You started out so well.
They hired you out of a field of thousands. They groomed you. They took you on trips, wined and dined you. They gave you the best projects and always had an open-door policy when it came to you. You were the Golden Child.
But then something went wrong. Not overnight, but over a series of months. You noticed it — they were paying more attention to your colleagues. Maybe an errant, small reprimand during a meeting. Or a meeting where you’re asked not to attend.
In any event, you’re getting the feeling your relationship has soured with your boss. How do you repair it?
1. Sit down and figure out what might be wrong.
This is your first step — assess the situation, the environment, your performance, and changes in the current organization. Did your boss get more responsibility? A new project? More team members? Is the company suddenly going through hard times? Did it miss it’s targets for the quarter/year? Is your division/department going through a restructuring?
People’s personalities and behaviors change when their environments change. If there is increased pressure on your boss, be sure it will trickle down to you in one way or another. More work, more pressure, and less face time.
If this is the case . . . ask if you can help them with their workload. Be there for them as a friend to listen. Help them with their pressure and above all, don’t add to their problems. If you do, you will find it unpleasant.
2. Kick up your performance.
After you’ve assessed the situation, start working HARDER. Get things done quicker, stay later/come in earlier, be more communicative with your peers and team. Start delivering earlier on stated deadlines. Ask for more work. Figure out how you can put your performance into hyperdrive (not forever, just for a little while) to show your boss you can help out and deliver.
If this is the case . . . show them what you can REALLY do.
3. Step up your formal communication with your boss.
I don’t mean informal drive-by’s at their office door. Begin to deliver regular communications of your progress — not long ‘War & Peace’ manifestos but short and concise status reports on what you’ve accomplished, what you are working on, and what you will deliver in the next few weeks/months. Stepping up your communication will let your boss know you’re still around and they’ll see you are making accelerated progress on your responsibilities.
If this is the case . . . send them a weekly/bi-weekly/monthly email outlining your accomplishments and projects on deck. If they are busy or distracted, this is a simple and easy way for them to keep abreast of your work. Keep it short — one page max!
4. Ask a trusted colleague what might be wrong.
This is a tough one — but if your relationship is rocky, speak with a trusted friend to see if it’s you or your boss. Sometimes they see things that you can’t (blind spots). Your behavior might have changed, or you might have said the wrong thing during a meeting, or treated a client the wrong way. You think things are fine — but your relationship is not as strong as it used to be.
If this is the case . . . set up a lunch with your colleague and gracefully broach the subject with them. Say something like, “I’ve notice John is hard to figure out lately — are you seeing what I’m seeing?” or “Do you have the same face-time with Susan that you had six months ago? I almost never get the chance to meet with her lately.”
5. If all else fails, talk to your boss.
This is the hardest, but most direct way to get to the bottom of the situation. A warning, do not, and I repeat, do not in any way make it THEIR fault. That will start the conversation off on the wrong foot — they will immediately become defensive and you will bear the brunt of their wrath.
If this is the case . . . start out by asking about them — how are things, haven’t seen you around, etc. Then add, “Can I help in any way?” Most of the time, your boss will recognize they have been uncommunicative or unduly harsh and will try to open up a bit. If not, move forward and see if there is something you’ve done in the past that might have upset the applecart. “I just wanted to see if you approved on how I solved the Penske situation — was it to your satisfaction?” Start to probe — ultimately they will open up.
If all else fails — request a formal meeting to discuss your performance and to get feedback. It might be painful, but you might find they have no issues with your performance (and actually might say you’re knocking it out of the park). At that point, open up and say you feel that your relationship is a bit distant and what can you do to improve it.