychex, prior to the pandemic, employees reported that they were meeting with their managers ten days each month, on average. But in the months following, those monthly meetings have decreased to six.
Clearly, people are figuring out how to have more robust meetings with their bosses even though there are fewer of them. They’re even rethinking when to have those meetings: Paychex found that for 34% of people, Mondays were the best day of the week for scheduling virtual meetings with their managers, and Thursdays (9%) and Fridays (14%) were considered the worst.
If we’ve got less time to meet with our bosses, how can we ensure that our time together is valuable, especially when it comes to advancing our career and improving our employee-manager relationship?
One of the most powerful techniques you can employ is to ask your boss the following question, “I want to make sure I keep growing and improving, so if you were me, what would you choose to work on?”
This is not a question you ask weekly. But about every month or two, at one of your Monday virtual meetings with your boss, ask that question. It works well, first, because it doesn’t put pressure on your boss to design complex development plans. In the study, The State Of Leadership Development In 2020, we discovered that only 20% of people say their leader always takes an active role in helping employees to grow and develop their full potential. So we know that many bosses are not prepared to offer a lot of formal guidance. But asking a simple question like, “…if you were me, what would you choose to work on?” removes the need for formal plans.
Second, this question surfaces whatever issues are top-of-mind for your boss. There are times when bosses withhold much-needed constructive feedback from an employee. Sometimes it’s because the boss is afraid of the employee’s reaction. And sometimes, the boss just doesn’t know how to deliver this insight in a thoughtful way. But when we ask our boss to put themselves in our shoes and offer one item where we could develop further, we’ve given them license to blurt out whatever’s at the forefront of their mind. And that’s the insight we really need.
Finally, this question works so well because the boss starts to see us as someone they can trust. Why? Because we value their insight. We sought out their feedback, we made it easy for them to deliver, and we’re ostensibly taking action on their advice.
One of the most important aspects of this technique is that we’re emphasizing quality over quantity. That is, you’re not going to improve the relationship with your boss by being online for twenty-four hours a day and never taking a break. Ironically, employees who have great relationships with their boss feel more freedom to take some breaks (thus increasing their productivity and overall well-being). All you have to do is ensure those breaks are appropriately timed.
A recent study by Skynova found that 70% of people felt encouraged by their boss or job to take breaks while working from home. But 46% of employees still felt pressured to stay available, even while on a break. While 24% of people considered any day of the week an equal opportunity for midday breaks, Fridays (24%) and Wednesdays (19%) were the most popular. When asked which days they were least likely to take breaks while working remotely, Mondays (31%) were viewed as the most inconvenient. And if you remember the Paychex study, Mondays were the best day of the week for scheduling virtual meetings with their managers.
So if you want to enhance your relationship with your boss while working from home, ask them the deep question. And then make sure you’re locked-in and available on Mondays.